#9 Auburn Tigers vs #8 Iowa Hawkeyes (3/16 @ 6:50 PM EST)
Spread: Auburn -1
Moneyline: Auburn -114 / Iowa +101
Overview and Betting Info
The #9 Auburn Tigers (20-12) will face off against the #8 Iowa Hawkeyes (19-13) on Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region. Auburn finished seventh in the SEC, while Iowa ended up fourth in the Big Ten. These teams have not met this season.
Auburn is 15-17 against the spread this season but have covered just two of their last six games. They’ve gone over the total 19 times, including in four of their last five games.
Iowa is 17-15 versus the spread but have covered just two of their last six games. They have gone over the total 18 times, including in three of their last five games.
Auburn stumbled into March Madness, losing seven of their last ten games. That includes a first-round exit from the SEC tournament. Their NCAA tournament bid was secured thanks to a quality resume win against Tennessee to close the season. They made their way into the Top 25 rankings a few times this season, but inconsistency has plagued them in the second half. A big reason is their offense, which seems capable of scoring anywhere between 40 to 90 points on any given night. The Tigers have been close in their last two losses, including taking Alabama to overtime. Still, they’ll need their offense to show up to keep up with the Hawkeyes on Thursday.
The Tiger’s offense has been wildly inconsistent this season, ranking sixth in the SEC in scoring (72.7 PPG), fifth in field goal percentage (44.1%), twelfth in three-point percentage (31.4%), fifth in assists (14.2 APG), and ninth in turnovers (12.8 TO/G). The Auburn defense has been solid, ranking fourth in opponent scoring (67.1 PPG), fifth in field goal percentage (40.7%), third in three-point percentage (28.8%), and ninth in rebounds (35.0 RPG).
Auburn has been led by the play of Johni Broome (14.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 52.9% FG), Wendell Green Jr (13.8 PPG, 4.2 APG, 1.7 SPG), and Jaylin Williams (11.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 35.8% 3PT). Thanks to his ability at both ends of the floor, Broome is one of the best players in the SEC. He contributes to many categories but can struggle with foul trouble. He has fouled out of four games this season and has come close in many more. When he can avoid dumb fouls, this Auburn team is at its best. Green is an incredibly streaky scorer, making over 50% or less than 30% of his shots in his last seven games. Even when he isn’t shooting well, Green contributes defensively and has at least one steal in every game since November 22. Williams was bad in their SEC tournament loss but averaged over 14 points in his final five regular season games. He is also an aggressive defender, with six steals in his last three games alone.
Iowa is eighteenth in the nation in scoring, but their porous defense has caused them to drop four of their last six games. They have allowed an average of 78.6 points during that span, including giving up 106 to Michigan State in an overtime win. Still, Iowa has several quality wins to their resume, including against Iowa State and twice against Indiana. They are a disciplined team that ranks toward the top of the conference in fouls and turnovers. Their Achilles heel has been defending against the three, but that may not be as big of an issue against an Auburn team that has struggled from deep.
Iowa’s offense led the Big Ten in scoring (80.2 PPG), sixth in field goal percentage (45.4%), seventh in three-point percentage (34.3%), and first in assists (16.6 APG). The Hawkeye defense has been a completely different story. They rank last in opponent scoring (74.4 PPG), last in opponent field goal percentage (47.4%), last in three-point percentage (36.6%), fifth in rebounds (36.3 RPG), and tenth in blocks (3.4 BPG). One thing they do well is generate turnovers, ranking fourth in the Big Ten with 6.6 per game.
Iowa has been led by the trio of Kris Murray (20.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 48.4% FG), Filip Rebraca (14.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.0 BPG, ), and Tony Perkins (12.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG). Murray was third in the Big Ten in scoring, fifth in rebounding and ninth in field goal percentage. Don’t forget about his play on defense, where he has five steals and six blocks over his last six games. Rebraca is fourth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage and has scored double-digit points in his previous eleven games. Perkins has come on offensively to close the season, averaging 16.8 points over his final six games. He has become a solid rebounder and a great distributor, making him critical to the offense.
Free Pick: Auburn -1
Iowa’s offense is terrifying, but their defense is why Auburn will be the team to advance on Thursday. While the Tiger’s offense has been erratic, Iowa’s awful defense should allow them plenty of opportunity to get going. They’ve shown they can score 80 points on any night, and Iowa will provide them plenty of opportunity.
Iowa will get their points but look for Auburn to use their top three stars to generate turnovers and throw off the Hawkeye’s tempo. The Tigers have faced a lot of great offenses this season, and their defense has shown they can handle them. As long as Auburn can hit their open shots, they will outpace the Hawkeyes.
That’s why we are giving up the point to take Auburn on Thursday.