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Jamal Shead #1 of the Houston Cougars drives to the basket as we look at our top Auburn vs. Houston prediction
Jamal Shead #1 of the Houston Cougars drives to the basket during the second half against the Northern Kentucky Norse in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Legacy Arena at the BJCC on March 16, 2023 in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images via AFP.

The top-seeded Houston Cougars are vulnerable against the ninth-seeded Auburn Tigers ahead of Saturday’s Round of 32 matchup. Read on for our Auburn vs. Houston prediction based on the top NCAAB odds.

Houston is coming off a too-close-for-comfort 63-52 victory over No. 16 seed Northern Kentucky, but that is not even the worst news from Thursday. Guard Marcus Sasser, the team’s top player, reaggravated a groin injury and missed the entire second half against NKU. Fellow guard Jamal Shead, the No. 2 option, reportedly hyperextended his knee.

Suddenly, the pre-tournament favorite to win the March Madness title all year looks vulnerable. Alabama overtook Houston as the outright tournament favorite by the March Madness odds Friday night.

Enter the Auburn Tigers, who are fresh off a 83-75 win over Iowa, and get the benefit of playing close to home during the opening weekend. This grouping is taking place in Birmingham, Alabama, and Auburn’s fans certainly traveled. 

Does all this make the Cougars vulnerable ahead of Saturday's matchup?

Here is our best Auburn vs. Houston prediction (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Auburn vs. Houston odds

Auburn vs. Houston prediction

Under 132 (-110 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐

This game was going to be a problem for Houston even before the injury news to Sasser and Shead. While Shead told reporters that he was playing, Sasser’s status remains unknown. The line has already come down so much, and the only value play on the board is the Under.

Houston has paced the conference with a 19-16 clip to the Under this season, which included finishing below the point total in four of its last five games. The Cougars have failed to reach 70 points in each of their last five games.

Check out our March Madness best bets and all of our March Madness picks for Saturday

Sasser is the team’s best offensive threat, as his offensive rating of 123.5 ranks 63rd in all of college basketball. According to Hoop Explorer, the Cougars are averaging 120.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor this year compared to 107.7 (p/100) without him. The team’s 3-point percentage takes the biggest hit, as Houston is 36.4% from long range with Sasser and 28.1% from deep without him.

There is an argument that the Cougars needed a scare from Northern Kentucky in the opening round, and now they will be locked in for a championship run. I have a hard time betting on that without knowing who is playing, however. 

But this game figures to be a rock fight on the short turnaround, which is why we like the Under for this three-star pick.

Auburn vs. Houston best odds

DraftKings (-110)


This line is as low as 130.5 at FanDuel, so we recommend taking advantage of the 132 being offered by DraftKings. This total is playable at 131 or better before we’d recommend passing on the Under entirely.

Auburn vs. Houston odds analysis

For a brief moment, Houston was a 7.5-point favorite over Auburn. Don’t worry, that line rightfully went away quickly. The Cougars are now laying a consensus of just 5.5 points across our best sportsbooks and the spread could get even shorter. The total started at 130, but is now sitting at 131.5 at most shops.

Auburn has been backed by 54% of the betting action with the Over drawing a 53% share.

Auburn vs. Houston game info

  • Date: Saturday, March 18, 7:10 p.m. ET
  • TV: TBS
  • Location: Legacy Arena at BJCC, Birmingham, AL

Auburn-Houston pick made 03/17/2023 at 10 a.m. ET

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