Auburn guard K.D. Johnson (0) shoots while Mississippi State forward Garrison Brooks (10) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Auburn won 81-68. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Auburn vs. Jacksonville State – NCAA Opening Round Matchup

In one of many opening-round March Madness matchups, No. 2 Auburn takes the court against No. 15 Jacksonville State in Greenville, South Carolina, Friday afternoon. The Tigers finished 27-5 overall with a 15-3 SEC record. On the other side, the Gamecocks sit with a 21-10 overall and 13-3 in the ASUN. The two teams last met back in 2013 when Auburn won 78-54.

Look at Jacksonville State

The Gamecocks won their conference regular-season crown but fell to Jacksonville in the ASUN Tournament on March 5, 54-51. The team has won five of their last six overall entering the NCAA Tournament.

Something Auburn will have to watch out for is the Gamecocks’ three-pointers. Jacksonville State is an impressive 3-point shooting team, ranking fifth nationally at 38.8 percent from deep. The four teams to out-shoot the Gamecocks are South Dakota State (44.9 percent), Colgate (40.3 percent), Virginia Tech (39.3 percent) and Purdue (39.1 percent).

What this team suffers from, however, is slow gameplay. While playing slow should limit mistakes, the Gamecocks struggle with both turnovers (20.0% of possessions end in a turnover) and non-steal turnovers (10.2% of possessions end with a self-inflicted turnover). Their defense also isn’t very aggressive. Specifically, their gameplay hasn’t put much pressure on their opponents in the backcourt. If Auburn takes advantage of these limitations, they will most likely advance.

https://twitter.com/JSUGamecocksMBB/status/1504172787803508738?s=20&t=KZlkYd3RMTJ_g5W1LYYPow

Over to Auburn

The Tigers remain undefeated in matchups against Jacksonville State. Auburn secured an automatic qualifying bid after claiming the regular-season SEC Championship. However, the team has been a little shaky in recent games, only winning five of their last nine games, which includes its quarterfinal loss to Texas A&M in the SEC tournament.

Auburn has a lineup of star players including one of the best players in the country, Jabari Smith. Smith averages 17.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. According to DraftKings Nation, Smith and Walker Kessler in the frontcourt with K.D. Johnson and Wendell Green Jr. in the backcourt and it makes for an extremely tough lineup.

https://twitter.com/AuburnMBB/status/1504488305286557700?s=20&t=KZlkYd3RMTJ_g5W1LYYPow

Overall, Auburn stands a better chance of advancing, but Jacksonville State’s scoring numbers will make it tough for the Tigers.

About Kaitlyn Wadulack

Kaitlyn Wadulack is a third-year journalism student specializing in sports and media at the University of Florida. You can reach Kaitlyn at k.wadulack@ufl.edu

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