Auburn's NCAA Tournament game vs. Iowa will be won — or lost — at the rim
Shooting and guard play go a long way in March. But how the Tigers perform right at the basket, on both ends of the floor, might be bigger.
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C Johni Broome (Steven Leonard/Auburn Athletics)
This time of year, it’s easy to fall in love with the jumper.
You constantly hear about the importance of shot-making in the NCAA Tournament. When filling out your bracket, you probably have leaned toward the teams with strong 3-point percentages, especially when picking potential Cinderellas.
And it’s very easy to put a lot of importance on jump shots when looking at Auburn’s first-round matchup with Iowa on Thursday in Birmingham.
You’ve heard it by now: Iowa has the nation’s No. 3 offense in terms of adjusted efficiency at 120.5, making them the best on-paper offense Auburn has faced since playing Gonzaga and Baylor — the two teams that eventually played for a national title — during the non-conference portion of the 2020-21 season.
And there are some monster pieces of data that suggests that how well the Hawkeyes’ ultra-efficient offense shoots from beyond the arc will go a long way in determining the result.
Iowa shoots 34.3% on 3-pointers this season, which is in the middle of the road nationally. However, when the Hawkeyes shoot above their average, they’re 16-1 this season. And, when they hit at least eight 3-pointers in a game, they’re 13-2.
On the other side of the matchup, though, Auburn boasts a defense that is No. 5 nationally in 3-point percentage at 28.8%. (It helped that the SEC was the worst 3-point shooting conference in Division I this season, but still.)
And it’s also worth noting that the Tigers have won games in which the opponent has gone off from deep (like the home victories over Tennessee and Georgia) and lost games where they’ve locked down the perimeter (both Alabama games, the trip to Tennessee and the SEC Tournament exit at the hands of Arkansas).
So while 3-point shooting will definitely play a role in this classic 8 vs. 9 pick ‘em — and Auburn is hitting a strong 38.1% of its looks from deep over its last nine games — what happens on the shots that are the closest to the rim might be more important.
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