TV Schedule: Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Arena: Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu, HI
Line: New Mexico (-4)
The 2015 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic tips off with a matchup between the 5-3 Auburn Tigers and the 7-3 New Mexico Lobos.
The Tigers head off to Hawaii after a disappointing blowout loss to the undefeated Xavier Musketeers and will be desperate to get a win over a quality opponent. Bruce Pearl’s offense continues to shine with Kareem Canty, Tyler Harris, T.J. Dunans and Cinmeon Bowers all averaging double-digit points per game, but Auburn’s defense continues to disappoint. This team has allowed at least 71 points in every one of their last five games and allowed 80 four times this season.
Likewise, the Lobos struggle mightily on defense. Ranked No. 128 in points allowed per game, New Mexico will find it difficult to contain the talented Tigers’ offense. Fortunately for the Lobos, their season has been about being able to outscore their opponents and their offense should be able to easily tear Auburn’s defense apart. Elijah Brown and Tim Williams should combine for over 40 points, making this one of the most explosive games of the entire day.
That being said, the winner of this game will be whichever team makes their free throws down the stretch. I do not believe either team is capable of holding the other team’s offense to under 80 points, but the Lobos have proven already this season that they can win in a shootout, ignoring their recent loss to the Rice Owls. Give this one to New Mexico, as Pearl and Co. are still a year or so away from being a legitimate NCAA tournament team.
Prediction: New Mexico 92, Auburn 86