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Gonzaga are out after that shock loss to Texas Tech. Could we see another big name lose tonight? Duke have been inconsitent thus far.
Kentucky v Auburn
This pick is easy.
Offensively, these teams are about even: Auburn barely beats out Kentucky in points per game (79.6 to 76.0) but Kentucky has a better shooting percentage (47.8% to 45.2%). Defensively, however, Kentucky beats Auburn handily. Kentucky holds teams to 64.4 points on 40.0% shooting; Auburn allows 69.3 on 44.1% shooting. During March Madness the disparity is even larger. Auburn has gotten torched (allowing 77.3 points on 45.7% shooting) while Kentucky has been an absolute wall (allowing 52.7 on 36.4% shooting).
Auburn has won their tournament games on the back of their ridiculous 3-point shooting. Luckily, Kentucky has played lockdown 3-point defense recently, allowing just 28.6% from deep. If that was their season average, Kentucky would be the 3rd-best 3-point defense in the country, beating out defensive stalwarts such as Virginia, Oregon, and Michigan. If Kentucky shuts down the 3-point shot – like they have all tournament – Auburn will be in for a long day.
Is all that not enough? Then consider that Auburn will be missing Chuma Okeke, a leading rebounder and scorer, while Kentucky will have a fully healthy PJ Washington back. It remains to be seen how big of an impact Okeke’s absence will have, but I’m willing to bet it’s a big one.
Kentucky has played Auburn twice and won both times; the average win margin for those games is 14.5 points. This could get ugly.
1u - Kentucky -4.5 @ -110
Duke v Michigan State
This game is a bit of a toss-up.
These teams are about an evenly matched on offensive as you can get. Duke averages slightly more points per game (83.1 to 78.5), but Michigan State is slightly more efficient (1.116 points per possession to 1.108 points per possession). Michigan State barely edges Duke out in shooting percentage (48.6% to 47.9%) on the season but Duke wins that battle thus far in the tournament (50.0% to 48.5%).
Though they’re close on offense, Michigan State soundly beats Duke on defense. Duke has a strong defense, allowing 67.8 points on 39.7% shooting, but Michigan State is a cut above at 65.0 points on 37.8% shooting. Duke has run into trouble with some strong defenses in UCF and VT; the Spartans present an even bigger challenge.
Duke has gotten extraordinarily lucky this tournament, escaping with nonsense wins due to some barely missed shots. It’s time for some regression – I’m rocking with Michigan State here.
1u - Michigan State +2.5 @ -110