SEC Showdown: Auburn at Mississippi St.

Auburn is in a massive funk on the road, dropping three consecutive games outright and failing to cover in five straight.

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Auburn Tigers

Line: Auburn -3.5

Total: 141.5

Where: Humphrey Coliseum

When: Wednesday, 3/2 at 9:00 p.m. ET

TV: SEC Network

Wednesday night’s SEC showdown between No. 5 Auburn and Mississippi State has massive NCAA Tournament implications for both teams, but for entirely different reasons.

The Tigers have now lost two of their last three games, falling to a No. 2-seed in most NCAA Tournament projections. They also have an opportunity to clinch at least a share of the SEC regular-season title.

Auburn is one game ahead of Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee heading into Tuesday night’s action. The Tigers will play host to South Carolina on Saturday in a game that KenPom has Auburn lined as a 16-point favorite, so tonight’s game will likely decide the SEC crown.

Mississippi State is on the wrong side of the bubble heading into its final two regular-season games, so it needs to come up with a resume-building win. The Bulldogs have won three of their last four games, including a 74-69 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. They will wrap up the regular season at Texas A&M on Saturday night.

Offshore sportsbook BetOnline opened Auburn as a 3-point favorite on Tuesday afternoon. The total for Wednesday’s game opened at 139.5, which would be tied for the lowest total in an Auburn game since Jan. 29.

By this morning, most spots had the Tigers as 3.5-point road favorites with the total up into the 141-142 range. The Bulldogs were +140 on the money line.

Auburn has won three straight games in this series, including a 78-71 victory in the 2020-21 season finale. The Tigers are 0-5 against the spread in their last five road assignments with three straight outright defeats, including a 67-62 setback at No. 13 Tennessee on Saturday.

They had another rough day from beyond the arc, knocking down just 20.8 percent of their 3-point attempts. Auburn now sits at 31.8 percent overall this season, which ranks No. 275 nationally. Its offense has been solid in just about every other category though, leading to an adjusted efficiency ranking of No. 18.

Star freshman forward Jabari Smith is leading the way with 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Sophomore guards K.D. Johnson and Wendell Green Jr. are both scoring in double figures as well, while sophomore forward Walker Kessler is adding 11.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Auburn is one of the youngest teams in the country, which has led to a 3-7 ATS record on the road. The Tigers will be facing a Mississippi State defense that is No. 55 in adjusted efficiency.

The Bulldogs are around the same mark offensively, ranked No. 48 in efficiency. They have been even worse than Auburn from the perimeter, knocking down just 30.2 percent of their 3-pointers.

Mississippi State knows what its strength is, though, as it attempted just six triples in its 74-69 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Junior forward Tolu Smith scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench, while leading scorer Iverson Molinar had 20 points.

Molinar ranks third in the SEC in scoring, averaging 18.1 points per game. Smith and forward Garrison Brooks are both scoring in double figures as well. They are facing an Auburn defense that ranks eighth in adjusted efficiency.

Mississippi State wants to play at a much slower pace than Auburn, ranked No. 256 in average possession length. The Bulldogs have gone ‘under’ the total in six of their last eight games.

Auburn is 1-5-1 ATS in its last seven games, but it is 4-2 ATS in its last six games against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have won nine of their last 10 home games and are 15-3 in their last 18 home games against Auburn.

The pick: Auburn -3.5

Auburn’s recent losing streak on the road has created a little bit of value in this spot. KenPom has this game lined at -4, but the market has the number one point lower. There are several reasons why I am not as concerned about this specific road game for Auburn. The Tigers match up length-wise with Mississippi State and the environment is not as hostile as Bud Walton Arena or Thompson-Boling Arena. Mississippi State lacks the offensive firepower to beat Auburn down the stretch of this game. The Tigers have covered the spread in four of the last six head-to-head meetings between these teams, and I expect them to add another cover on Wednesday.

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