Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#807 Auburn vs.
#808 Houston
Saturday, March 18, 2023 at 7:10pm EDT
Written by Chris King


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It’s a second-round clash from the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament as a member of the SEC takes on one from the AAC down in the Yellowhammer State. The ninth-seeded Auburn Tigers battle the top-seeded Houston Cougars with a berth in the Sweet 16 on the line Saturday night. Auburn advanced as they dispatched eighth-seeded Iowa 83-75 in their first-round matchup Thursday evening, covering the line as a 2.5-point favorite, in their previous game. Houston survived an upset bid from 16th-seeded Northern Kentucky in their first-round matchup, prevailing 63-52, though they failed to cover as a 19.5-point favorite Thursday night in their previous game. In the all-time series between the teams, the Cougars own a 6-1 advantage and have won the last five matchups. That includes a 77-65 victory at home in the most recent meeting on December 8, 1982.

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Auburn Tigers Looking to Pull Upset

Auburn took care of business against eighth-seeded Iowa in the first round to punch their ticket to the second round after dropping four of six games to end the regular season. The Tigers improved to 21-12 overall and were 10-8 in the SEC on the season. Against Iowa, Auburn used a 9-0 run midway through the first half to break a 12-12 tie and led the rest of the way. The Tigers were up five at the half and were up as many as 17 in the second half while not letting the lead drop below four down the stretch. Auburn shot 46% from the floor, including eight of 22 from three-point range, and held Iowa to 41.2% from the field in the contest. Johni Broome had 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead six Tigers in double figures in the win.

The Tigers come into this contest 146th in the nation in scoring offense as they put up an average of 73 points per game on the year. Auburn pulls down an average of 36.3 rebounds per contest (88th) while they are 100th by dishing out an average of 14.2 assists per game. The Tigers are above average defensively as they are 99th in scoring defense by allowing an average of 67.3 points a night. Wendell Green Jr. is second on Auburn in scoring this season as he puts up 13.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Jaylin Williams (11.1 points, 4.8 rebounds) and Johni Broome (14.2 points, 8.5 rebounds) are solid scoring options. Allen Flanigan (10.1 points, 4.8 rebounds), K.D. Johnson, Chris Moore, Dylan Cardwell, Yohan Traore, Zep Jasper, Chance Westry and Tre Donaldson are all looked at to contribute for coach Bruce Pearl. Auburn shoots 44.1% from the field as a team on the season. The Tigers knock down an average of 6.5 three-pointers a night while shooting 31.5% from beyond the arc on the year. Auburn has been below average at the charity stripe as they convert 70.5% of their attempts on the season.

Westry (knee) last played on January 4 against Georgia and is expected to miss the rest of the season.

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Houston Cougars Hoping to Advance to Sweet 16

Houston had a tougher-than-expected matchup with 16th-seeded Northern Kentucky in their first-round matchup but managed to survive and advance. The Cougars improved their record to 32-3 overall on the season and were 17-1 in conference play during the year. Against Northern Kentucky, Houston trailed by as many as three in the first half and led by as many as six before taking a three-point lead at the half. The Cougars used an 11-2 run in the second half to break a 36-36 tie to go up 47-38 with 10:54 remaining. Houston didn’t let Northern Kentucky closer than five the rest of the way to earn the win. The Cougars shot 49% from the field, including four of 16 from three-point range, and stifled Northern Kentucky by holding them to 27.5% shooting. Jarace Walker led Houston with 16 points and six rebounds in the game.

On the year, the Cougars are 110th in the nation in scoring offense with an average of 74.7 points per game. Houston collects an average of 38.9 rebounds (20th) per contest while they dish out an average of 14.8 assists a night. The Cougars are 2nd in the nation in scoring defense as they allow an average of 56.4 points per game. Marcus Sasser leads the team with 16.7 points plus 3.1 assists a night this season. He is one of four players scoring in double figures this season. Jarace Walker (11.2 points, 6.6 rebounds), Tramon Mark, J’Wan Roberts (10.4 points, 7.9 rebounds), Jamal Shead (10.4 points, 5.4 assists) and Ja’Vier Francis all average better than 4.5 points a night. Emmanuel Sharp, Terrance Arceneaux, Reggie Chaney and Ramon Walker Jr. are all key players for coach Kelvin Sampson. Houston shoots 46.2% from the floor as a team this season. The Cougars connect on 7.7 three-pointers per contest while they are shooting 34.3% from beyond the arc as a team. Houston has been slightly above average at the charity stripe, cashing in 72.2% of their attempts on the year.

Sasser (groin) was injured against Cincinnati on March 12 in the semifinals of the AAC Tournament. He missed the AAC Tournament title game, returned to play 14 minutes against Northern Kentucky and reinjured his groin Thursday night. His status for this game is up in the air. Shead hyperextended his knee against Northern Kentucky on Thursday but expects to take the floor here.

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Quite a bit in this contest depends on the health of Sasser and Shead. Sasser was an All-American selection but logging only 14 minutes while scoring five points in the first round was less than what the Cougars were hoping for against the Norse. The Cougars struggled to pull away against Northern Kentucky and one has to wonder if perhaps Sasser did more damage by attempting to play Thursday night. It’s safe to say that Auburn’s offensive production is better than Northern Kentucky’s and will test the Cougars’ defense more than the Norse did. The Tigers can hang on the glass and make things tough for Houston on the offensive end of the floor. Houston may win the game but it’s going to be a war if Sasser is limited or doesn’t play. Take the points and Auburn in what should be a low-scoring affair.

Prediction: Auburn Tigers +5.5

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Auburn has seen the over go 20-13 in their games on the year. The Tigers are 28th in defensive efficiency, 12th in effective field goal percentage defense (45.7%), 116th in turnover percentage forced (19.1%) and 4th in three-point field goal percentage defense (28.7%) on the year. Auburn plays at a slightly above average pace, ranking 164th in adjusted tempo with 67.7 possessions a night this season according to KenPom. Houston comes into this game having seen the under post a 19-15-1 mark in their 35 games this season. The Cougars are 12th in offensive efficiency, fourth in defensive efficiency, second in effective field goal percentage defense (42.1%), fifth in two-point defense (43%), second in three-point defense (27.8%), first in block percentage (16.3%) and 26th in forced turnover percentage (21.7%) this season. Houston is a slow-paced team as they are 342nd in adjusted tempo according to KenPom with 63.5 possessions per game. This one ends up staying under the total as both teams have their struggles on the offensive end of the floor.

Prediction: Under 132

Written By Chris King , "Chris King"

Chris King has been immersed in the world of professional and collegiate sports for more than three decades. Whether it's playing pickup games or being involved in organized sports to being a fan, he's checked all the boxes. From the NFL to arena football, the NHL to the KHL, the NBA to the WNBA to college hoops, and even MLB to the KBO.  If it's out there, he's covered it and bet on it as well, as Chris has been an expert bettor in his career.  Before joining Winners and Whiners back in 2015, his work appeared around the internet and in print. He's written books for Ruckus Books about college basketball, the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, golf, and the World Cup. If you're looking for the inside track on hitting a winner, do yourself a favor and read what Chris has to say.