Time to Cash In On Auburn's First-Half Starts as It Visits Missouri

Mark Lathrop

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 1:31 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 1:31 PM UTC

Our NCAA handicapper Mark Lathrop is 9-4 ATS when picking a total for this season's write-ups on SBR. Here he chooses another specific total situation he will be backing in an SEC marquee matchup on Wednesday night.

2017-18 NCAAB Record: 25-17 (+6.95 Units)

No. 19 Auburn Tigers at Missouri TigersFree NCAAB Pick: First-Half UnderBest Line Offered: 5Dimes

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The Auburn Tigers have been a surprise in the SEC so far this year, both to preseason pollsters and to bettors. As such they have been very undervalued, going 11-5 ATS on the season and 5-1 SU and ATS in conference games. On Wednesday night, they will face one of their bigger tests of the season with a road trip to the Missouri Tigers, who own a 9-1 home SU record. Those Tigers are just 3-3 in conference play, though, and are missing their starting point guard in Blake Harris, who was lost to injury a few weeks ago. Probably looking at that home record, bookmakers have placed Missouri as slight 2-point favorites across the board. The O/U total has opened at 147.5 at 5Dimes.

A concern for Auburn is their struggles to start well in the first half.

"We just have to make it a focus coming into the game," sophomore forward Anfernee McLemore said. "I feel like maybe we start off games too complacent early on. So we have to come out with more intensity early on and try not to get down in the first half."

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Auburn comes in at No. 19 this week in the @AP_Top25. The Tigers remain the highest ranked team in the @SEC.#WarEagle pic.twitter.com/ehrQwBytf5

— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) January 22, 2018

In looking at scores in conference play, the slow starts have just been in the last 4 games, with the first two being start-to-finish romps over Arkansas and Tennessee. In those games, Auburn scored 47 and 42 points in the first half, respectively. Arkansas and Tennessee rank 12th and 13th in defense in SEC conference play, though, so not much to go on there other than Auburn performed as expected. In this game, Auburn will face the 5th-ranked defense in the SEC and the 14th-ranked team in defensive tempo, so an expectation that Auburn will breach 40 points is ill-advised.

Missouri has its own problems scoring of course, with the Tigers cashing 4 'unders' in a row coming into this game and after the injury to Harris. They were one of the slowest teams in the country on offense before that happened anyway, and this has just made things worse. Missouri has not breached 70 points since Harris went out for the season and have not breached 80 points in conference play.

Auburn has also found value for 'under' backers in conference play while going 1-5 O-U and cashing 5 straight 'unders' coming into this matchup. With the publicly stated focus on intensity in the first half, and their offensive struggles to begin games, I believe there is value on a first-half wager here even if the market has adjusted the full game line. I’ll be taking the best available first half 'under' as my free Wednesday NCAA Pick.

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