Clemson Tigers (24-9) at Auburn Tigers (26-7)
The Madness continued to roll yesterday as teams punched their tickets to the Sweet 16. The headliner on the day was Loyola Chicago upsetting number three ranked Tennessee 63-62 on a last-second bucket and free throw.
Speaking of a last-second bucket, none were better than the one Michigan Wolverines freshman Jordan Poole delivered. Poole pulled up from thirty feet as time expired and nailed the deep three to give the Wolverines the win at the buzzer over Houston, 64-63.
We picked up a betting win as we backed the Gonzaga Bulldogs -3-points against the Ohio State Buckeyes. If you watched just the first couple of minutes of this game and turned it off, you missed out on a great second half of action. It looked like Gonzaga was going to give a repeat performance of the 27-point beating they put on the Buckeyes earlier this season as the Zags jumped out to a 15-0 lead.
The Buckeyes battled all the way back and had the lead and the momentum at 67-62, with just over six minutes to play. Mark Few was able to rally his troops and this battle-tested Zags team regained their composure and dominated the final five minutes of action, eventually taking the game 90-84.
The last two minutes of this game were marred by bad calls and poor officiating and saw a combined twenty-eight points scored between the two teams in the games final two minutes. Poor officiating aside, it was a hard-fought game and the Zags win, cover, and advance to their fourth straight Sweet 16.
Today I will look at two more teams looking to keep their national championship dreams alive as the Auburn Tigers face the Clemson Tigers.
The SEC regular-season champion Auburn Tigers will look to advance to the next weekend of action tonight as they play the Clemson Tigers. This is a four seed-five seed matchup featuring two teams that spent the entire season ranked in the top twenty-five nationally.
The Auburn Tigers are -2-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 146 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:10 PM PST from Viejas Arena in San Diego, California.
This game is about as close as they come. It is a four-five matchup. Entering the tournament, the Auburn Tigers were ranked #19 in the AP Poll, the Clemson Tigers? They were #20. On kenpom.com, the industries most accurate power ranking? Auburn came in at #18, Clemson at #19. These teams are so close they even share the same nickname, the Tigers! So, what will we look at tonight to separate these two in a must-win game? Coaching.
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell has been on the job at Clemson since 2010 and hadn’t advanced past the round of 64 in the NCAA tournament before their first-round victory over New Mexico State this year.
The Tigers hadn’t even made the tournament since his first year as head coach in 2010. Brownell was on the hot seat heading into this year, and it appears the team’s success this season has bought him at least one more season at the helm.
For the Auburn Tigers, they don’t at all have doubts in their head coach Bruce Pearl. Pearl is a coaching veteran that has now taken three teams to the NCAA tournament. Pearl took the Milwaukee Panthers to two NCAA tournaments in his four years as head coach, including a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2004. Pearl then moved on to the University of Tennessee and took the Vols to the NCAA tournament all six years he was head coach.
That run included three trips to the Sweet 16 and a trip to the Elite 8. It has taken Pearl a couple of years to get Auburn up to speed, but now that he has established the program as an elite one, he enjoyed great success this season.
Auburn has never been known as a basketball school. The football crazy school hadn’t made the NCAA basketball tournament since 2003. Pearl has them back into the tournament in his fourth season as head coach. Taking three different programs to the tournament is a special accomplishment that not many coaches can brag about. Pearl knows how to get to the tournament, and how to win games when he gets there.
This line opened at Auburn -1.5-points and has now shifted to Auburn -2-points. And I can see why. While these teams are very closely rated, Auburn did win the regular season title in the SEC this season, while Clemson finished third in the ACC.
Yeah, the ACC was likely a little bit better of a league as they got nine teams into the tournament, but don’t discount the SEC this year. The SEC got a league record eight teams into the big dance, and the league has had a very successful start to the tourney with a 6-2 record after the first couple of days of play.
The ACC? They are just 6-4 and suffered the loss of their league champion, Virginia, in the first round. The true measure of how good a league was, is the NCAA tournament. And right now, the SEC looks like it might have been the best league in the country this year.
I am going to take the slightly more accomplished team, with the much more experienced coach and lay the -2-points in this one. Bruce Pearl seems to always find a way to win in the tournament, and I expect more of that tonight. Give me the Auburn Tigers -2-points tonight!