Auburn throttled Iowa in the 8/9 matchup, setting up an incredibly intriguing second round matchup against No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region Houston, who is dealing with a handful of injuries.
The Cougars’ leading scorer, Marcus Sasser, suited up in Thursday’s first round matchup against Northern Kentucky, but reaggravated his strained groin in the team’s win over the No. 16 seed. Meanwhile, the team’s other ball handler hyperextended his knee and head coach Kelvin Sampson is quickly running out of options at guard.
Houston has its hands full, and now may be short handed against Auburn, who is playing in nearby Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday night.
How is this shaping the point spread?
Here are the odds for the Round of 32 matchup:
Auburn vs. Houston odds, spread and total
Auburn vs. Houston prediction and pick
Sasser’s groin and Shead’s knee has head coach Sampson “very concerned” as he said postgame after Houston’s lackluster effort against Northern Kentucky.
While there are some matchup advantages for Houston in this game in spite of being short handed, namely its ability to generate second chances against an Auburn team that is outside the top 300 in defensive rebounding rate, the Tigers defense is going to force the Cougars to shoot from the perimeter, which could be an issue given the team will likely be down their best high volume 3-point shooter in Sasser, a 38% marksmen.
Keep an eye on turnovers for Houston, as it committed 14 in the win, but Auburn will be much more aggressive than Northern Kentucky was in the open floor and try to force the issue inside.
With the Cougars banged up on a short turnaround this could be a dangerous matchup given they are playing a pseudo-home game for War Eagle. This game could be a grind given Houston’s propensity to play in the half court and make teams work for their shots, but I can’t help but look towards the underdog.
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