NMSU vs. Auburn: Aggies Prepare for SEC Champions on Thursday
Marquette, Mississippi State, heck even Wisconsin—all five-seeds that NMSU would gladly play over fifth-seed Auburn on Thursday morning in the NCAA Tournament.
After the Aggies utterly demolished Grand Canyon to capture their seventh WAC Championship in eight years, many expected Chris Jans' bunch to be pinned at a No. 12 seed.
On paper, they are among the hottest teams in the country, having won 19-straight. They swept all three of their rivals in UTEP, New Mexico and Grand Canyon. It's also an insanely deep team orchestrated by Jans, as they sometimes dip 12, 13-men deep in their rotation.
What they didn't anticipate is that No. 22 Auburn would not move up in the polls, despite being the dark horse winner of the SEC Championship, and would be the eventual fifth-seeded matchup pinned against NMSU.
Again, the Aggies would probably have taken on Marquette, Mississippi State or Wisconsin any day before Auburn. Just as NMSU has been hot, the Tigers have been peaking at the right time too. They've won eight-straight games and beat No. 7 Tennessee twice during the process.
Auburn guard Jared Harper leads the charge for the SEC Champions, but Bryce Brown adds the extra flame on offense with his 40.1 percent shooting from 3-point land. Auburn is among the best teams in the country in causing turnovers defensively, forcing nearly 18 turnovers per game.
For NMSU, their team 56.5 field goal percentage is what to boast about for the Aggies offensively. Their 34 percent shooting beyond the arc isn't. The way they are able to balance themselves is almost like a learned craft, with their highest scorer averaging just 11.3 points per game (Terrell Brown).
The Aggies are also trying to bounce back after their back-to-back NCAA Tournament opening round losses in the past two seasons to Baylor (2017) and Clemson (2018). Both times the Aggies lost as a 12-seed.
Maybe the third time is the charm?
Tipoff between the two is set for 11:30 a.m. MT on TNT in Salt Lake City, Utah. The winner will play either No. 4 Kansas or No. 13 Northeastern.