While there have been upsets in the conference tournaments, there have not been many Cinderella’s versus the college basketball odds. One potential team poised to wear the glass slipper is Auburn.
The 13th-seeded Auburn Tigers gave little indication of a turnaround, having come to Atlanta on six-game losing streak (2-4 ATS), but they have knocked off Mississippi State and might have knocked fifth-seeded Texas A&M off the Big Dance bubble with their 66-59 upset as 8.5-point underdogs. In this battle of Tigers, do the ones from the plains of Alabama have enough left in the tank to engineer another upset against betting odds for sports picks and make it three in three days? Let’s break it down!
LSU wins and covers because ….from a purely talent perspective, they are arguably the second-best team in the SEC. As per usual, LSU has an abundance of athletes and has guys who are rim-wreckers like Jordan Mickey. These Tigers prefer to get out and run and with Auburn’s defensive weaknesses, LSU will have plenty of chances to score and just needs to convert. The Bengal Tigers on the season have held opposing teams to 40.2 percent shooting and are capable of limiting Auburn if they are mentally in the game.
LSU loses and fails to cover because ….for some reason, LSU has seldom played well in this event. Even when they’ve had really good teams like in 2000, 2006 and 2009, when they were SEC regular season champions, they have not reached the finals of this event in over 20 years. The Tigers are not above having an off-night as we have seen recently with home losses to Tennessee (78-63) nine days ago or falling to Auburn 81-77 as 10.5-point home favorites back on Feb. 5th. LSU is a 9.5-point favorite according to the NCAA Basketball odds and is 2-5-1 ATS when favored by 7.5 more points this season.
Auburn covers the spread because….they suddenly believe in their coach Bruce Pearl and keep playing hard. In defeating Mississippi State, they won the battle of the boards by 7. Yesterday, they overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and forced the Aggies into 19 turnovers (Auburn had only 10) and they made three more shots behind the arc. Pearl’s bunch is honestly a bad defensive crew (47.1 percent shooting percentage allowed), but they have covered four in a row and as long as they can stay in the game, their energy should stay high.
Auburn loses and fails to cover the spread because….as anyone who is a professional or amateur college basketball handicapper, it is very difficult to win when you do not play defense. Opposing teams are making nearly half their shot attempts against these Tigers. In seven of Auburn’s past 11 games, the opponent has converted on over 50 percent of hoists. LSU prefers to work the ball inside if given the choice and if Auburn is slow on paint feeds or ball reversals, they are going to be the recipients of a boatload of dunks in this matchup. When the opposing SEC squad makes more than 46 percent of their attempts, Auburn is 2-8 and 3-7 ATS this season.
What to Expect Auburn needs KT Harrell to stay hot (44 points in two games) and for somebody else like K.C. Ross-Miller or Alex Thompson to be another primary scorer. Coach Pearl’s excitable nature will provide Auburn the early spark they need to overcome weariness, but they will have connect on shots and generate turnovers to stay in the game.
LSU has to control the tempo, because if it is too frenetic the advantage goes to Auburn. LSU got their revenge against Auburn in the second meeting, hammering them 84-61 on the road, which was the blueprint of how to dismantle the Tigers from Bama.
Truthfully, the spread appears correct, but I’ll lean to LSU with our NCAA basketball picks, as they are fresher and should be able to deflate Auburn by making so many in the paint shots which will demoralize what should be a tired team in the final four minutes.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: LSU -9.5 at 5Dimes