SEC Showdown: Alabama at Auburn

SEC Showdown: Alabama at Auburn

No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide at Auburn Tigers

Line: Alabama -2.5

Total: 155.5

Where: Neville Arena, Auburn, Alabama

When: Saturday, 2/11 at 2:00 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

No. 3 Alabama will try to take another step towards a seemingly inevitable SEC regular-season title when it travels to Auburn for a hardwood edition of the Iron Bowl on Saturday afternoon.

The Crimson Tide, who are a perfect 11-0 in conference play, are listed as -1200 favorites to win the SEC at DraftKings, sitting ahead of Tennessee (+750) and Texas A&M (25-1). They have won three straight games by double digits, including a 97-69 trouncing of Florida as 9.5-point home favorites on Wednesday.

Auburn has been trending in the opposite direction, losing for the fourth time in five games when it fell to Texas A&M in an 83-78 final as a 3-point road underdog on Tuesday. The Tigers have only lost once in their last 30 home games, though, which came in a 79-63 setback in their first meeting with the Aggies last month.

FanDuel opened Alabama as a 2.5-point road favorite on Friday afternoon. Saturday’s total opened at 148.5 points, but it was all the way up to 155.5 by Saturday morning.

These teams have gone ‘over’ in four of their last five meetings, including Auburn’s 100-81 win as a 6-point home favorite last February. The Tigers swept the 2021-22 season series, notching an 81-77 win as 3-point road underdogs in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama is currently tied with Purdue for the second-shortest national title odds at DraftKings, with both teams priced at +900 behind Houston (+700). The Crimson Tide’s lone loss since mid-December came at Oklahoma in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, but they responded with a 101-44 win against Vanderbilt before adding wins against LSU and Florida.

Star freshman Brandon Miller scored 24 points in Wednesday’s win over the Gators, giving his team its best start to league play since 1955-56. The Crimson Tide also matched the 1975-76 team for the school’s best record through 24 games.

“It’s great. They’ve had a lot of really good teams here,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “I don’t even know who was in the SEC back in 55-56, but it’s a good league now. We’re just trying to play good basketball.”

Alabama blitzed Florida by knocking down 15 3-pointers in the game, racing out to a 29-point halftime lead by hitting nine first-half triples. The Crimson Tide tend to blow teams out based on having a top-15 offense and defense (in KenPom’s ratings) along with the third-fastest tempo in college hoops.

Their only real weakness has been winning the turnover battle, as they are No. 207 in offensive turnover rate and No. 314 in defensive turnover rate. They have made up for it by ranking first nationally in defensive 2-point percentage (42.2) and second in defensive 3-point percentage (26.1).

Miller leads the way offensively with 19.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, while junior guard Mark Sears is scoring 13.9 points. Freshman forward Noah Clowney, who is averaging 10.0 points and 8.1 rebounds, had to exit Wednesday’s game with a facial injury, but he is expected to play on Saturday.

Auburn comes into this game in desperate need of a marquee win following four losses in its last five games. The Tigers do not have a win over anyone currently ranked in the top 25, with their best victory coming against then-No. 13 Arkansas in early January. They are coming off a brutal two-game road trip that featured losses at then-No. 2 Tennessee and Texas A&M, falling to fourth place in the SEC standings.

“We know that we are a better team than we are showing right now,” junior center Dylan Cardwell said. “Everyone is still in high hopes, and we still feel like we are a good team. We are going to peak at the right time.”

There were 11 lead changes in the final eight minutes of Tuesday’s 83-78 win for the Aggies, but Auburn guard Wendell Green Jr. air balled a 3-pointer down the stretch to seal the deal. Green finished with 20 points and six assists, while forward Johni Broome had 18 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late in the game.

The Tigers finished 9 of 24 from 3-point range, which was a step up from their usual numbers. They have been one of the worst outside shooting teams in the country, ranked No. 345 in 3-point percentage (29.2). Their 2-point percentage (52.6) has been much better at No. 76, but they are No. 267 from the charity stripe (69.0).

Auburn is 5-2 against the spread in its last seven games, while Alabama is 9-3 ATS in its last 12 games. The Crimson Tide have gone ‘under’ in five of their last seven games, but Auburn has gone ‘over’ in five of its last six games. These squads have gone ‘over’ in seven of their last eight meetings at Auburn.

The pick: Alabama -2.5

This looked like it was going to be a much trickier game for Alabama from a scheduling standpoint earlier in the season, but the Crimson Tide are coming off three comfortable wins, while Auburn has lost back-to-back close road games. I know this is a rivalry game away from home, so it’s never going to be easy, but I can’t justify backing Auburn as a short underdog in this spot. The Tigers continue to hoist bad shots from the perimeter, while Alabama plays an efficient, up-tempo style. The Crimson Tide aren’t in need of a statement win right now, but they could certainly use one in this rivalry after losing both contests last year. Auburn is worse on both ends of the court, and the cream tends to rise to the top at this time of the season.

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