Vaughn Dalzell breaks down the No. 1 seeded Houston Cougars taking on the No. 9 Auburn Tigers during the round of 32 in Alabama.
Auburn vs. Houston (-6.5): O/U 132.5
Marcus Sasser (groin) and Jamal Shead (knee), Houston's two best players are both injured and not 100-percent, which was evident in the 63-52 round of 64 victory over Northern Kentucky.
Sasser scored five points and grabbed two rebounds in 14 minutes of action and Shead posted 13 points, six assists, six turnovers and three rebounds in 36 minutes. If Northern Kentucky didn't shoot 5-of-33 from deep (15.2%), Sasser and Shead's injuries might have mattered more.
However, I think the injuries will matter versus Auburn. This game is in Birmingham, Alabama, so Auburn will have a crowd advantage over the depleted Houston Cougars. Auburn beat Iowa 83-75 and didn't really struggle against the Hawkeyes after never looking back from a 6-6 tie.
This will obviously be a much tougher test for Auburn too, but the Tigers held the Hawkeyes to 7-of-27 from three (25.9%) and could do the same to Houston. Auburn has the 4th-ranked three-point defense in the nation (28.7%) and come in at 49th in two-point defensive percentage (47%).
I think Auburn matches up well with Houston and has a size/rebounding advantage. Northern Kentucky grabbed 18 offensive rebounds versus Houston and Memphis had 9.
If Houston gives Auburn second-chance points like that, then this will be disaster for Houston. The Cougars rank 144th in defensive rebounding percentage and the Tigers are 51st in offensive rebounding percentage.
I grabbed Auburn at +6.5 (-115) and sprinkled the ML at +210 odds.
The No. 1 seeds have historically dominated the No. 8 and 9's on the ML, but I have a feeling Houston, Kansas and Purdue will all be in trouble and struggle in the second round.
Pick: Auburn +6.5 (1u), Auburn ML (0.25u)
OTHER MARCH MADNESS PICKS
Auburn vs. Houston
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Arkansas vs. Kansas
Furman vs. San Diego State
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