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Resume building: What Auburn's NCAA Tournament outlook looks like

Justin Hokansonby:Justin Hokanson03/07/24


AUBURN — With one regular season game remaining and the SEC Tournament in Nashville next week, let’s dive into what Auburn basketball’s resume looks like. This will be Bruce Pearl‘s fifth NCAA Tournament team while at Auburn (six, if you wanted to count the Covid season.)

Let’s take a look at the Tigers’ resume entering the final days before Selection Sunday.

— Quickly on SEC Tournament seeding, Auburn is heading towards a Top-4 seed in Nashville, assuming they beat Georgia. The 3-seed seems to be the most likely scenario, could be 4-seed. We will know it all on Saturday night, so no need diving into every scenario. The most important thing for Auburn is win and avoid a terrible loss at the end of the season.

— The Tigers are fifth nationally in scoring margin at +15 points per game. Only UConn, Arizona, Houston and Gonzaga have better scoring margins this season.

— The Tigers have won 23 games this season, all by double digits. That’s the most in college basketball. By comparison, Houston has 17 wins by double digits, UConn has 20, Purdue has 15, Arizona has 18 and Gonzaga has 20 such wins.

— Auburn has won 13 games by 20 points or more. That’s the most among all SEC teams.

— Auburn’s 23 wins by double digits is the most under Pearl. The 2018 and 2022 SEC championship teams both had 19 wins by double digits in the regular season. The 2019 Final Four team had 15 such wins. Last year’s team and the 2020 SEC second-place team had 11 such wins.

— Auburn’s 9-0 record in Quad II games is the best in college basketball. No other team has more than seven Quad II wins. The Tigers have won their Quad II games by an average of ~23 points per game, which is a big reason why the computers and the NET ratings like Auburn so much.

No. 6 in NCAA’s NET ratings

No. 6 in KenPom

No. 5 in T-Rank

No. 5 in Evan Miya

No. 6 in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index

— Auburn is one of five college basketball teams with an unbeaten record in Quad II, III and IV games. Houston, UConn, Purdue and TCU are the others. Houston, UConn and Purdue are of course, the three consensus top three teams in college basketball.

— Auburn is one of four teams with a Top-15 adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency per KenPom ratings, joining Houston, UConn and Arizona. Per T-Rank, the Tigers are one of three, joining Houston and UConn. Auburn has never finished the regular season inside the top 15 in both categories under Pearl, per T-Rank.

Per Bracket Matrix, Auburn is currently projected as the last No. 4 seed in the tournament. Bracket Matrix accumulates an average of tens of different bracket projections.

— Per T-Rank, Auburn is projected as the top 5-seed in the tournament. If Auburn beats Georgia and let’s say, beats South Carolina on Friday in the SEC Tournament, their projection changes to a 4-seed.

— That Friday game, assuming that’s where Auburn lands, could be a big game in determining whether Auburn is a 4 or 5-seed in the Big Dance. South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky or Alabama, any of those would be big-time wins on Friday and could help push the Tigers into a higher seeding.

— That matters because on average, 4 seeds win their first-round game 80 percent of the time. However, 5 seeds win their first-round games around 65 percent of the time. There is a big difference in playing a 13 seed versus a 12 seed. That same ~15 percent difference carries into making the Sweet 16.

— The one “negative” on Auburn’s resume is a 1-7 Quad I record. However, five of those eight total Quad I games have been on the road. Tough draw. Winning road Quad I games is a tall task for anyone. Of those seven losses, five are by an average of six points per loss. The loss to Baylor, and losses at App State, Alabama, Mississippi State and Tennessee easily could have gone the other direction.

— For reference: Wins by quadrant is one metric, but not the only metric for which teams are seeded. But when you’re Auburn and fighting for high national seed, the committee will look at Quad I records.

— Indiana has won three straight games, moving up to No. 95 in the NET. That means Indiana has moved from a Quad III win for Auburn to a Quad II win. That helps.

— On the other hand, Ole Miss and Mississippi State haven’t done Auburn any favors. Ole Miss has lost seven of nine and sits at No. 78 in the NET. Right now, Auburn’s road win at Ole Miss is a Quad II win and their home win over Ole Miss is a Quad III win. If Ole Miss could move to No. 75 or better in the NET, Auburn’s road win would become a Quad I win and their home win would become a Quad II win. Could Ole Miss beat Texas A&M, win a game in the SEC Tournament and move up three spots?

— As for Mississippi State, they sit at No. 39 in the NET after their third straight loss. If Mississippi State was No. 30 or better in the NET, that would have been another Quad I win for Auburn. As it stands, the State win will likely remain a Quad II win. State could beat South Carolina on Saturday and win another one in Nashville, that might move them up nine spots, but it’s a tall task.

— Because of all that, Auburn’s “Quad Score” according to Bracket Research is 13th nationally. The score is based on earning and losing points based on Quad I, II, III or IV wins. If Ole Miss and Mississippi State would have both jumped into the higher categories, Auburn’s “Quad Score” would likely be inside the top eight nationally.

— Per T-Rank, Auburn’s resume this season is similar to these past NCAA Tournament teams: Houston 2021 (2-seed, Final Four), Houston 2020 (5-seed, Elite Eight), Gonzaga 2019 (1-seed, Elite Eight) and Michigan State 2018 (3-seed, Round 32).

— Auburn’s offensive and defensive efficiencies are similar to these past NCAA Tournament teams: Auburn 2022 (2-seed, Round 32), Florida State 2021 (4-seed, Sweet 16), Florida 2017 (4-seed, Elite Eight), Villanova 2009 (3-seed, Final Four) and Memphis 2008 (1-seed, Finals).

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