Auburn Tigers vs. Yale Bulldogs Pick & Prediction MARCH 22nd 2024

After a sweep of the Southeastern Conference tournament to run Auburn’s winning streak to six, Tigers coach Bruce Pearl wasn’t expecting a trip of some 2,300 miles for his club’s first NCAA Tournament game.

He’s certainly not happy about it, either.

Auburn’s tournament journey will begin in Spokane, Wash., on Friday afternoon when the fourth-seeded Tigers (27-7) battle 13th-seeded Yale (22-9) in an East Region first-round matchup.

This will be Auburn’s fifth NCAA appearance since 2018 and the third time the destination was too far for Pearl’s liking. He also cited being sent to San Diego in 2018 as a No. 4 seed and Salt Lake City in 2019 as a No. 5 seed.

“This is three times they have shipped us quite a ways away,” Pearl said. “This is now the third time we’re being shipped across the country. You always wonder how much this thing was seeded before the Sunday final. We talk about it all the time. We talk about it on our league meetings. We’re grateful to be in the tournament, and we’re grateful to have won a championship in the SEC.”

The Tigers appear primed for a postseason run after winning those six games by an average of 18.8 points.

Auburn was especially dominant in the SEC tourney as it clobbered South Carolina by 31 points in the quarterfinals and later easily beat Florida 86-67 in the title game.

But Pearl is trying to narrow the approach to Friday’s game, when the Bulldogs will try to notch their second NCAA Tournament victory. Yale defeated Baylor in the 2016 first round.

“We’re playing well and playing together,” Pearl said. “I tell our teams: Don’t think you have to get to the last game to play for the national championship. You are playing for the national championship when you play Yale. You can’t win it if you aren’t in it.”

The Bulldogs earned the Ivy League bid in miracle fashion when Matt Knowling beat the buzzer with a short shot to give Yale a 62-61 win over Brown on Sunday.

“I just wanted to put myself by the basket in case of a miss,” Knowling said of his shot. “We were trying to get a play for someone else, but they found me. I didn’t think I was going to be that open. I work on that shot every day. I didn’t overthink it; I just let it go and it went in.”

The reward is a clash with Auburn, and Yale coach James Jones is well aware that is no easy task. The Bulldogs were routed 86-64 by the host Tigers on Dec. 4, 2021.

“We’re just excited to play,” Jones said. “I know Auburn is going to be a very tough opponent. We’re excited to go out to Spokane and hopefully have a great first-round game.”

Danny Wolf stars for Yale and leads the team in scoring (14.3 points per game), rebounding (9.8) and blocked shots (43).

John Poulakidas (second at 13.1 ppg) and August Mahoney (fifth at 10.3) have made 75 and 70 3-pointers, respectively.

Big man Johni Broome is Auburn’s standout and leads the team in scoring (16.2), rebounding (8.4) and blocked shots (77). Jaylin Williams is second at 12.4 points per game.

The winner on Friday will face either No. 5 San Diego State or No. 12 UAB on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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