Top Title Contender in Trouble?
One No. 1 seed has lost before the Sweet 16 in nine of the last 12 NCAA Tournaments. Second-round matchups with a No. 8 or 9 need can be quite dangerous for powerhouses. In fact, two No. 1 seeds are favored by five points or less on Saturday, per college basketball odds.
No. 1 Houston (32-3) against No. 9 Auburn (21-12) stands out as a potential upset. The Cougars got a scare in the first round against No. 16 Northern Kentucky with a 63-52 win. Meanwhile, the Tigers controlled most of the second half against No. 8 Iowa, grabbing an 83-75 win. The sportsbook favors Houston by only five points. Will Auburn spoil the Cougars’ title aspirations in the second round?
Injuries Derail Houston?
After winning in the first round, the Cougars’ odds to win March Madness dropped to +550. They remain tied with Alabama as the favorite to cut down the nets. However, could that dream be disappearing?
Following the first half against Northern Kentucky, leading scorer Marcus Sasser (16.7 points) was held out for the remainder of the game. He suffered a groin injury during conference tournament play. This was the main concern surrounding Houston heading into March Madness. We have received few updates on Sasser’s status. The injury could be worse, or the Cougs could have decided to rest him. Expect Sasser to be questionable for Saturday, but the severity of the injury is unclear.
To make matters worse, coach Kelvin Sampson revealed postgame that Jamal Shead (10.4 points), who is Houston’s second-best guard, is dealing with a knee injury. With two of their top three scorers dealing with nagging injuries, the Cougars will depend on their defense. The unit held Northern Kentucky to 28% shooting and 5 of 33 on 3-pointers. Houston can stay in any game thanks to its elite defense, which ranks fourth in efficiency. But how far can the Cougs go if their top scorers are not fully healthy?
Auburn Guards Get Bite Back
Ahead of the first-round matchup with Iowa, questions surrounded Auburn’s offense. Many knew the Tigers could defend with a top-30 defense, but they have lacked efficient shooting numbers more times than not. The offense flourished, shooting 46% from the field and 36% on 3-pointers. After covering college basketball lines’ 2½-point spread, will the Tigers take down top-seeded Houston?
Auburn’s guard play was instrumental in Thursday’s win. Starting point guard Wendell Green Jr. (13.9 points) totaled 15 points, but reserves Tre Donaldson (2.4 points) and K.D. Johnson (8.9 points) were the difference-makers. Donaldson cashed in 11 points while shooting 3 of 3 from three, and Johnson scored 11 at 57.1%, compared to his season average of 38.9%.
KD Johnson with a solid showing to start the NCAA Tourney. Finishing with 11PTS (4-7FG, 2-4 3PT) in a 83-75 win over Iowa.
— GREENLIGHT MEDIA (@atlgreenlight) March 17, 2023
When the Tigers get efficient guard play, they fare well in online gambling. This is why Auburn is a threat to Houston. The Cougars have major injury concerns, while the Tigers’ backcourt comes off an excellent game. No one expected Auburn to have a potential advantage at guard vs. the national title favorite.
Houston vs Auburn Game Injuries
Houston vs Auburn Head-to-Head
In seven all-time meetings, Houston is 6-1 against Auburn. The latest meeting was in 1982, and the Tigers have not beaten the Cougars since 1962.
Houston vs Auburn Game Information
- Game: No. 1 Houston (32-3) vs. No. 9 Auburn (21-12)
- Location: Legacy Arena at BJCC, Birmingham, AL
- Day/Time: Saturday, March 18, 7:10 p.m. ET
- Houston vs Auburn Live Stream: TBS.com
Houston vs Auburn Betting Lines
Houston vs Auburn Picks and Prediction
Houston backers should be worried about this one. The Cougars’ guards are beaten up, Auburn’s streaky guards come off a great game, and the Tigers will have a home advantage with Birmingham two hours away from campus. This could go either way, but ultimately I trust coach Sampson.
The Cougs have been one of the country’s most disciplined teams for several seasons and consistently succeed in the NCAA Tournament. Sasser may be absent, but Houston’s defense can win the day. Auburn’s guards just played Iowa, which ranks 166th in defensive efficiency. The Cougars are in a different stratosphere, featuring a top-five defense. Freshman forward Jarace Walker also comes off 16 points vs. Iowa. This NBA prospect can easily fill Sasser’s shoes for one game. Take Houston to cover NCAA basketball odds’ five-point spread.
Houston is listed at -245 in our college basketball lines. This means that if you wager $100 on the Cougars, you have a chance to win $41. Auburn is +203, offering a chance to win $203 on a $100 wager. The implied probability attached to the betting lines gives Houston a 71.01% chance to win, with the Tigers at 33.00%.