Auburn beat number 1 Houston

Auburn forward Johni Broome celebrates after the Tigers' win over Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

Auburn forward Johni Broome celebrates after the Tigers’ win over Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament
Photo: Michael Wade/Sportswire Icon (AP)

Now then my undefeated record the selection of the 13th seed or lower in the NCAA Tournament remains intact after Furman’s victory over Virginia on Thursday, I decided not to rest on my laurels and tell you all about another prediction I made earlier this week. For fans of Deadspin’s Agree Disagree series of videos, here is an option I declared on camera. Auburn will make it difficult for the Midwest region’s No. 1 seed in Houston on Saturday. It’s not completely annoying choosing Paladins or Saint Peter’s on Kentucky last year, but there’s no doubt that’s not what’s going to be popular.

The cougar looks bad going up against one of the worst teams in the NCAA Tournament. Northern Kentucky has come out of a weak low league in the Horizon League. The Nordic really impressed me last night and held out hard against one of the arguably best teams in the country. Kelvin Sampson’s team won that #1 seed and was arguably the nation’s most consistent team in the regular season. And Houston is either looking past a team they know they can easily beat, or the emerging Nordic team has really shown what a team without Marcus Sasser looks like.

If you take away the best player from any great team, that team won’t be as powerful anymore. Purdue doesn’t have Zach Edey as a bubble team and could be playing at NIT right now. Alabama does not have Brandon Millerthat will be a reality now with play in the yard around the Crimson Tide, will get a strong seed in The Big Dance, but more likely on lines 4-5. Sasser is the guiding force for Cougars. Unguarded drop off 6 feet-2 and have the ability to choose the NBA lottery for a groin injury during last week’s U.S. Athletics Conference Tournament, is self-evident. He was dragged by Sampson at halftime and Houston is inconsistent without him.

Auburn had a real match against Iowa on paper. The Tigers are always better than their seed, while Iowa is not. The Hawkeyes have never had a long way in the league under Fran McCaffery, and this year’s Kris Murray-led team is no different. The SEC has overtaken the Big Ten. There is no way around that. And Auburn can throw a few extra punches late in the game if needed. All in all, it was clear by the end of the game how tired Northern Kentucky was. A team with better conditions to play against Houston, which will be every team the Cougars face for the rest of the season, will be able to take better advantage of a passive, unmotivated team. And if the lack of a drive wasn’t a reality for the UH, it didn’t show it to the Nordic. It also has a great chance of redeeming Auburn. But nothing is guaranteed. And teams coached by Bruce Pearl usually don’t miss such an opportunity.

It’s unclear if Sasser will be playing at 7:10pm on TBS with his trip to Sweet 16 online. It’s clear that if he does play he won’t have enough health, which has been downgraded from what we’ve come to expect from the Cougars for most of this season. Auburn is a team that has been through a lot of adversity this season and still found its way to March Madness safely. It’s another kind of trap to define adversity for Houston. To say that Cougars have never experienced anything would be foolish. Their path of resistance has been tested in games, with more tangible rewards, like 11 more wins than the tigers in this season, on the go. That means less arrival on a Saturday night in Birmingham, a short 110-mile ride from Auburn. And it may not be a home game for AU, but it will be like it from the crowd. Houston is going into enemy territory and I don’t think it will be strong enough to walk out of the main game with one season left to play.

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