Auburn's pursuit of a second Final Four in three NCAA Tournaments takes it to the Round of 32 against upset-minded Miami.
The Hurricanes withstood multiple furious rallies from USC in the first round to survive a 68-66 contest, won when Charlie Moore calmly sank a pair of free throws with three seconds remaining.
"Charlie is for us what Chris Paul was for Wake Forest," Kameron McGusty said at Saturday's media availability. "He's our quarterback. He gets us in the right sets. He's the one who we trust with the ball making decisions. Plays hard defense. He picks up the opposing team's point guard 94 feet. One of the best on-ball defenders in our conference."
Moore is opposite Wendell Green on Sunday, one of the many potential difference-makers up and down a stacked Auburn roster.
Midwest Region: No. 10 Miami (24-10) vs. No. 2 Auburn (28-5)
Time: Sunday, March 20 at 7:45 p.m. ET
Where: Bon Secours WeIIness Arena (Greenville, S.C.)
Spread: Auburn -7.5
Keys for Miami
Auburn has the ability to unload overwhelming runs that bury opponents. The Tigers feature multiple ways of scoring, starting with future NBA lottery pick Jabari Smith's versatile game. Walker Kessler has proven virtually unstoppable around the basket, and Green both sets the table for teammates and can score himself.
"We have faced teams like that, but these two guys at Auburn are special," Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said of Smith and Kessler. "You're not going to find many programs at the college level in any season with two players of their caliber."
Opponents that have attempted to score with Auburn have not fared well this season; teams that can bring down the pace have a more realistic shot. Miami employs a more up-tempo style, but the Hurricanes do not sacrifice efficiency for pace. They must keep turnovers down and make the Tigers defense work, expending energy on that side of the ball — and getting to the foul line, drawing contact on the Auburn bigs.
Keys for Auburn
Auburn's outstanding interior defense has fueled its fast-paced offense. The Tigers own the nation's highest percentage of defensive possessions resulting in blocked shots, and are top five in opponent 2-point field-goal shooting.
Miami shot almost 55 percent on 2-point attempts in the first round against a USC defense that was among the nation's best throughout the season guarding the interior. The Hurricanes proved unafraid to challenge a longer team — they beat Duke earlier this season with a similar approach — so Auburn needs to be at its best in the paint.
Miami handled USC's size advantage effectively in the first round; doing so a second time against a team with more depth and more consistent offense might be a struggle.
With KD Johnson and Jaylin Williams joining Kessler, Smith and Green, there's no shortage of scoring options for Auburn so don't expect Miami to be able to hold the Tigers to 20 points in a half as it did USC.
The Hurricanes' style also doesn't match up particularly well with Auburn's. Opponents that beat the Tigers late in the season did so by dragging them into rock fights.