After rolling to a 15-0 start, reality hits Auburn after Florida hands the Tigers their second straight loss

In a season in which just about everybody has lost to just about anybody, Auburn marched into January with an undefeated record and was, along with San Diego State, one of college basketball's final two zero-loss teams. It was impressive stuff -- especially considering the top three scorers from last year's team that advanced to the Final Four are no longer part of the program.

But ...

There was always a but with this team, you know? And the but with this team was that, sure, Auburn is good, perhaps even better than most expected, but the Tigers got to 15-0 without playing a single ranked opponent or top-40 KenPom team. So they lacked a signature victory. And that's among the reasons why, even though Auburn advanced all the way up to No. 4 in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll, it was always reasonable to suggest the ranking didn't jibe with the actual quality of the team considering the Tigers never cracked the top 10 at KenPom at any point during their perfect start.

Now look.

Auburn still hasn't played a ranked team. But Auburn did just play consecutive road games against top-45 KenPom teams for the first time this season -- and things didn't go well. First, on Wednesday night, the Tigers lost 83-64 at Alabama. Then, on Saturday afternoon, they lost 69-47 at Florida. So now Auburn is 15-2 with a 19-point loss to an unranked team and a 22-point loss to an unranked team.

That's a rough week.

That's a hard come down.

"I'm obviously disappointed with our play," Bruce Pearl told the Auburn Sports Network after the game, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. "It's the time of the year when we should be trying to elevate our play -- and we're not."

Lots of coaches with an undefeated team consistently ranked behind multiple teams with losses this deep into the season would start playing the disrespect card at every opportunity. But to his credit, far as I know, Pearl never did. In fact, on Tuesday, while the Tigers were still 15-0, Pearl explained the No. 4 ranking in the AP poll by telling reporters that his team has climbed so high in the rankings "just simply because there aren't that many teams that are going to rank ahead of us based on our record." That was a good and fair assessment of things and an indication that Pearl knew some big bumps were likely on the horizon.

Now here we are.

And Saturday was especially bad.

The Tigers shot 25.5% from the field and 17.4% from 3-point range while allowing slow-paced Florida to shoot 50.0% from the field and score 41 second-half points. Translation: Auburn was awful on both ends of the court -- so awful that the Tigers have gone from 15th at KenPom to 27th at KenPom in a five-day span.

"When you're ranked fourth in the country, there's a huge prize on your head," Pearl said. "And so teams are excited about playing us. If I was playing us, I'd say 'Look, this is what the math says. And they're good.' But, like I've been saying all along, 'They're not great. And they're beatable.'"

It's obviously rare for a team to start 15-0 and then immediately lose consecutive games to unranked opponents. So I understand why Auburn fans are frustrated and asking big questions. But listen up, Auburn fans! I have an encouraging fact for you. The last time a team started at least 15-0 before losing consecutive games to unranked opponents came in the 2013-14 season. That's when Wisconsin opened 16-0 before losing consecutive games to unranked Indiana, unranked Michigan and unranked Minnesota.

But then guess what Wisconsin did?

The Badgers won eight of their final nine regular-season games and eventually advanced to the Final Four. So, undeniably, this week ended badly for Auburn. But history shows that doesn't mean this season can't still end awesomely.

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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