NCAA Tournament: Hawkeyes Wire predicts No. 8 Iowa versus No. 9 Auburn

The Iowa Hawkeyes didn’t draw the easiest of first-round matchups. In fact, they drew one of the most intriguing games across the entire slate. The No. 8 Hawkeyes take on the No. 9 Auburn Tigers on Thursday, March 16 at 5:50 p.m. CT in Birmingham, Ala.

The Hawkeyes and Tigers are part of the Midwest Region with the winner getting a shot to take down No. 1 Houston barring an upset of epic proportions at the hands of No. 16 Northern Kentucky. First things first, both teams are focused on getting to the second round with this matchup being touted as a highly-watchable contest.

The 8-seed versus 9-seed matchups are always tight. There really is not much difference in teams seeded this closely, but there is some belief from some big-name analysts that the Hawkeyes can find a way to advance.

Here are the predictions and thoughts on this matchup from us here at Hawkeyes Wire.

Riley Donald's pick

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From the second this matchup was announced, something about what Payton Sandfort brings to the table has intrigued me. I think his athleticism paired with 3-point shooting shows up for the Hawkeyes against an athletic Auburn team that rebounds very well.

Iowa shoots well at home. Iowa shoots not well on the road. Since this technically isn’t a road game, I think Iowa shoots well enough. If this is a slugfest, the Hawkeyes are in trouble. They want this game to be the first to 80 points, which I think they hit first. Hawkeyes advance.

Prediction: Iowa 84, Auburn 77

Josh Helmer's pick

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There will be points and plenty of them. Ultimately, I’m banking on Kris Murray being the biggest matchup nightmare for either. Murray’s 3-point range combined with his ability to put the basketball on the floor and get to the rim makes him a handful to deal with.

It’s a nail biter, but Iowa gets just enough offensively from the supporting cast of Tony Perkins, Filip Rebraca, Payton Sandfort, Patrick McCaffery and Connor McCaffery to advance to the Round of 32.

Prediction: Iowa 85, Auburn 82

Jacob Keppen's pick

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I really want to have hope for this NCAA Tournament. There have been times this year where Iowa has given me hope. They have this great ability to score and Kris Murray is one of the most versatile scorers in the nation.

The lows of this year just keep me from buying in, though. All season Iowa has struggled to shoot outside of Carver and they aren’t the best defensive team. I understand the upside of the team if they’re shooting well. They can blitz opponents with offense and get hot very quickly.

However, they’re just too inconsistent and have failed to play up to potential too often this season for me to pick them to win here. I hope I’m wrong.

Prediction: Auburn 68, Iowa 64

ESPN's odds

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Per ESPN’s Gamecast and their analytics, they are giving the Auburn Tigers the edge over the Hawkeyes. ESPN has Auburn with a 56.8% chance at winning to Iowa’s 43.2%.

First-ever meeting, race to 20

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Thursday’s matchup will be the first-ever meeting between Iowa and Auburn. Against current SEC foes, Iowa boasts a 25-22 all-time mark. With a win, Iowa grabs its 20th win of the season. That would make five consecutive seasons Iowa has registered 20 or more wins if they can top the Tigers.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire