College basketball betting, odds: Why we like Alabama to cover despite Auburn's desperate situation

The best part of turning the calendar to March is knowing the year's most exciting sports betting event is less than two weeks away. The next 12 days will not only help pass the time, but will also provide a ton of drama as teams feel the pressure to earn their way into the Big Dance.

While the SEC’s big three (Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky) have done enough to punch their ticket, there is still a handful of the teams in the conference that can’t afford to let up these final few games. Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers could be in a precarious position despite being listed now as one of the last four times on the bubble. Can they bulk up their resume with a massive road win at Alabama? It's very unlikely, but are they worth a wager as 9.5-point underdogs?

Auburn at Alabama (-9.5)

There is always motivation between these rivals, but having so much on the line tonight just adds fuel to the fire. Alabama (25-4, 15-1 SEC) can secure the No. 1 spot at the top of the SEC with a win against Auburn (19-10, 9-7 SEC). After an embarrassing 32-point loss to Kentucky, Auburn desperately needs to bolster its bid for the NCAA tournament. Sitting on the bubble couldn’t be more uncomfortable, considering its final two games are against the No. 3 (Alabama) and No. 4 (Tennessee) teams in the nation. Spoiling Alabama’s chance to finish the season unbeaten at the Coleman Coliseum is not going to be easy. Auburn enters the game as a massive underdog, and I have big concerns on whether they can generate enough offense to stay within this number.

Bruce Pearl's comments this week ensure his Tigers understand the urgency in getting one of these final two games, but I think it’s more likely to cause them to press in a difficult clash of styles. Auburn has struggled on the road all season, losing its last five games and going 7-9 ATS this season. The Crimson Tide will be able to dictate the tempo in front of its home crowd and get through Auburn’s physical defense in transition, minimizing the opportunities for them to protect the rim.

Brandon Miller, averaging over 28 points per game over his last three, has looked completely unfazed by everything happening off the court. Against a top-10 defense in Arkansas, he put up 24 points despite shooting 1-of-6 from downtown. More importantly, Alabama showed the ability to score points in the paint and get to the line when the shots weren’t falling. In the previous meeting between these two teams, the Crimson Tide hit only 28% of 3-point attempts, and were still able to pull away with an eight-point victory on the road.

The shots should drop much easier on their home floor tonight, leaving Auburn hopeless without the shooters on the perimeter to keep pace. I will lay the points in anticipation of a monster game from Miller, allowing Alabama to run away with this one at home.