Thursday, March 30, 2023
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Auburn to upset No. 1 Houston

Auburn ahead Johni Broome celebrates after the Tigers’ win over Iowa within the first spherical of the NCAA Match
Photograph: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire (AP)

Now that my undefeated report of choosing No. 13 seeds or decrease within the NCAA Match publicly continues to be intact after Furman’s victory over Virginia on Thursday, I’m deciding to not relaxation on my laurels and inform you all about one other prediction I made earlier this week. For followers of Deadspin’s Comply with Disagree video sequence, this can be a choice I’ve already proclaimed on digicam. Auburn will upset the Midwest area’s No. 1 seed in Houston on Saturday. It’s not fairly the lopsided upset as choosing the Paladins or Saint Peter’s over Kentucky final yr, however it’s little question not what’ll be favored.

The Cougars appeared horrible towards one of many worst groups within the NCAA Match. Northern Kentucky obtained out of a weak low-major within the Horizon League. The Norse genuinely impressed me final evening and held robust with one of many supposed finest groups within the nation. Kelvin Sampson’s squad earned that No. 1 seed and was arguably essentially the most constant group within the nation throughout the common season. And Houston both was wanting previous a group it knew it may simply defeat, or the upstart Norse really uncovered what a Marcus Sasser-less group appears like.

In the event you take the very best participant away from any nice group, it received’t be as mighty anymore. Purdue with out Zach Edey is a bubble group and is perhaps taking part in within the NIT proper now. Alabama with out Brandon Miller, which needs to be a actuality proper now with the off-court drama surrounding the Crimson Tide, would’ve gotten a powerful seed in The Large Dance, however seemingly extra towards the 4-5 line. Sasser is that needle-mover for the Cougars. The drop-off with out the 6-foot-2 senior guard and seemingly NBA lottery decide due to a groin damage suffered within the American Athletic Convention Match final week, is obvious. He was pulled at halftime by Sampson and Houston was inconsistent with out him.

Auburn had a real toss-up matchup with Iowa on paper. The Tigers had been all the time higher than their seeding, whereas Iowa wasn’t. The Hawkeyes have by no means had a long term within the event below Fran McCaffery and this yr’s Kris Murray-led squad was no totally different. The SEC outmuscled the Large Ten. There’s no approach round that. And Auburn may have thrown a number of extra punches on the finish of the sport if wanted. Within the nightcap, it was apparent by the top of the sport how drained Northern Kentucky was. A group higher conditioned to play with Houston, which might be each group the Cougars see the remainder of the season, will be capable to take higher benefit of a inclined, unmotivated squad. And if the dearth of drive isn’t actuality for UH, it didn’t present it towards the Norse. It additionally has an excellent likelihood for redemption towards Auburn. However nothing’s assured. And Bruce Pearl-coached groups normally don’t miss when on condition that kind of alternative.

It’s not clear if Sasser will play at 7:10 p.m. on TBS with a visit to the Candy 16 on the road. It’s clear that if he performs, he received’t be at full well being, which is already a downgrade from what we’ve anticipated from the Cougars for many of this season. Auburn is a group that’s gone by means of a bunch of adversity this season and nonetheless discovered its approach safely into March Insanity. It’s a unique type of lure to outline the adversity for Houston. Saying the Cougars have been by means of none can be silly. Their paths of resistance have been examined in video games, with extra tangible rewards, like 11 extra wins than the Tigers this season, alongside the best way. That’ll imply little come Saturday evening in Birmingham, a brief 110-mile journey from Auburn. And it may not be a house recreation for the AU, however it ought to really feel prefer it from the group. Houston’s strolling into enemy territory and I don’t assume it’ll be robust sufficient to stroll out of the primetime matchup nonetheless with a season to play for.



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