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Jacksonville State vs Auburn Game Preview and Open Thread

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Tigers face an in-state foe as they begin their NCAA Tournament run

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Friday March 18th, 2022

#15 Jacksonville State Gamecocks vs #2 Auburn Tigers

NCAA Tournament 1st Round

Bon Secours Wellness Arena - Greenville, South Carolina

Time: 11:40AM CT

Network: TruTV, Auburn Radio Network

Betting Odds: Auburn -15, Over/Under 138 via Draft Kings Sportsbook

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

When Auburn went to the Final Four 3 years ago, Coach Pearl made it clear before the New Mexico State game that the hardest game to win in that tournament was going to be the first one (and that season was living proof). Today, Auburn looks to begin another NCAA Tournament run and first up, an in-state opponent whose coach has some familiarity with Coach Pearl from BP’s Southern Indiana days.

Auburn (27-5) starts play in Greenville, South Carolina today as they take on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks in the 2/15 matchup in the Midwest Region. The Gamecocks (21-10) won the Atlantic Sun Regular Season Title and because their conference tournament champion was ineligible for the Big Dance, the Gamecocks were the beneficiaries based on their work during the regular season.

The Tigers have had a week to stew after a frustrating 67-62 loss to Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals where Auburn seemingly couldn’t throw into the ocean from anywhere until it was too little too late. But there are no mulligans for this team, it’s win or go home.

Get to Know Jacksonville State

Auburn is 13-0 against the Gamecocks all-time with the last meeting coming during the 2013-2014 season. They are coached by Ray Harper who was once the head coach at Kentucky Wesleyan College where he and BP had quite a few battles while Pearl was at Southern Indiana.

The Gamecocks had some close calls on their non-conference schedule including a 6-point loss against Alabama. They lost by 3 at Wichita State and by 3 at VCU as well.

Jacksonville State will look to control the game by slowing down the pace. They are 277th in Adjusted Tempo this season according to KenPom. They average 73.9 PPG and allow 66.8 PPG this season. While the Gamecocks play a slower pace, they’re an excellent 3-point shooting team as they shoot 38.8% from 3 as a team.

The Gamecocks are led by senior guard Darian Adams (#23) who is averaging 15.6 PPG and 5.2 RPG a game this season. The Montgomery native is shooting 38.5% from 3-point range and is the team’s best free throw shooter at 83.3%.

Junior guard Demaree King (#1) gives the Gamecocks a lift off the bench and is the team’s 2nd leading scorer. King is averaging 10.7 PPG this year and 77.1% of his shot attempts this season are from 3. And why not? King leads the team in 84 made 3-pointers and is shooting 46.2% from downtown.

Senior guard Jalen Gibbs (#22) is another excellent 3-point shooter for the Gameoccks. He also averages 10.7 PPG and is a 40.1% 3-point shooter. Like King, Gibbs has attempted 182 3-pointers this season and Gibbs has made 73 of them.

In the frontcourt, the Gamecocks are led by senior Kayne Henry (#11) who is averaging 9.6 PPG and 5.6 RPG this season. Henry is a 33.7% 3-point shooter.

The man in the middle for JSU is senior Brandon Huffman (#50). Huffman began his career at North Carolina and played 3 seasons there before transferring to JSU before the 2020-2021 season. Huffman is averaging 8.9 PPG and 5.8 RPG this season.

Junior guard Jalen Finch (#0) rounds out the starting lineup for the Gamecocks averaging 8.8 PPG and leads the team in assists. He shoots 37.1% from 3 and 81% from the free throw line.

Prediction

Well one 2 seed has already gone home in this tournament to headline a wild Thursday in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers hope to avoid being the second. The Tigers will need to look to push the tempo and not allow JSU to control this game. I think this game stays closer a lot longer than most people would like but Jabari Smith takes over late and Auburn pulls away late and wins this game.

Auburn 74 Jacksonville State 63