NCAA March Madness: Houston vs. Auburn betting preview, odds and predictions
In the 1 vs. 9 matchup in the Midwest region of the NCAA Tournament, the Houston Cougars take on the Auburn Tigers with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. All tournament long, VSiN will be providing you with March Madness betting odds, in-depth team analysis and expert college basketball picks. Make us your one-stop shop for all of your betting needs.
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How to watch Houston vs. Auburn
When: Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Where: Birmingham, Alabama
Odds for Houston vs. Auburn
Spread: Houston -6
(Odds accurate as of Thursday, March 16th at 11:50 p.m. ET)
Real-time betting splits at DraftKings Sportsbook
Midwest Region No. 1 Seed Houston Cougars
The Cougars are a top-10 team when it comes to both offensive and defensive efficiency, and they’re the only team in the nation that can say that — which is why they’re first in our VSiN Team Power Ratings. Houston is loaded in the talent department, with Marcus Sasser being one of the best guards in the country and Jarace Walker looking the part of a top-10 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Jamal Shead, J’Wan Roberts and Tramon Mark are also capable of having moments in March. However, Sasser did suffer a groin injury in the AAC Tournament semifinals and his status is a serious question mark heading into this meeting with Auburn. Sasser didn't finish the game in a close win against the Northern Kentucky Norse, and that's now the story of the tournament. He's the engine of this Cougars team.
Midwest Region No. 9 Seed Auburn Tigers
Auburn has been very good on the defensive end this season, and that makes the Tigers a team that can be tough to eliminate. Bruce Pearl’s squad has quite a few players that can do damage on offense, as Johni Broome, Wendell Green Jr., Jaylin Williams, K.D. Johnson and Allen Flanigan can all get theirs. They haven’t all clicked all at once this year, with the offensive efficiency not being there just yet. But it wouldn’t be too shocking if the group did get hot and make a run. Pearl is as good of a coach as there is in the country, and talent isn’t an issue here. With that said, be careful betting against the Tigers. They just showed that they're capable of winning shootouts, as they knocked out a high-scoring Iowa Hawkeyes team.
Houston vs. Auburn matchup analysis
Last season, Houston had the luxury of getting to play the Arizona Wildcats in San Antonio, and that home-court advantage definitely gave the Cougars a nice little spark in that game. This year, Houston will be in opposite position. The Cougars are facing the Tigers in Birmingham, which means that Auburn will be the team with the crowd in its corner. And when you add that to the fact that Sasser isn't at 100% health, it's hard not to think that Sampson's team could be in a little trouble.
Houston was the top team in college basketball according to pretty much every advanced metric you can find, including our VSiN Team Power Ratings. But the Cougars didn't look quite right against the Northern Kentucky Norse in the first round, and Sasser scoring five points in only 14 minutes of action isn't going to calm anybody's nerves. If Sasser's groin injury is more serious than Houston is letting on, this team might be looking at an early exit. And it isn't outrageous to think that it'll come here.
Auburn didn't have the toughest of matchups in the first round of this tournament, but an 83-75 win over Iowa is about what was expected. The Tigers had six players score in double figures in that game, and the team was 8 for 22 on 3s. The latter is extremely important for Bruce Pearl's squad, as the Tigers were just 307th in the nation in 3P% this season. They hit only 31.5% of their 3s during the year, but they'll be a tough out if they can start to knock them down. And getting to play in front of their own fans could help Auburn shoot well from deep again here.
Overall, this game is going to come down to the health of Sasser. Freshman guard Emanuel Sharp played well in relief of Sasser in the second half against Northern Kentucky, but we're talking about one of the best players in college basketball here. Sasser is what makes Houston the most feared team in the nation, and it's not easy to replace 17.1 points per game and outstanding leadership. Keep an eye on the injury report heading into this one, as any bad news on the Sasser front would make Auburn an interesting play. After what we saw on Thursday, it's hard to imagine him playing.
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