As we get past the halfway point of the season, acquiring wins becomes that much more valuable for middling conference teams in order to secure a March Madness berth. The SEC has a few established elite programs in Tennessee and Alabama, giving others a tough chance to get the auto bid in the conference tourney. Instead, the likes of Auburn and LSU can pad their resume with impressive wins. Who comes out on top in what can be a critical SEC matchup?
Auburn Vs. LSU Odds
Oddsmakers believe the visiting Auburn Tigers will secure the win by opening them as a -5.5 favorite. Bettors are in agreement, taking them up to as high as -6.5 in some shops as of writing. This comes as no surprise as their metrics have backed up their level of play, unlike the LSU Tigers whose numbers are severely regressing after a fluky hot start. Even though they are 12-5, they have stumbled during conference play and have a Kenpom Luck rating of 13th in the nation.
As for the total, oddsmakers believe points will be scored at a moderate pace by opening the total at 135.5. Bettors believe the scoring pace will be slightly faster than anticipated, backing the over up to as high as 138.5 as of writing. This comes as a bit of a surprise as LSU is more of a one trick pony in the scoring department while Auburn excels on the defensive end. LSU will be hard pressed to figure out the Auburn defense should their secondary scoring not step up in a big way.
Auburn Vs. LSU Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Auburn -5.5
With that said, I will back the Auburn Tigers at no higher than the key number of -6. LSU is falling hard back to earth after a fluky start and will be hard pressed to get their season back on track against the Auburn defense. LSU relies on a slow, methodical, half-court offense and yet they still struggle to generate a clean look at the rim. Their offense currently ranks 117th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency per Kenpom.
A major reason for their lack of efficiency on the offensive end is their inability to generate secondary scoring. A brunt of their scoring comes from their star player KJ Williams who averages 18 points per game and hauls in 7.2 rebounds. He’s accompanied by guard Adam Miller who plays as a pure scoring guard, but his shooting percentages are not ideal and has a tendency to shoot himself out of games.
Without any ideal help from others, LSU is prone to stalled out drives and empty possessions as defenses focus their intensity on their scoring threats. Auburn’s approach will be no different as they are elite on the defensive end with an Adjusted Defensive Efficiency rating of 13th in the nation.
Their defensive success stems from their ability to smother opposing looks into low quality shots, especially from the perimeter. They are top-40 in opponent two-point percentage, as well as top-5 in the nation in opposing three-point percentage.
This doesn’t bode well for an already anemic offense that struggles to get clean looks at the rim at a slow pace. They limit their own number of possessions with this style of play, making it even harder to find a rhythm as the clock keeps bleeding from scoreless possessions while Auburn covers their looks.
Auburn Vs. LSU Key Matchups
Can Auburn’s offense find life against the weak LSU defense?
Auburn perimeter shooting vs LSU perimeter defense
This isn’t your typical Bruce Pearl team in terms of offensive production. In the past, Pearl has fielded hyper efficient perimeter shooting teams that lived and died by the three. This season? They rank 59th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and are shooting a lowly 30.2% from the perimeter.
Instead, Pearl has opted to move back the clock and opt in for a more old school approach with effective scorers down in the paint. Of the ten players who play meaningful minutes, three of them are in double digit figures with two of them being big men at the forward position.
Like their offense, LSU has also dipped in defensive efficiency and will be hard pressed to contest the consistent onslaught in the paint with less-than-ideal coverage ranks.
Back the Auburn Tigers at no higher than the key number of -6 in what will be a big road win for their postseason hopes.