Clemson Tigers (24-9 SU, 18-12 ATS, 16-14 O/U) vs. Auburn Tigers (26-7 SU, 19-12 ATS, 15-16 O/U)
NCAAB: Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 7:10 p.m. EST
One of two No. 4 vs. No. 5 games in the NCAA Tournament second round will take place when the Auburn Tigers face the Clemson Tigers on Sunday afternoon at Viejas Arena in San Diego, Calif. Auburn slumped down the stretch of the regular season and lost early in the SEC Tournament, but avoided complete disaster by scraping past Charleston on Friday. Clemson had no trouble winning its opener against New Mexico State.
Finally, another tournament win
Clemson is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven seasons and it has now advanced to the second round for the first time since 1997, ending a five-tournament streak of first-round exits. The fifth-seeded Tigers, who finished tied for third place in the tough ACC, were up and down heading into the dance. They lost three straight games late in the regular season, won three of their next five, and then lost to a now-infamous Virginia squad in the ACC Tournament semifinals.
The Tigers have relied on a stellar defense that is ranked 35th in the nation in opposing shooting percentage (41 percent) and 29th in the country in blocked shots (4.8 per game). Clemson overcame the season-ending injury to Donte Grantham, as junior guard Marcquise Reed finished 10th in the ACC in scoring at 15.9 points per game and ranked fifth in steals at steals (1.7 spg). Reed struggled in the semifinal loss to Virginia but shot 19-for-34 from the field in averaging 18.3 points per game in his previous three contests. He picked up the pace to go 7-for-14 with 15 points during Friday’s 79-68 victory over New Mexico State. Senior guard Gabe DeVoe also elevated his game after the Grantham injury, posting two 25-point performances in his past six contests plus a 22-point performance against New Mexico State.
Auburn was the talk of the nation for a while but it struggled at the tail end of the regular season and went home right away from the SEC Tournament is here. The fourth-seeded Tigers, who fell to fellow second-round NCAA Tournament team Alabama in Nashville, won just two of their final five games of the regular season before getting blasted by the Crimson Tide 81-63. They almost exited the Big Dance after only one game, too, but a late three-pointer by Jared Harper helped Auburn survive Charleston 62-58 on Friday evening.
Mustapha Heron leads the way for head coach Bruce Pearl’s squad, scoring 16.6 points per game. Bryce Brown is a close second at 16.2 ppg but has been held below his season average in four of his last five games, with a 29-point showing against South Carolina his only solid performance during this stretch. Brown went 3-for-11 against the Cougars during first-round action. Heron is averaging almost 20 points in five games since returning from illness.
The Clemson Tigers are:
- 4-1 ATS in their last five overall
- 6-0 ATS in their last six non-conference games
- 4-0 ATS in their last four neutral-site games
The Auburn Tigers are:
- 0-5 ATS in their last five overall
- 0-5 ATS in their last five games against teams with winning records
- 1-4 ATS in their last five games following a win
Auburn had been eighth best in the entire nation at the free-throw line, shooting 78.6 percent, but it was a laughable 15-for-32 at the charity stripe against Charleston. DeVoe has been outstanding of late for Clemson, which has hit 76 percent of its free-throw attempts this season–second best in the ACC. Clemson is 4-1 ATS in its last five overall, 6-0 ATS in its last six non-conference contests, 4-0 ATS in its last four at neutral sites, 5-0 ATS in its last five against the SEC, and 6-1 ATS in its last seven following a win. Auburn is 0-5 ATS in its last five overall, 0-5 ATS in its last five against winning opponents, 1-4 ATS in its last five following a win, and 3-7 ATS in its last 10 on Sundays. Don’t be surprised if those trends continue.
Pick: Clemson Tigers
Clemson’s defense has been stingy all season and it limited the Aggies to a 38.7 percent effort in the first round. The under is 20-7 in Clemson’s last 27 against the SEC, 4-1 in its last five non-conference contests, and 34-16-1 in its last 51 on Sundays. The under is also 4-1 in Auburn’s last five overall and 5-2 in its last seven following an ATS loss. Look for this one to stay under the total.