Paul Finebaum has watched Auburn basketball ascend to being a national contender, and this week, the Tigers are likely to be the new No. 1 team in the country when the new AP Top 25 poll comes out later on Monday.

Finebaum, the ESPN commentator, spoke about the impact of Bruce Pearl during his regular appearance on WJOX in Birmingham, Alabama on “McElroy and Cubelic In the morning.”

“I think it affirms what we saw 3 years ago when they made it to the Final Four,” Finebaum said. “It validates the decision to bring Bruce in there initially. He’s a transcendent coach and I think a lot of folks have tried to keep him down and kick him, but he has a way. Players love him, they embrace him, play harder for him maybe than other people, and I think it’d really be wonderful.”

The only caveat is that this time of year doesn’t mean much in the college basketball world, as March performance carries significantly more weight.

“For a program like Auburn, it means something, and it’s a way to continue to brand it,” Finebaum said. “And I’m really happy for him because I dare say that many of us thought Bruce was on his way out 2 or 3 years ago because of the allegations, because of the trouble.”