Previewing No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 12 New Mexico State: Date, Time, Players to Watch

    Two of the hottest teams entering the NCAA Tournament will meet Thursday afternoon in Salt Lake City. Conference tournament champions Auburn and New

    Two of the hottest teams entering the NCAA Tournament will meet Thursday afternoon in Salt Lake City. Conference tournament champions Auburn and New Mexico State will play in the 5/12 game in the Midwest. Historically, No. 5 seeds have won in the first round roughly 65 percent of the time, so odds are that at least one No. 12 seed will advance this year. Will it be the Aggies?


    Date/Time: Thursday, March 21, 1:30 p.m. ET prediction: Auburn def. New Mexico State 75-69

    Point spread: Auburn -7.5 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

    No. 5 seed Auburn

    Coach: Bruce Pearl

    Record: 27-9 (11-7)

    Conference tournament finish: Won SEC

    Player to watch: Jared Harper

    The Tigers are finally playing like the team that was ranked No. 11 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll. They’ve won eight in a row, including a pair of wins over No. 2 seed Tennessee, plus victories over NCAA Tournament teams Mississippi State and Florida.

    Auburn has the nation’s eighth-most efficient offense that’s fueled by five rotation players who shoot 36 percent or better from behind the arc. The Tigers’ offensive firepower comes from their starting backcourt of Jared Harper and Bryce Brown, both of whom were Second Team All-SEC selections. They average 15.2 and 15.8 points, respectively, and attempt roughly 15 threes per game between them.

    Defensively, Auburn leads the country in turnover percentage (25.4%) and it’s fifth in block percentage (16.1%). The Tigers aren’t particularly strong at defensive rebounding, limiting their opponents’ trips to the free throw line or 3-pointers, so they rank just 45th in defensive efficiency.

    Almost half of Auburn’s shot attempts are threes – 49.6 percent, to be exact – so there’s the potential for a high variance in the Tigers’ play if they catch fire from behind the arc or have a rough shooting day as a team.

    [RELATED: Print Your 2019 NCAA Tournament Bracket Here]

    No. 12 seed New Mexico State

    Coach: Chris Jans

    Record: 30-4 (15-1)

    Conference tournament finish: Won WAC

    Player to watch: Terrell Brown

    It seems silly to highlight just one player for New Mexico State because the Aggies lead the country with a 49.8 percent bench minute rate. Thirteen players average at least 10 minutes per game and no one plays more than point guard A.J. Harris’ 25.4 minutes per game. The Aggies come at you in waves.

    New Mexico State’s man-to-man defense forces opponents into one-on-one, iso-ball. No team in the country allows a lower assist rate than New Mexico State at 38.2, meaning more than 60 percent of the Aggies’ opponents’ points are unassisted. New Mexico State crashes the boards hard on both end – its 77.9 percent defensive rebounding rate ranks fourth nationally and its 36.8 percent offensive rebounding rate ranks eighth.

    The Aggies take a ton of threes (46.4 percent of their attempts are behind the arc) and they’re incredibly efficient inside the arc, where they make 56.6 percent of their twos.

    If you’re a believer in momentum, New Mexico State certainly has it. The Aggies have won their last 19 games, last losing Jan. 3 against Cal Baptist.

    MORE: 2019 NCAA Tournament Schedule, Dates, Times, Locations

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