The Auburn Tigers (26-9) look to avoid another #5 vs #12 upset when taking on the New Mexico State Aggies (30-4) this afternoon to open round of 64 March Madness action.
WHEN: 1:30 PM ET
WHERE: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
THE SPREAD: Auburn Tiger -5.5
MONEY LINE: +210 NMSU
The Tigers last held court by downing favored Tennessee 84-64 on Sunday to become the SEC’s top postseason squad. In that pivotal title game, Bryce Brown’s 18 points led Auburn’s uptempo, yet controlled pace. Ultimately, the Tigers turned an ill-prepared Volunteers group over 17 times before converting 15-of-40 three point attempts vs. the South region’s #2 seed. After giving Tennessee two of its five losses this year, Auburn proved it can compete on even terms with any team nationwide. The Tigers rely upon the nation’s top three-point attack and fourth-best turnover total to disrupt the offensive flow of opposing teams while placing opponents on their heels defensively. Bryce Brown (15.8 ppg) and Jared Harper (15.2 ppg) lead an experienced Tigers group that made an NCAA Tournament appearance last season. Overall, Bruce Pearl’s men are 5-1 ATS in their last six games. The total has gone under in ten of Auburn’s last 15 games.
NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES
A perennial March Madness staple, New Mexico State strolls into another NCAA tournament while owning the nation’s second longest unbeaten streak at 19 games. Further, the deep Aggies boast a prolific perimeter attack in their own right, ranking 24th nationally with 324 three pointers made. Last weekend, New Mexico State won a third-straight WAC crown going away to set up its seventh NCAA bid in eight years. The Aggies are a top 55 offensive unit, relying on superior depth to average 78.1 ppg. However, Chris Jans’ mid-major standout shines both defensively (64.1 PA, 26 overall) and on the glass (1304 total rebs, #18 overall). Terrell Brown (11.3 ppg) leads New Mexico’s balanced scoring that features ten players averaging four-plus points. Sitting on 30 wins, the Aggies gave powerhouse Kansas all the Jayhawks could handle before falling 63-60 Dec. 8. NMSU is 4-2 ATS in its last six contests.
While #12 seeds are a trendy pick against their lower seeded competition, and hold a 47-89 record since 1985 in first round matchups, today’s encounter favors Auburn if Harper and Brown return to form after last season’s big dance setback. Also in Auburn’s favor is the fact NMSU hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 1993. Simply, the caliber of opponent Auburn defeated to win its SEC tournament, and seven straight contests, include current March Madness participants Mississippi State, Florida, Tennessee. The burden of proof lies on New Mexico State to prove it can get off the ‘one-and-done schnide while upsetting a red-hot Tigers group.
Final Score: Auburn 80 – New Mexico State University- 74