For the second year in a row, Auburn plays the team with the best Rock-A-Doodle themed mascot in America, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, led by former Auburn coach Cliff Ellis. Cliff Ellis, of course, is the third-most successful basketball coach in Auburn's history. Ellis won 186 games on the Plains. His 1998-99 squad may be the best team Auburn ever put on the court, winning 29 games and the regular season SEC title. Ellis took Auburn to three NCAA tournaments, reaching the Sweet 16 twice. Auburn hasn't been back to the Big Dance since Ellis left.
Ellis has had a fantastic career. His 689 career wins (770 if you count his NAIA record) put him behind only Coach K, Jim Boeheim, Bob Huggins, Roy Williams, and Rick Pitino on the all-time active wins list. He's taken four teams to the NCAA tournament.
Last year, Auburn fans gave Ellis a warm reception on his return to Auburn. Ellis and the Chanticleers repaid Auburn's hospitality poorly, beating the Tigers 58-54. The entire Auburn team was ice cold after returning from a late night game at Texas Tech a couple of nights earlier. KT Harrell had 25 points; no other Tiger scored in the double digits. Bowers had one point after five shots and four free throws.
As cold as they were, the game was Auburn's to win. Coastal Carolina trailed for the first 37 minutes of play. Auburn had a couple of double-digit leads in the first half and led by twelve with thirteen minutes to play. Auburn had a nine point lead with eight to play. In the last minute, the Chanticleers hit two jumpers to win. That loss typified so many Auburn losses last year where our lack of depth hurt us late in games.
Here are the highlights:
That was then, this is now. Last year, Auburn had a team that finished 15-20. Last year, Coastal Carolina had a squad that went 24-10, won the Big South Tournament, and played a respectable game as a 16 seed against Wisconsin.
This year the Chanticleers are a soft 3-3 with wins over the College of Charleston, Grace Bible College, and Piedmont International. The win over the College of Charleston looks more impressive after they beat LSU but it still can't be considered a quality win.
This isn't a guaranteed win for the Tigers. The Chanticleers return four starters from last year's team. No one has scored more than 79 on Coastal Carolina this year. Opponents average 64.8 points against them. The Chanticleers play good defense. The Chanticleers also rebound well, nabbing over 42 rebounds on average per game. Four of their likely starters average double digit scoring. Further, this game is Auburn's first road game with a new team.
COASTAL CAROLINA PROBABLE STARTERS
G- Jaylen Shaw; Shaw is a point guard averaging 11.2 points and almost 5 assists per game. This is Shaw's first year at Coastal Carolina after transferring in from South Carolina.
G - Shivaughn Wiggins; Wiggins is a defensive pest, averaging almost two steals per game. Wiggins got the start against us last year and put up 11 points and 4 assists.
G - Elijah Wilson; Wilson is Coastal's top offensive threat, averaging over 13 points per game. The junior has over 1,000 career points. Last year, Wilson started against Auburn but only scored 1 point.
F - Tristian Curtis; Curtis is another returning starter for the Chanticleers. Curtis is averaging 6.8 points and 5 boards a game. While Curtis isn't a volume shooter, he makes every shot count, shooting 87.5% from the floor this season. Last year, Curtis had 2 points and 4 rebounds against Auburn.
F - Badou Diagne; Cliff Ellis found himself another Senagalese center. Diagne is yet another returning starter off of last year's team. Diagne is averaging over 13 points and 7 boards and should provide Harris and Spencer with a good challenge inside. Last year, Diagne had 7 points and 4 rebounds.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR OUT OF THE TIGERS
Auburn had a wild outing last time out, beating Northwestern State 119-81. Despite scoring two games worth of points, Bruce had some hard words for the offense, noting that we played sloppy in the first half and didn't run the offense as it is designed. Auburn scored a lot of points in transition off of turnovers and through outside shots. There will be days where those don't come easy and Auburn will have to manufacture points through its halfcourt offense. The experienced, defense-savvy Chanticleers may well be the team that makes Auburn win the old-fashioned way.
Look for Auburn to play Bryce Brown more. Brown is averaging 13 points per game in 12 minutes of action the last two games. Bryce shoots the long ball like KT Harrell and has the chance to establish himself alongside of the other talented newcomers on this team.
It could be close early but I see Auburn finding their rhythm and beating Coastal 87-73.
How to Watch, Stream, Listen Live
Time: 6:00 CST
Streaming: Big South Network Online Broadcast
Radio:Auburn IMG Radio Network