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NCAA Basketball Elite 8 Preview: Auburn Tigers vs Kentucky Wildcats

The Kentucky Wildcats and Auburn Tigers will meet up for the third time this season on Sunday. This game will have a little more meaning as these two teams are battling for a spot in the Final Four. Kentucky has won both matchups so far, but this is a much different Auburn team.

Kentucky has had a pair of close games in their last two rounds, but the Wildcats have survived against Wofford and Houston. Auburn has been sharp of late, using hot shooting to beat Kansas and North Carolina. Kentucky is a -4.5 point favorite over Auburn in this game.

Tigers Lose Key Player

Auburn will be short-handed in this game after forward Chuma Okeke suffered a gruesome knee injury in the Sweet 16 win. Okeke isn’t the best player for the Tigers, but he might be the most important. Auburn will definitely miss his 12 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, but will miss him on defense as well. The Tigers aren’t a terrific defensive team to begin with, but they will try to speed up the tempo and win with their offense.

The Tigers have been putting on a shooting clinic in the NCAA Tournament and knocked down 17 three-pointers in the win over North Carolina. Guards Bryce Brown and Jared Parker are the main threats, but all of the Tigers can shoot. Auburn shoots 39 percent from deep as a team, and Brown and Parker combine for more than 30 points per night. There is no doubt that Bruce Pearl’s team will try to use the same formula to pull off the upset against their conference rival.

Kentucky Defense Will Be Tested

Usually, Kentucky is great because of their offense, but this year’s team is different. The Wildcats are giving up just 64 points per game this season, and they have length at all positions to contest shots. Kentucky is led on the perimeter by a pair of freshman guards in Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro, who seem to get better with each game played. Herro is an elite shooter that is averaging 14 points per game, while Hagans is the conductor and dishes out 4.6 assists per night. The freshmen backcourt will have their hands full with the Auburn sharpshooters.

The biggest advantage for Kentucky in this game should be in the paint, and most notably PJ Washington. Washington returned to the Kentucky lineup after missing a pair of games and was dominant on both ends of the floor. The talented sophomore leads Kentucky in scoring with 14.8 points per night and should have a big game with Okeke out. Graduate transfer Reid Travis provides leadership and is usually good for 10 points and 6 boards per night.

Auburn Shoots Their Way To Minneapolis

Even though Auburn is playing without their star, they just feel like the better team at this point. The Tigers are making shots like crazy, and they have plenty of offensive weapons. Kentucky can guard, but Auburn has been lighting everyone up. Look for the Auburn Tigers to get revenge on Kentucky and move to the Final Four. Take the 4.5 points and bet Auburn, as they will win this game outright.

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