Last year, if you paid attention to NCAA Tournament bracket projections early enough, you saw Auburn go from outside the tournament, to a bubble team, to as high as a two seed before finally settling as a four seed after the late-season issues. With all of the hype coming into this season, there was some speculation that the Tigers might even be a one seed.
Almost halfway through conference play, things aren’t as rosy as we had hoped a few months back. Auburn is ranked generally anywhere between a 7 and 10 seed, leading to some tough first and second round opponents. It should be noted that any NCAAT appearance should be an accomplishment, with Auburn only appearing in consecutive dances once in the last 30 years. But with lofty national expectations and the most talented roster Auburn has had in a long time, a lot of folks have eyes on a higher seed and a deep tournament run.
While we here at College and Mag would love to sit around and prognosticate a full NCAAT field for you, we know what really matters to all of you - where Auburn is in the field. For the next few weeks, we’ll walk you through where Auburn stands in predicted brackets across the nation.
This is... BRACKETOLOGY.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi (2/8)
#7 Seed - West Region vs. Wofford - Jacksonville, Florida
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #2 UNC or #15 Radford
WM: Oh boy.... this would be quite the first round matchup. Wofford has 4 losses this year to North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Mississippi State. They also beat South Carolina in Columbia by 20. They currently sit at 12-0 in the Southern Conference and based on the bubble this year (it’s bad), I’d much rather see teams like Wofford make the tournament if they don’t win their conference tournament. Fletcher Magee is one of my favorite players in Division 1 averaging 19.5 points a game and as a team, Wofford shoots 41.1% from 3-point range. Scary matchup. And then if Auburn escapes, a 2nd round matchup with UNC would be a doozy. Geographically, this would be most ideal place for Auburn to end up at.
USA Today (2/5)
#8 Seed - East Region vs. TCU - Columbia, South Carolina
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #1 Duke or #16 Sam Houston State
WM: There’s one place that I want zero part of when it comes to the NCAA Tournament and it’s Columbia, South Carolina. Auburn’s record in that building over the last several years just isn’t good. Regarding the matchup with TCU, I think that’s a winnable game for Auburn. As for Round 2... I know the fanbase would love another crack at Duke with a full complement of players but Duke has gotten much better as the season has gone along as well.
RS: I’ll second Will’s sentiment, I want no part of Columbia, South Carolina. TCU has struggled so far in a wild Big 12 (4-5 after going 12-1 OOC). The Horned Frogs will have a chance to either earn a high seed or fall out of the bracket entirely, though, as their remaining schedule has four ranked teams on it, and that’s not even including two dates with first place Kansas State and a Big 12 tournament.
The Athletic (2/8)
#8 Seed - East Region vs. TCU - Columbia, South Carolina
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #1 Duke or #16 Norfolk State/Robert Morris
WM & RS: Basically just see above. Same seed, vs TCU, with Duke waiting as a #1.
CBS Sports (2/8)
#8 Seed - East Region vs. Ohio State - Salt Lake City, Utah
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #1 Gonzaga or #16 Sam Houston State/Prarie View A&M
RS: Another team that was on fire in OOC before racking up the losses in conference play, Ohio State is a young team anchored by sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson, who is putting up 15 points and almost 7 rebounds/game this year while posting a PER of 28. We’ve seen Auburn perform well the last two games against slow teams with talented big men, but Ohio State exaggerates that trend. I think it’s probably a good matchup for Auburn, but Ohio State looks to be turning things around right now and could return to being a 5 or 6 seed with a strong finish.
WM: I like this first round matchup for Auburn as the Buckeyes have been up and down in Big 10 play. A lot of their resume is built off their road win at Cincinnati in the first game of the season. As for Round 2, Gonzaga has so many weapons but that would be quite the 2nd Round Matchup if it came to fruition.
SB Nation (2/5)
#9 Seed - West Region vs. Buffalo - Columbus, Ohio
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #1 Michigan or #16 Northern Kentucky
WM: Buffalo has been one of America’s best mid-major schools this year and won a game in the NCAA Tournament against Arizona before bowing out to Kentucky. C.J. Massinburg against Auburn’s guards would be a fun matchup to watch. Massinburg averages 18.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and shoots 42% from 3-point range. A potential 2nd Round game against Michigan would be an intriguing clash of styles as Michigan plays outstanding defense but plays a lot of games in the 60s.
Fox Sports (2/8)
#6 Seed - East Region vs. Clemson/Indiana
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #3 Houston or #14 Princeton
RS: I think I speak for most Auburn fans when I say I’d rather not play Clemson in the tournament again. Or any time, or any sport, really. That being said, this team is not quite as good as the one that ran us out of Viejas Arena last year, this despite returning most of that team sans Gabe DeVoe, who hung 22 pts/5 reb/5 ast on us. Indiana, who was 9-2 and ranked after OOC play, has fallen hard since the new year, sitting at 4-8 in conference play and losing 8 of their last 9. But hey, at least they don’t have Tom Crean anymore.
WM: I would second Ryan’s notion of wanting nothing to do with Clemson but in a close game, free throw shooting is a major issue for Clemson. Clemson missed 4 free throws in a game at N.C. State in the final 15 seconds and it cost them the game. Auburn hasn’t done well from there either this year but that’s something to remember. As for Indiana, Romeo Langford is a talented freshman but the Hoosiers have struggled, with their only win in their last 9 games coming at Michigan State of all places. Regarding a potential 2nd Round matchup, Princeton runs a very methodical offense and Houston has a win over LSU and are a tough block/charge call from potentially still being undefeated so they are a great basketball team as well.