Ryan Knuppel  |  Sat 30th Mar   | NCAAB

NCAA Tournament Fourth Round Betting Preview – Midwest Region:

Auburn Tigers (5)
Kentucky Wildcats (2)

Kansas City, Missouri is the host of the Midwest Region’s Elite 8 game to send one team to the Final Four. Both of these teams are playing some of their best basketball of the year, which is the best part about this tournament.

Auburn should come into this game with a ton of confidence after their thorough dismantling of North Carolina on Friday night. I expect to see the Tigers come out fast and aggressive in this spot. They will be without Chuma Okeke, who tore his ACL after dropping 20 and 11 against the Tar Heels.

The Wildcats were in a battle with Houston throughout, but the addition of PJ Washington really catapulted them to a victory down the stretch. I expect Washington to play and possibly start in this game.

The Wildcats are -4.5 point favorites over the Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

Check out all of our March Madness previews & picks here.

auburn teamAuburn Tigers Team Preview

Auburn will really be put to the test without one of their best scorers in this game and moving forward, should they win this game. Okeke is the Tigers’ third-leading scorer and their best offensive big man. This only becomes more concerning with the addition of Washington for the Wildcats.

I am very curious to see how the Tigers plan on replacing Okeke, but I think the biggest challenge will lie in defending both Washington and Travis, who are skilled big men. I think we will see more of Austin Wiley than we have all season because I believe he is the most talented of the bigs left.

Wiley has been inconsistent this year— and his whole career, for that matter. Wiley came in as one of the highest rated players Auburn has on the roster and was seen as a top 40 recruit in the country. Wiley can also have foul problems, but he has the offensive game to step up in place of Okeke.

kentucky wildcatsKentucky Wildcats Team Preview

The Wildcats were able to escape the tough Houston team but only because of the play of PJ Washington. With Washington on the floor this season, Kentucky is averaging more than .2 points per possession than without him, which is one of the most drastic change you will see in basketball.

Washington was not looking great on Thursday at practice, but whatever pain-reducing medicine the Wildcats used clearly made Washington feel like a brand new man. Washington is the Wildcats best player, and he showed this by scoring 16 in just 26 minutes in his return.

I expect Washington to play even more in this matchup, mainly because I think the Wildcats will now trust him to play well. From everything I heard and read leading into their last game, I do not think Coach Cal was prepared to get 26 minutes and 16 points from Washington.

I expect this game to be centered around Washington and his ability to abuse Auburn down low with the loss of Okeke.

Auburn Tigers vs. Kentucky Wildcats Betting Pick

auburn tigers vs kentucky wildcats
These two teams have played twice this season and Kentucky won both previous meetings. The Wildcats won an 82-80 thriller at Auburn and then obliterated the Tigers at home by almost 30 points. Okeke and Washington were leading scorers in one of these two games, which goes to show how important the addition and subtraction of these two may be in this game.

The biggest concern I have for Auburn is that they lost to Kentucky by 2 at home when Bryce Brown and Jared Harper combined for 45 points. If this is a sign of thing to come, we will need these two to play out of their mind to make up for the loss of Okeke, and I think it is generally asking for too much.

I think Auburn will need a good performance from both guards as well as a big in order to keep this game within reach down the stretch.

Auburn has been more efficient than the Wildcats this season, and they will need to continue this if they want to beat the Wildcats on Sunday. Kentucky is the better defensive team, which really showed up when these two met in Lexington earlier this year.

My pick for this NCAA Tournament game is Kentucky -4.5 over Auburn on Sunday.

Check out all of our March Madness previews & picks here.

Ryan Knuppel