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Auburn vs. Houston preview, picks for second round of 2023 NCAA Tournament

The Tigers and Cougars meet at ARENA in the second round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

Houston Cougars guard Marcus Sasser (0) and forward J’Wan Roberts (13) reacts with guard Jamal Shead (1) after he scored the game winning basket against the Memphis Tigers at FedExForum.  Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 9-seed Auburn Tigers beat Iowa in a tough first-round matchup and they were winning for the majority of the game. No. 1-seed Houston got an expected victory over the No. 16-seed Northern Kentucky.

This game will tip off at 7:10 p.m. ET on TBS. This is a matchup in the Midwest Region and will take place at Legacy Arena at BJCC in Birmingham, Alabama. Houston is -5.5 in this matchup and the total is set at 132.

No. 9 Auburn: 21-12 (10-8 SEC):

First-round result: 83-75 win over Iowa Hawkeyes
KenPom rating: 28 Overall, 46 Offense, 28 Defense
NET ranking: 32, (4-10 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Johni Broome 14.2 PPG
Key stat: Auburn was 2-1 in neutral site games during the season.

The Tigers won their first game because they limited Iowa offensively. The Hawkeyes are known to score a ton of points, but not play much defense. The Hawkers got cold from beyond the arc in the second half and that set them behind.

Johni Broome is great in the post and has led this Auburn team all season. It will be interesting to see how he plays against the No. 1 seeded Cougars.

Watch for Auburn to pull off the upset. With Marcus Sasser questionable, the Tigers would have a great chance to pull off the upset if he’s out.

No. 1 Houston: 32-3 (17-1 AAC):

First-round result: 63-52 win over Northern Kentucky
KenPom rating: 1 Overall, 12 Offense, 4 Defense
NET ranking: 1, (7-2 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Marcus Sasser 16.7 PPG
Key stat: The Cougars are 0-1 without Sasser this season.

The Cougars won their first game because they stepped up on defense in the second half. When Sasser was ruled out, many people panicked, but this Cougars team has talent outside of Sasser. Jamal Shead is an experienced guard, while Jarace Walker is a projected lottery pick.

When healthy, Marcus Sasser is one of the best players in the country. The issue is that he’s still dealing with the groin injury he suffered a few games ago and could miss this matchup.

Watch for Houston to press and get after Auburn defensively. Jarace Walker will be big in this one for Houston as well especially if Sasser is out.

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Point spread: Houston -5.5
Point total: 132
Moneyline: Houston -250, Auburn +210

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Auburn +5.5
Point total pick: Under 132
Pick to Win: Auburn +210

This would be a massive upset, but if Sasser is out, these odds would change big time in favor of Auburn. Houston looked a little lost without Sasser in their matchup with Memphis and would likely again on Saturday. Groin injuries are serious and can take a long time to recover from.