Auburn players hit by illness day before Final Four against Virginia

With the men’s Final Four one day away, the Auburn Tigers have more to deal with than the top-ranked team in the bracket.

At least three players are battling illness heading into the No. 5 ranked team’s match-up against No. 1 Virginia. It was a similar story last week when illness befell North Carolina ahead of the Sweet 16 matchup.

The same thing that may have assisted the Tigers rise may also contribute to their demise.

Auburn’s top scorers under the weather

Bryce Brown and Jared Harper are “under the weather,” Bruce Pearl told media Friday morning, per CBS Sports.

Harper said he has a cold and was reportedly hoarse when speaking with reporters. Brown is also sick and both players received shots to deal with symptoms.

“We've got a couple of guys that are sniffling and hacking and coughing, but we don't play today," coach Bruce Pearl said, per CBS Sports. "Jared would be less than 100 percent if we had to play today. If we played yesterday, Bryce would have been less than 100 percent. He'll be fine tomorrow."

Auburn is already dealing with the loss of Okeke, who suffered a torn ACL in the Sweet 16 victory over North Carolina. He averaged 12.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and had surgery Tuesday.

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No. 5 Auburn shocks No. 2 Kentucky in overtime
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No. 5 Auburn shocks No. 2 Kentucky in overtime
Auburn's Anfernee McLemore (24) reaches for a rebound between Kentucky's PJ Washington (25), Keldon Johnson and Ashton Hagans (2) during overtime of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. Auburn won 77-71 in overtime. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Malik Dunbar celebrates after Auburn beat Kentucky in the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. Auburn won 77-71 in overtime. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Kentucky's Ashton Hagans (2) and Keldon Johnson (3) walk to the bench after losing to Auburn in the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. Auburn won 77-71 in overtime. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kentucky's Tyler Herro reacts as time expires in overtime during the Midwest Regional final game against Auburn in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. Auburn won 77-71 in overtime. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Jared Harper dives after a loose ball during overtime of the Midwest Regional final game against Kentucky in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Bryce Brown celebrates during the second half of the Midwest Regional final game against Kentucky in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kentucky's Reid Travis (22) shoots over Auburn's Anfernee McLemore (24) during the second half of the Midwest Regional final game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Bryce Brown (2) celebrates during the second half of the Midwest Regional final game against Kentucky in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kentucky's PJ Washington (25) shoots during the second half of the Midwest Regional final game against Auburn in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 31, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 31: Bryce Brown #2 of the Auburn Tigers loses the ball against PJ Washington #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 31, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 31: Danjel Purifoy #3 of the Auburn Tigers reacts to a play against the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 31, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 31: The Auburn Tigers celebrate defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 77-71 in overtime during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 31, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Blame the Tar Heels?

North Carolina had its own bout with illness last weekend in Kansas City.

Forward Nassir Little had missed practices with flu-like symptoms. Head coach Roy Williams opted not to bring him to the arena for the Sweet 16 practice, though the breakout star did end up playing.

The Tar Heels struggled offensively, though nothing was said of feeling under the weather. It’s unclear if Auburn players may have picked up an illness last weekend or sometime during the week.

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No. 5 Auburn upsets No. 1 UNC in Sweet 16
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No. 5 Auburn upsets No. 1 UNC in Sweet 16
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 29: Coby White #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels defends against the Auburn Tigers in the third round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 29: Luke Maye #32 of the North Carolina Tar Heels handles the ball against the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 29: Garrison Brooks #15 of the North Carolina Tar Heels fights over the ball against Anfernee McLemore #24 of the Auburn Tigers in the third round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament held at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 29: J'Von McCormick #12 of the Auburn Tigers drives to the basket against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 29: Seventh Woods #0 of the North Carolina Tar Heels battles for a loose ball with Bryce Brown #2 of the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 29: Cameron Johnson #13 of the North Carolina Tar Heels battles for the ball against the Auburn Tigers during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 29, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Auburn's Chuma Okeke yells out in pain after being injured during the second half of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against North Carolina Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
North Carolina's Coby White (2) dunks as Auburn's Horace Spencer (0) defends during the second half of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Samir Doughty celebrates during the second half of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against North Carolina Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams yells from the sidelines during the second half of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against Auburn Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Auburn's Bryce Brown applauds during the second half of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game against North Carolina Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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Brown and Harper’s impact

The duo were relied upon heavily in the Elite Eight victory over Kentucky. They combined to score 35 of the team’s 47 points in the second half and overtime. Pearl admitted the game plan was to get it to them.

Brown averages a team-high 16.0 points per game. Harper is a second-best 15.4 points per game and the team-leader in assists with an average 5.8 per game. His 228 total assists are three times that of Brown and Chuma Okeke, the next closest.

Without Okeke they are the keys to defeating Virginia, whether it be by playing their fast game of slowing it down to take possessions away.

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