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Third Time’s A Charm? Injured Stars Leave Questions for SEC Battle

Kentucky's PJ Washington, right, shoots while pressured by Auburn's Chuma Okeke (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019

The Kentucky Wildcats have downed the Auburn Tigers twice this season, including by 27 points on February 23. The Tigers, however, are turning into the darlings of the NCAA Tournament and open as just 2.5-point dogs against their conference rival. Kentucky welcomed back PJ Washington in the Sweet 16 while Auburn lost Chuma Okeke – definitely a storyline to watch for. The total for the early game on Sunday opened at 144.5.

Auburn vs Kentucky Game Center

Standout Stats

  • Since losing at Kentucky on February 23, the Auburn Tigers are 11-0 SU and 8-3 ATS. They were the betting underdog in three of those 11 games, including by 5.5 points to UNC in the Sweet 16.
  • John Calipari’s team has played to the UNDER in 17 of its last 21 games. The Wildcats’ average combined score through three games in the tournament is 120.3. The Tigers have played to the OVER in each of their last four games, with an average combined score of 165.3 in their three NCAA Tournament games.
  • Kentucky has been to the Elite Eight 12 times since 1996, going 7-5 SU and 6-5-1 ATS. The O/U is 7-3 since 1998. The Wildcats pushed the spread in their last appearance in this round, a 75-73 loss to UNC in 2017.
  • Auburn has never been to the Elite Eight. Bruce Pearl got there with Tennessee in 2010, losing 70-69 to Michigan State as a 2-point favorite.
  • Auburn is 10-1 on a neutral court this season. Kentucky is just 5-3.
  • Auburn has the No. 22 offense in the nation while Kentucky has the No. 23 scoring defense.
  • PJ Washington had 24 points in 33 minutes the last time these teams played. He had 13 points in 32 minutes in the first meeting. He returned from injury with 16 points in 26 minutes in the Sweet 16, and that was the difference in the win vs Houston.
  • Chuma Okeke is one of just three Auburn Tigers to average double digits in scoring this season. That could potentially be good news for an Auburn team that uses everybody.
  • Auburn put up 97 points on the No. 15 adjusted defense in the Sweet 16. It’ll get the No. 8 adjusted defense in the form of Kentucky. Auburn has the No. 6 adjusted offense.
  • Kentucky shot over 54 percent in each of the two meetings this season. Auburn shot 46 and 32 percent respectively. Kentucky averaged 47.1 percent in SEC play while Auburn averaged 43.8 percent. I would expect Kentucky’s numbers to be lower than they were in the regular season, given the circumstances.

My Best Bet for Auburn vs Kentucky

Take Auburn and the Points +2.5

I think this game will come right down to the wire and be a lot more like the first game they played this season than the second. The Tigers have been proving people wrong throughout playoff season and I think they’ll do it again here in the Elite Eight.

It will be important to adjust their focus quickly from the upset of UNC, but this team doesn’t let the moment get too big for them. The blowout loss to Kentucky was a wake-up call and this team has been on a mission ever since.

With the public on the Wildcats, if you like this pick, wait closer to tipoff to see if you can grab a better number at your book.