As games between No. 8 and No. 9 seeds go, Thursday’s game between Auburn and Iowa could be one of the most exciting first-round games of the tournament.
When it comes to picking a winner, BetMGM is giving Auburn a slight advantage by favoring them by 1.5 points. ESPN’s matchup predictor is doing the same.
According to the latest projection by ESPN’s matchup predictor, No. 9 seed Auburn has a 55.6% chance of defeating No. 8 seed Iowa on Thursday and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday to face either No. 1 Houston or No. 16 Northern Kentucky. According to ESPN BPI, Houston has a 98% chance to win.
Not only does ESPN favor Auburn, but the worldwide leader also sees the game as the third-most exciting game of the day by giving the game a 93.0 on the matchup quality scale.
The matchup between Auburn and Iowa will be interesting, as one of the nation’s most efficient offensive teams according to KenPom in Iowa will meet a top-30 defensive squad in Auburn. The Tigers are No. 5 in the nation at stopping three-point shooting by allowing their opponents to make just 29% of their shots from deep range. As for Iowa, they connect on only 34% of their three-point shots.
Another factor that favors Auburn is the location of the game. The first-round game between Auburn and Iowa will take place at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, which will be a de facto home game for the Tigers. Since Bruce Pearl took over the program in 2014, Auburn is 4-0 in games played in Birmingham, most recently defeating Saint Louis in 2019 at the same venue.
Auburn faces Iowa on Thursday at 5:50 p.m. CT, the game can be seen live on TNT.
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