Auburn Tigers (17-2) at Missouri Tigers (13-6)
Last night our rough week continued as we lost another heartbreaker. We backed Providence on the road against Villanova in a Big East battle. The Friars jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the first half. With our 15.5-point spread, we were up 30.5-6 on the number one team in the nation.
The Wildcats finished on a furious rally in the last seven minutes of the first half and closed out with a 39-30 halftime lead. The Friars came out fast in the second half and got it down to three points, and then the wheels fell off. We were getting 15.5 points, and this game sat at a 16-point Villanova lead for much of the second half.
It could have gone either way, it didn’t go our way. Nova’ closed out an 89-69 victory and we came up short. It hurts to lead almost the entire first half when getting double-digit points and come up short. Today we switch focus to the SEC as the Auburn Tigers play at the Missouri Tigers.
It is a battle of SEC Tigers as the Auburn Tigers will travel to Columbia to play the Missouri Tigers Wednesday night. Bruce Pearl has his Auburn team clicking on all cylinders right now at 17-2, they are ranked #19 in the country. Auburn has won fifteen out of their last sixteen games and is tied in the loss column with the Florida Gators for the SEC regular season crown.
The Missouri Tigers aren’t enjoying nearly as much success as Auburn this season, but they have a very real shot of sneaking into the NCAA tournament this season in a much-improved SEC this year. The Tigers need a big resume-building win tonight at home to boost their chances at an at-large bid. Missouri is -1.5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 147.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from Mizzou Arena.
The Auburn Tigers have been cruising this season. Head Coach Bruce Pearl has them playing with his trademark tenacity on the defensive end of the court, and they are real threats to win the SEC regular season title this year. At 5-1 in SEC play, Auburn has a two-game lead over Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama and is tied with the Florida Gators for first place.
The Tigers use a very high scoring attack, averaging 85 points a game. They run up scores on teams by being an elite rebounding club, blocking a lot of shots, and making almost 80% of their free throws as a team. It is a trademark of a well-coached team, they do all the little things right, and it has equaled big success this year.
While the Tigers have rolled up a sexy record at 17-2, they are lacking somewhat in the quality win department. The non-conference slate was a soft one, and the Tigers best win in the pre-season was against an average UCONN team. The Tigers have made up for that weakness in SEC play as they hold wins over Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi State. The Tigers must come through with a big road win tonight if they want to keep pace with Florida for the regular season title.
Missouri has managed to fly under the radar in what is a very good SEC this year. The Tigers had a decent non-conference start to the season with wins against Steven F. Austin, St John’s, UCF, and Iowa State, but not many expected they would compete in the SEC.
The Tigers haven’t been able to win much on the road in league play with losses to Arkansas and Texas A&M, but they have protected their home court well with big wins against Tennessee and Georgia. They lost a thriller at the buzzer at home to Florida by two points, they have played very well on their home court this season, running up at 12-1 record.
This game comes down to two major things for me. The Auburn Tigers are going to press all day long and look to break down and disrupt the Missouri offense. Will Missouri be able to break the press and run its offense? If they struggle to break the press, it is going to be a very long day for Missouri at home. The other major factor is three-point shooting.
Missouri loves shooting the three ball and has three starters that shoot over 40% from deep. The three-pointer has been a place where this Auburn defense has struggled this year as they give up almost 45% on threes this season. Will Missouri get loose for open three-pointers today against the press? If they do, I see them cruising tonight.
This is a tough game to handicap. Both teams are solid and should be playing in March. And both teams badly need this win to solidify themselves in the SEC. I am going to ever so slightly lean towards the home team tonight. When I first glanced at this line and saw Auburn getting points after having the nation’s longest winning streak just snapped, I thought hhhmmmmm that doesn’t seem right.
But when you look at how well the Missouri Tigers have played at home this year you can start to see why they are the favorites. Missouri has played great on its home floor, and with their penchant for shooting the three and Auburn’s inability to defend the deep ball, I think that Missouri finds a way to get the job done tonight at home.
It should be a hard-fought game, and that -1.5 number is going to be a tight cover. Unless the press is executed perfectly all afternoon long, I can see Missouri beating it and getting lots of wide open looks, and they don’t miss those at home very often.
Give me the Missouri Tigers tonight -1.5-points at home.