|Auburn-New Mexico State brings 3-pointers galore|
The early rounds of the NCAA Tournament are often known for their unpredictability.
Here's something to count on: Auburn is going to launch a lot of 3-pointers.
The Tigers have made an SEC record 396 3-pointers -- making a healthy 37.6 percent -- and rode that prowess to an eight-game winning streak that produced the school's first conference tournament championship since 1985.
That helped Auburn (26-9) earn the fifth seed in the Midwest Region, where it will take on 12th-seeded New Mexico State in Salt Lake City at 1:30 p.m. ET on Thursday.
New Mexico State (30-4) won the WAC regular-season and conference tournament titles and has a 19-game winning streak, the second-longest in the country behind Wofford (20).
"I know Chris Jans," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said of New Mexico State's second-year head coach. "I know his teams play really hard. They're very athletic. They play in an underrated conference."
The Aggies are in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in the past eight seasons, but they have been one-and-out in each of their past 10 appearances. They last won an NCAA Tournament game in 1993, when they beat Nebraska before losing to Cincinnati.
"I think this team will play with a lot of confidence. I think their togetherness is going to help them," Jans said. "I really think that experience of playing on that platform and that stage is going to help us, because it's different. The lights are brighter, everyone in the world is watching."
Auburn dispatched Missouri, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee to win the SEC tournament. The Tigers have made at least 12 3-pointers in five consecutive games, including 15 of 40 in the 84-64 win over the Volunteers on Sunday.
Senior guard Bryce Brown was the MVP of the SEC tournament, setting a tournament record with 18 3-pointers. He averages a team-high 15.8 points and has made 122 of 302 from behind the arc (40.4 percent).
"Bryce is a microwave," said Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore. "We see that all the time in practice. He can miss 20 in a row, and the next 40 are going in. He's such a good shooter. That's just how good he is."
Junior guard Jared Harper (15.2 points per game) and sophomore forward Chuma Okeke (11.7) each shoot 37.8 percent from long range.
In fact, if you like watching 3-pointers, this will be the game for you.
New Mexico State launches from deep nearly as much as Auburn -- 28 per game, compared to 30.1 for the Tigers. These teams enter the week as two of the top eight teams in the country in 3-point attempts.
The difference is, the Aggies make only 33.5 percent from beyond the arc.
New Mexico State's usual path to victory includes lockdown defense, dominating on the boards and unleashing a rotation that typically gives ample minutes to 10 players. The Aggies are first in the nation in bench minutes at 49.8 percent, according to KenPom.com.
First-team All-WAC guard Terrell Brown is the only New Mexico State player in double-figure points (11.3) and is the team's primary long-ball threat (66 of 153, 43.1 percent). Eli Chuha averages 9.8 points and 6.7 rebounds in 20.9 minutes per game.
The Aggies' most notable game was a 63-60 loss to then-No. 2 Kansas on Dec. 8 in Kansas City. NMSU led by seven points with 10:45 to go, earning the respect of Jayhawks coach Bill Self.
"New Mexico State was better than us," Self said at the time. "They were quicker, but they are quicker; physically they are quicker."
--Field Level Media