Pick 25: Houston moneyline (-225). The Houston Cougars' defensive prowess will be the key to their victory over the Auburn Tigers in tonight's NCAA Tournament showdown.

As the second round of the NCAA Tournament continues, the anticipation builds for the clash between the Houston Cougars and the Auburn Tigers. This game promises to be a thrilling encounter, and though both teams have plenty to offer, it's the Cougars' relentless defense that gives them the edge in this matchup.

Houston enters the game with an impressive 32-3 record, including a 17-1 run in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). They've been consistently dominant throughout the season, with a 24-3 record against opponents over .500. The Cougars are on a roll, winning 9 of their last 10 games, and their defensive numbers tell the story of a team that's ready to make a deep run in this year's tournament.

Averaging 8.6 steals and 4.2 blocks per game, the Cougars have been a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end. They've managed to hold their opponents to a paltry 59.7 points per game in their last 10 outings, making it clear that they know how to shut down opposing offenses. In a high-stakes tournament like the NCAA's, a strong defense can be the difference between moving on and heading home early.

On the other side of the court, the Auburn Tigers have had a solid season, with a 21-12 overall record and a 10-8 mark in Southeastern Conference (SEC) play. They've shown some offensive prowess, ranking fifth in the SEC with 14.2 assists per game, thanks in large part to Wendell Green Jr.'s 4.1 assists per game average. While the Tigers have been no slouches, their recent form has been less than stellar, with a 4-6 record in their last 10 games.

The key to Houston's defensive success lies in their ability to create chaos and force turnovers. Marcus Sasser, who is averaging 16.7 points per game on 43.9% shooting, will be a significant factor in this matchup. His fellow teammate, Jamal Shead, has been on a hot streak from beyond the arc, with an average of 1.4 made 3-pointers in the last 10 games. Both players are essential cogs in the Cougars' defensive machine, and they'll need to be firing on all cylinders to contain Auburn's offense.

Auburn's Johni Broome, who averages 14.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game, will undoubtedly be a considerable challenge for Houston's defense. However, with K.D. Johnson's 1.6 made 3-pointers per game over the last 10 games, the Tigers have not been as consistent from long range. This inconsistency could be a significant factor in tonight's game, as Houston's defense will look to exploit any weaknesses they can find.

With a 5.5 point spread in favor of Houston, and an over/under of 131.5, the oddsmakers seem to agree that this game should be a defensive battle. While Auburn has the talent to make this game interesting, Houston's suffocating defense should ultimately prove too much for the Tigers to handle.

As the clock ticks down to tip-off, the stage is set for a defensive masterclass from the Houston Cougars. Auburn will undoubtedly put up a fight, but in the end, it's hard to bet against a team with the defensive tenacity of Houston. So, buckle up, basketball fans – this game is shaping up to be a wild ride, and one that could very well see the Cougars claw their way to victory.