College Basketball Odds, Picks and Predictions for LSU vs. Auburn (Wednesday, Dec. 29)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Bruce Pearl
- LSU and Auburn open SEC play with a top-25 duel on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday night.
- The Tigers have the No. 1 defense in college basketball, while Auburn plays with tempo and aggressiveness.
- College basketball betting analyst Charlie DiSturco breaks down the matchup and offers up his top selection.
LSU vs. Auburn Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
It’s opening night of conference play in the SEC and we’re being welcomed in a big way. Two goliaths square off as No. 11 Auburn hosts No. 16 LSU.
Auburn has ripped off eight straight since its double overtime loss to Connecticut and enters Wednesday night’s matchup off wins against a pair of KenPom top-100 opponents in Saint Louis and Murray State.
The traveling LSU Tigers are one of the five remaining undefeated teams this season. They are 12-0 and boast one of the country’s most ferocious defenses. Yes, you read that right. LSU has the No. 1 defense, statistically speaking.
Can LSU improve to a sparkling 13-0, or will Auburn play spoiler on its home floor?
This is not the same Will Wade team of old. Gone are the days of offense-only teams where defense came at a premium. Instead, LSU enters SEC play as the No. 1 defense in terms of both adjusted efficiency and eFG%.
No team has scored more than 63 points against the Tigers, and that includes a 30-point blowout of Belmont and double-digit wins over Wake Forest and Ohio.
LSU ranks seventh in 2-point defense, 11th in 3-point defense and eighth in turnover rate. While the Tigers haven’t faced a dominant offense like they will in SEC play, they have been nothing short of impressive. Their athleticism has proven to be a difference-maker over the first two months of the season.
But the reason behind the sudden 180 on defense? LSU’s newcomers.
Tari Eason and Xavier Pinson have been revelations on the defensive side of the ball. Both rank inside the top 100 in steal rate. The 6-foot-2 Pinson often handles the opposing team’s best guard while Eason’s length at 6-foot-8 contributes toward the success inside the paint.
Eason has done it all for LSU. Outside of his defensive prowess, he rebounds incredibly well, draws plenty of fouls and uses his athleticism and length to score inside at an efficient rate. He leads the team with 16.3 points per game.
Because of the Tigers’ length and athleticism inside the paint, opponents take 3s on nearly 50% of their shot attempts. That’s 353rd out of 358 total Division I programs and could ultimately play spoiler in big games against more efficient offenses.
Meanwhile, this is the same Wade offense of old. LSU loves to run-and-gun and takes just 15.5 seconds per possession. While the Tigers struggle with the long ball, they rebound well and create plenty of second-chance opportunities.
Length and athleticism has been the story of the season for the Tigers in non-conference play, and it’s been the recipe for success on both ends of the floor.
Auburn has been one of the most polished teams in non-conference play. Outside of a double-overtime slugfest with Connecticut that ended in defeat, the Tigers have yet to lose. They’ve taken down five top-100 teams, per KenPom, all without star Allen Flanigan.
The 6-foot-6 junior suffered a torn Achilles in the offseason after averaging 14.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 2020-21. He returned to action in Auburn’s final non-conference matchup against Murray State and figures to slowly be reintroduced to a starting role as SEC play gets underway.
Even without Flanigan, Auburn was dominant. The Tigers boast a top-20 offense and an even better 10th-ranked defense in terms of efficiency, per KenPom.
Much of their success has to do with Bruce Pearl’s activity in the transfer portal, bringing over the likes of Zep Jasper, Walker Kessler, K.D. Johnson and Wendell Green Jr..
Tack on the emergence of five-star Jabari Smith, who has made an immediate impact as a freshman, and Auburn has legit SEC Championship aspirations.
The 6-foot-10 freshman is as versatile as they come, averaging 16.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Tack on a pair of steals and a 45.2% clip from 3, and Smith is near-impossible to stop. Oh, and he does all this in just 27 minutes per game.
There’s few areas where Auburn lacks, especially defensively. The Tigers are 13th in 2-point defense and the second-best shot-blocking team in the country. They suffocate you with pressure and force turnovers at the 37th-best rate in the country.
To beat the Tigers, you have to do it from beyond the arc. In their only loss, the Huskies shot 57.7% on 26 total 3s. Their defensive pressure also leads to plenty of free-throw attempts for opponents, so cashing in at the line is crucial.
But that’s just to have a shot at beating an Auburn team that’s won eight straight. The Tigers are a well-oiled machine that’s only going to get better with Flanigan’s return.
LSU vs. Auburn Betting Pick
LSU has been great to start the season, but there’s been moments where it looks mortal. Against Liberty and Louisiana Tech, there were brief moments where an upset looked inevitable. The Tigers eventually stormed back late and won, using their physicality and height advantage against lesser opponents.
But this is Auburn, not a mid-major opponent. It doesn’t turn the ball over and is extremely efficient on offense. I expect Smith to dominate in Auburn’s biggest home game of the season, using his versatility to break down this daunted LSU defense.
To me, Auburn has a slight advantage here. LSU thrives on attacking the paint, which just so happens to be Auburn’s strength on defense. Walker Kessler should get plenty of run alongside Smith, forcing LSU to win from beyond the arc — which I don’t think it can do.
I think LSU is slightly overvalued and Auburn has the edge here. The spread of four points is a bit dicey in a game I see going down to the wire and eventually, I expect Auburn to pull away.
But I would expect LSU to be able to withstand and dish out some punches itself early on before trailing off. Because of that, there are two ways I’ll be looking to bet on this game: Auburn 1H or live at (-2) or better.
It’s time for LSU’s hot start to come to a halt at the hands of the better SEC team.