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Midwest Region Preview

Get to Know Auburn’s potential foes on their road to New Orleans

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Kansas vs Texas Tech William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last few days, millions of Americans have been filling out brackets trying to perfect it down to a science. No matter how much time I try and spend filling one out (and I only fill out one), you’re going to get some things right and get somethings wrong. Stuff happens.

Today, before the NCAA Tournament kicks into high gear tomorrow, I wanted to go through the Midwest Region in which Auburn is the #2 seed in and will face the #15 seed Jacksonville State Gamecocks Friday afternoon in Greenville, South Carolina. An Auburn win would mean the Tigers would face #7 USC or #10 Miami on Sunday, also in Greenville. A win on Sunday gets Auburn to the Windy City as the United Center in Chicago is the host of this year’s Midwest Regional.

Here’s a look at the first round matchups. All odds listed come via Draft Kings Sportsbook.

(Odds/lines subject to change. Visit DraftKings for more information.)

#1 Kansas Jayhawks vs #16 Texas Southern Tigers

Time/Network: Thursday, 8:57PM, TruTV

Location: Dickies Arena - Fort Worth, Texas

Odds: Kansas -21.5, Over/Under 144

Kansas (28-6) shared the Big 12 Regular Season Title and then won the Big 12 Tournament last week in Kansas City. Leading scorer Ochai Agbaji leads the way averaging 19.7 PPG and was named an AP-First Team All American on Tuesday. Agbaji is shooting 40.5% from 3 this season.

Texas Southern (19-12) won the SWAC Tournament and then defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 76-67 in the First Four to advance to Thursday’s game with the Jayhawks. The Tigers are coached by former LSU coach Johnny Jones and have 8 players averaging between 6-9.9 PPG this season.

#8 San Diego State Aztecs vs #9 Creighton Bluejays

Time/Network: Thursday, 6:27PM, TruTV

Location: Dickies Arena, Fort Worth, Texas

Odds: San Diego State -2.5, Over/Under 120

San Diego State (23-8) is 1 of 4 Mountain West schools to make the NCAA Tournament and fell by 1 to Boise State in the MWC Tournament final. An excellent defensive team, they are led by Matt Bradley who averages 17 PPG and shoots 41.6% from 3 on a team that averages just 65.3 PPG playing a slow tempo.

Creighton (22-11) finished 4th in the Big East and made the Big East Tournament final before falling to Villanova. Ryan Hawkins leads the way averaging 13.9 PPG and 7.8 RPG and former Auburn commit Trey Alexander is averaging 6.9 PPG this on a young but talented Creighton squad.

#4 Providence Friars vs #13 South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Time/Network: Thursday, 11:40AM, TruTV

Location: KeyBank Arena - Buffalo, New York

Odds: Providence -2, Over/Under 149 12

Providence (25-5) won the Big East Regular Season title but got blown out by Creighton in the Big East Tournament Semifinals. They’re the masters of winning close games with 12 of their 25 wins coming by 5 points or less this season. Center Nate Watson leads the Friars averaging 13.8 PPG.

South Dakota State (30-4) hasn’t lost since December 15th and have won 21 straight game, running the table in the Summit League going 21-0 (regular season and conference tournament combined) this season. They played in Tuscaloosa the first week of the season and lost 104-88. They average 86.7 PPG and shoot 44.9% from 3 as a team with Douglas Wilson leading the way averaging 16.5 PPG.

#5 Iowa Hawkeyes vs #12 Richmond Spiders

Time/Network: Thursday, 2:10PM, TruTV

Location: KeyBank Arena - Buffalo, New York

Odds: Iowa -10.5, Over/Under 151 1/2

Iowa (26-9) comes into the NCAA Tournament hot as they’ve won 9 of their last 10 games and won 4 games in 4 days to claim the Big 10 Tournament title last weekend. The Hawkeyes are led by AP First Team All-American Keegan Murray who is averaging 23.6 PPG and 8.6 RPG a game this season and shoots 40.5% from 3.

Richmond (23-12) was the last team to get into the field per se as they punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament upsetting Davidson in the Atlantic 10 Tournament title game on Sunday afternoon. The 6th seed Spiders beat the Top 3 seeds (VCU, Dayton, and Davidson) to make the Field of 68. The Spiders have a ton of veterans on their roster but are led by Tyler Burton who averages 16.3 PPG and 7.7 RPG. Auburn faced the Spiders in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn 2 seasons ago.

#3 Wisconsin Badgers vs #14 Colgate Raiders

Time/Network: Friday, 8:50PM, TBS

Location: Fiserv Forum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Odds: Wisconsin -7.5, Over/Under 139

Wisconsin (24-7) won a share of the Big Ten Regular Season but stumbled in their final 2 games losing at home to Nebraska and then again in their first game of the Big 10 Tournament to Michigan State. Another 1st Team AP All-American, Johnny Davis, leads the way averaging 19.7 PPG and 8.2 RPG. From a travel perspective, the Badgers got a great draw travel-wise with Milwaukee first and potentially Chicago on their road to the Final Four.

Colgate (23-11) won the Patriot League’s Regular Season title by 4 games and then won the Patriot League Tournament. Like Richmond, Auburn played Colgate a couple years ago during non-conference play during the 2019-2020 season with the Tigers winning comfortably. Colgate has 5 players averaging at least 10 PPG with Nelly Cummings leading the way averaging 14.5 PPG.

#6 LSU Tigers vs #11 Iowa State Cyclones

Time/Network: Friday, 6:20PM, TBS

Location: Fiserv Forum - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Odds: LSU -4, Over/Under 127 12

There’s obviously a ton of storylines for LSU (22-11) here going into the NCAA Tournament. Will Wade was fired on Saturday meaning the Bayou Bengals will play Friday under an interim coach. It will be interesting to see how LSU responds after everything that went down over the weekend. Auburn handed LSU their first loss this season 70-55 back on December 29th. Tari Eason was the SEC’s 6th man of the year after averaging 16.9 PPG this season.

Iowa State (20-12) was the story early in the season for their quick turnaround after winning just 2 games last season. However, the Cyclones lost 7 of their last 11 games but their early start. Izaiah Brockington leads the way for the Cyclones averaging 17.2 PPG and 7.1 RPG.

Of all of the games taking place tomorrow and Friday, this was probably the one that was the toughest for me to pick based on where these two teams are currently at.

#2 Auburn Tigers vs #15 Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Time/Network: Friday, 11:40AM, TruTV

Location: Bon Secours Wellness Arena - Greenville, South Carolina

Odds: Auburn -15.5, Over/Under 138 12

We’re obviously going to talk more about this one on Friday with our game preview.

Auburn (27-5) comes into this tournament having lost their SEC Tournament opener against Texas A&M, a game they dug too deep a hole in and nearly made a miraculous comeback behind Wendell Green getting hot from 3. Coach Pearl talks about the first game of the tournament being the hardest and right now, it’s a 1 game season.

Jacksonville State (21-10) won the Atlantic Sun Regular Season Title and despite losing their semifinal game of the conference tournament, they earned the league’s auto-bid due to Bellarmine, a team ineligible for the NCAA Tournament winning the conference tournament. The Gamecocks shoot 38.8% from 3 and are led by Darian Adams who averages 15.6 PPG this season.

#7 USC Trojans vs #10 Miami Hurricanes

Time/Network: Friday, 2:10PM, TruTV

Location: Bon Secours Wellness Arena - Greenville, South Carolina

Odds: USC -2, Over/Under 140 12

USC (26-7) was one of the country’s last unbeaten teams, making it unscathed until January 11th before losing their 1st game of the season. They finished 3rd in the Conference of Champions, but the Trojans come into the NCAA Tournament having lost 3 of their 4 games, 2 of those losses against UCLA and the other against Arizona. Isaiah Mobley leads the way for USC averaging 14.3 PPG and 8.5 RPG. Auburn and USC are scheduled to start a home and home series in Los Angeles next season so this could be the first of a couple games between the 2 teams if it materializes.

Miami (23-10) finished 4th in the ACC this season but played well against Duke, including a win over the Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium. They lost by 32 to Alabama on a neutral court back in November but have drastically improved after a tough 2020-2021 season. Kameron McGusty leads the Canes averaging 17.6 PPG this season.

And there you have it, there’s a look at the teams Auburn will have in their region on their road to the Final Four. It’s been a great season for the Tigers regardless of how this plays out and hopefully, the journey has a few weeks left.