Yesterday, I wanted to go ahead and introduce everyone to Auburn’s opponent today, the New Mexico State Aggies. If you haven’t read that yet, here you go. Today, we’ll look at this game for Auburn as they look to win their 9th straight game.
What to Look for from Auburn...
I think Auburn feels a bit disrespected by the 5 seed and are embracing the underdog role a bit right now. A lot of people, especially Seth Davis, are all in on New Mexico State pulling the upset here. It’s certainly possible but Auburn has the talent and pieces to not let that happen. One factor that could be important is the altitude of the game. The Tigers aren’t used to playing 4000 feet above sea level but with 2 days in Utah, my hope is Auburn will have acclimated to it enough to be able to play well.
We talked yesterday about some of the similarities that the Aggies and Tigers but one advantage Auburn will have is the athleticism advantage. Just ask New Mexico State coach Chris Jans.
How do you counter Auburn's athleticism?— Tom Green (@Tomas_Verde) March 20, 2019
New Mexico State coach Chris Jans: "That's a good question. We're still trying to figure it out."
Auburn’s defense will play an important role in the outcome of tomorrow’s game as well. The Aggies average 11.9 turnovers a game and defense travels. If Auburn keeps their defensive intensity up for this game, you have to like their chances.
This could be a game that Auburn can take over in the paint. Chuma Okeke has the ability to do that and I think he’s the guy that can take over the game today. While it was an up and down SEC Tournament for him the first 3 days, he was a beast on Sunday against Tennessee, with 18 points, 13 rebounds and 3 steals. He made 4 3-pointers in the 2nd half of that game as well.
It will be interesting to see how Bruce will use Austin Wiley today. Wiley’s minutes tripled on Sunday with him getting 9 minutes and playing stretches in each half. Wiley has been a sparkplug in each game, getting a basket in a critical moment of each game and he especially played terrific defense on Sunday by blocking shots and being a force in the middle. Wiley will have the size advantage in this game and perhaps Bruce unleashes him a little bit more today.
SEC Tournament MVP Bryce Brown will look to continue his hot shooting from 3-point range. In the SEC Tournament, Brown averaged 16.5 points a game, and shot 18-43 from distance. He’s made 363 3-pointers in his illustruous Auburn career. Auburn will need Brown to keep shooting well for Auburn to advance in this tournament.
Danjel Purifoy had his best game of the season Sunday scoring 10 points, made a couple of huge 3 pointers and had a pair of steals in 10 minutes. He’s worked hard to earn the trust of Bruce to get more playing time and perhaps the tournament will be an opportunity to continue to improve.
I got this far and haven’t mentioned Jared Harper. Harper picked up 2 fouls in the first 2:30 of the game and made only 1 shot on Sunday. Auburn needs him in this game, although J’Von McCormick’s recent play gives you confidence in either guy. Still, it’s the NCAA Tournament and Auburn needs Harper on the floor. Harper had 6 assists Sunday and 1 of them drove Dickie V nuts but it gave Auburn a 21 point lead. I’ve heard Auburn be referenced to as The Splash Family, a play-on on the Golden State Warrior’s Splash Brothers.
auburn playing like golden state out here pic.twitter.com/WCrIPyo9Ff— Nathan Marzion (@natemar3i0n) March 17, 2019
When the announcement came out on Sunday, I was obviously very concerned being that Auburn sits in the classic spot of being a victim of a potential 5-12 upset. It’s very possible that it could happen but Auburn is playing too good right now for this to end today. Auburn is clearly still motivated by the naysayers and what happened the last time they were in this tournament, a flameout at the hands of Clemson. Auburn’s been on a roll lately and if they bring the same defensive intensity, and make 12-13 3s, I feel pretty good about Auburn’s chances today. This Aggies team is good and having to keep up with 13 guys will be a challenge as different players are capable of having big games for the Aggies. Still, I can’t pick against Auburn based on the way they’re currently playing.
Auburn 79 New Mexico State 71