Iowa vs. Auburn March Madness Betting Preview
Bruce Pearl's Tigers Hold Slight Betting Edge in 8/9 Game
The first round of NCAA Tournament tips off Thursday, with Iowa vs Auburn in Birmingham, Ala. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. on TNT. The winner will advance to the second round of the Midwest Regional to face either No. 1 seed Houston or No. 16 seed Northern Kentucky on Saturday.
Iowa Hawkeyes: Hawkeyes Continue Tournament Streak
This will be Iowa’s fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, excluding 2020, and the 29th all-time. Last year’s first-round loss to No. 12 seed Richmond marked the first time since 2014 the Hawkeyes did not win at least one tournament game. This is also the school’s seventh tournament appearance under head coach Fran McCaffery.
How They Got Here
Iowa dropped four of its last six games, including a matchup with Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament, to fall into the dreaded No. 8/9 game. It is 19-13 overall. After getting off to an impressive start, beating rival Iowa State to improve to 7-2, the Hawkeyes lost four of their next five to raise alarms. That stretch included a bizarre home loss to Eastern Illinois as a 31.5-point favorite, per college basketball odds.
Ultimately, the Hawkeyes did enough outside of that to remain safely in the field of 68. Their resume — a No. 39 NET ranking, four Quad 1 wins and just one bad loss — was sound.
How Far Will They Go
Barring an historic upset, top-seeded Houston awaits should Iowa advance. That’s a scary proposition. At +650, Houston and Alabama are currently the betting favorites to win March Madness.
If you are feeling bold, Iowa is +525 to reach the Sweet 16.
Auburn Tigers: The Tigers Are Dancing – With Lower Expectations
This is Auburn’s second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, fourth in the last five seasons and 12th overall. The Auburn Tigers were seeded No. 2 in the Midwest Regional last season but lost in the second round to Miami. Their deepest run came in 2019, when they made the Final Four as a No. 5 seed and fell to Virginia.
How They Got Here
Auburn began the season 8-0 and was one of the last unbeaten teams remaining before falling to Memphis in December. The Tigers picked up a resume-building win along the way when they beat Northwestern in the Cancun Challenge. They notched two other Quad 1 wins in SEC play (Arkansas, Tennessee) and played 13 NCAA Tournament teams altogether, which certainly impressed the selection committee. Per KenPom, Auburn’s NCAAB schedule is rated the 24th toughest in the country.
Ultimately, a difficult stretch to close the season — 3-7 over their last 10, including an SEC Tournament loss to Arkansas — caused the Tigers to fall onto the 8/9 line.
How Far They Will Go
Remember what we said about Iowa? The same goes for Auburn. The Tigers are all but certain to play Houston should they advance. That’s a tall order.
Handicapping The Game
The No. 8/9 game has historically been one of the toughest first-round matchups to pick in the NCAA Tournament. No. 9 seeds hold a slim 76-72 edge, the closest record between any two seeds since the field expanded in 1985. Iowa vs Auburn is no different.
Auburn is looking to avenge an upset loss to Miami in last year’s second round. As expected, the Tigers took a couple steps back this season. They lost a pair of program-changing players in Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler to the NBA, leaving head coach Bruce Pearl to reconstruct on the fly. Auburn didn’t win the SEC again, but it still cracked the Top 25 poll and hit the 20-win mark once again.
Similarly, the Hawkeyes had to replace star Keegan Murray after a disappointing first-round loss to Richmond. Despite bouts of inconsistency, Iowa entered Selection Sunday comfortably in the field.
Iowa is a major threat on offense, ranking first in the Big Ten and 17th in the country in average scoring (80.6). The Hawkeyes scored at least 90 points nine times and hit 100 other on four occasions. Five players are averaging double figures in scoring, led by Murray’s brother, Kris, at 20.4 points per game. Auburn, meanwhile, is 29th in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, and held opponents to the 20th-lowest field goal percentage in the country (40.2). It will be on Morehead State transfer Johni Broome and others to slow the Hawkeyes down.
Should it be close, will location be a deciding factor for Iowa vs Auburn? Remember, this is a de facto home game for the Tigers.
Notably, Iowa was 17-15 against the spread this season, slightly better than Auburn at 15-17.Follow us on Twitter
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