The Auburn Tigers have won 11 consecutive games after taking down No. 1 seed North Carolina in blowout fashion Friday night in Kansas City. Now, with a spot in the Final Four on the line, they’ll face a familiar foe in SEC rival Kentucky.

Kentucky is fresh off a low-scoring win over Houston in the Sweet 16, with star F P.J. Washington back in the rotation and looking dominant.

So, what can we expect Sunday afternoon? It’s going to come down to who can control the pace. A shootout favors the Tigers, while a defensive struggle plays into Kentucky’s hands.

Kentucky was the last team to beat Auburn, winning 80-53 on Feb. 23, but things will likely be different with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Here’s a look at how the two teams match up this time around:


The Tigers had 4 guards score 10 or more points Friday against North Carolina, and none was named Jared Harper. Harper only had 9 points, so he’s due for a big game.

Add in fellow star Bryce Brown and the trio of Malik Dunbar, Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick, and the Tigers have a tone of depth in their backcourt. Any of those guys can go off for 20 points on a given night.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats are no slouches at the guard position, but Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson have been inconsistent at times. Tyler Herro is becoming a star and a go-to guy in clutch situations, but the overall depth on the Auburn bench will give the Tigers the edge in this important category.

Edge: Auburn


We saw Friday how important P.J. Washington is to Kentucky. Washington missed the first two rounds with a foot injury, but he looked strong against Houston, finishing with 16 points and one emphatic, game-changing block.

He only grabbed 2 rebounds, but Reid Travis more than made up for that, snagging 11 boards. Washington and Travis are a dynamic duo and will give Auburn problems.

Without Chuma Okeke (who tore his ACL against North Carolina) manning one of the forward spots, the Tigers will be at a major disadvantage. Horace Spencer is a solid player and Austin Wiley is starting to round back into form, but unless Danjel Purifoy can provide a huge lift off the bench, this category goes solidly to Kentucky.

Edge: Kentucky

3-point shooting

This is absolutely no contest. Auburn led the nation in made 3s (421), while Kentucky only made 206 — good for 296th in the nation. With Brown and Harper leading the way, along with several other guys who can knock down long-range shots, the Tigers are absolutely lethal. They made 17 against UNC, but they are a combined 21-for-57 in the 2 losses to Kentucky this season.

For Kentucky, Herro is really the only deep threat, though he should have an easier time getting open looks. If the Tigers still had key defender (and overall great player) Okeke in the mix, Herro would have a much more difficult time getting good shots.

Instead, Okeke will be out for Sunday’s game, so we’ll see if Herro can do his best to keep pace with the Tigers.

Edge: Auburn


Auburn’s run-and-gun style of play lends itself to some sloppy defense at times. However, the Tigers do have a solid rim protector in Austin Wiley, who is rounding back into shape after missing time with an injury.

Sadly, though, the Tigers will be without their best defender, while Kentucky is mostly at full strength. The Wildcats have a lot of length with their perimeter defenders, and Hagans, Herro and Johnson will make things tough for Brown and Harper.

I don’t expect the Tigers to have a Wofford-type collapse from behind the arc, but don’t count on them to make 17 treys again, either. Kentucky won’t allow it.

Edge: Kentucky


Both John Calipari and Bruce Pearl are pushing all the right buttons. Coach Cal has had to navigate Washington’s injury, with Pearl having to find new guys to carry the load each night.

However, Okeke’s injury throws a big wrench into Auburn’s plan, and for that reason, Cal has more options at his disposal Sunday. Both have done masterful jobs this year, but Calipari has 6 Final Four runs under his belt (2 of which have been vacated). That experience on this stage gives him the edge.

Edge: Kentucky


The good news is that there will be an SEC team in the Final Four. The bad news is that one of these talented squads will lose.

We’ve seen what Kentucky has done defensively all tournament long, though, stopping Wofford’s best shooter and suffocating the Houston offense for long stretches Friday night.

If this game is in the 60s, the Wildcats will advance. If it turns into a shootout, the Tigers are heading to Minneapolis. Give me Kentucky’s defense and a healthy P.J. Washington to have a narrow edge here.

Prediction: Kentucky 68, Auburn 64