Ellis and the 6-1 Tigers have a 7 p.m. game at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum against a 5-2 Western Michigan team that Ellis says has the look of a group that will make the NCAA Tournament field in March.
The Broncos, out of the Mid-American Conference, have knocked off Michigan (56-52), Detroit (71-55), Fordham (70-51), Cal-Irvine (73-62) and Centenary (72-52). The losses have been to Princeton (62-59) and Miami of Ohio (44-39).
Tuesday's tipoff will be the first ever between the two teams and will end a three-game stretch that Auburn's Ellis says will help get his Tigers ready for SEC play. Auburn passed the first two tests with home victories over Rutgers of the Big East by a score of 82-70 before running away for a 73-53 victory over Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference on Saturday.
The Tigers will jet south to the island of Puerto Rico early Wednesday morning where they will participate in the eight-team San Juan Shootout. The Tigers open play against host Puerto-Rico Mayaguez on Friday at 4:30 p.m. and play either James Madison or Denver in the second round. The finals will be played on Sunday.
However, before hitting the beach, the Tigers have visitors from the chilly north--Kalamazoo, Michigan to be exact. The Western Michigan Broncos are led by 6-3, 220 sophomore guard Ben Reed, who is averaging 19.5 points, five assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. Mike Williams, a 6-8, 185-pound junior forward who played at Schoolcraft (junior) College in Michigan with Auburn senior guard Derrick Bird, is averaging 13.1 points and 5.3 rebounds. Center Anthony Kann, a 6-7, 245-pound junior, is averaging 11.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.
Auburn's Derrick Bird will face former Schoolcraft College teammates Mike Williams, a starting forward, and reserve Nick Evola. Bird avraged 20.3 points for a 32-4 Schoolcraft team two seasons ago.
"I respect their conference and what they have done this season," says Ellis, who predicts his Auburn team will be tested on Tuesday by a team that has four starters back from last season's 17-13 squad. "This team comes in as an impressive basketball team," the Auburn coach adds.
There is no TV coverage of the game, which matches Ellis vs. Western Michigan head coach Robert McCullum, who got his start in Division I coaching as an assistant under Ellis during the 1982-83 season at South Alabama. Prior to that McCullum was an assistant coach at Ramsay High in Birmingham, which was his home town.
Basketball Notes: The Tigers continue to lead the nation in shooting percentage at a sizzling 55.4 percent...The Tigers are 10th nationally in blocked shots per game at 6.7 while junior center Kyle Davis is fourth individually with 4.9 per outing...Sophomore forward Marco Killingsworth is 14th nationally in shooting at 64.1 percent...Tuesday night's game is U.S. Army Night and all members of the military receive free admission with a military I.D. Also, children under 12 can attend the game for no admission charge.