2009-2010 AUBURN TIGERS BASKETBALL PREVIEW
Mediocrity has reigned supreme for years at Auburn, particularly under current head coach Jeff Lebo. The team has consistently been a lower tier program within the SEC conference, often feasting on non-conference wins to balance out a generally less than stellar record within the conference. However, a good year in 2008-2009 leads many Auburn fans to wonder: is the start of something big? Or is it just an anomaly?
Indeed, the team went 24-12 last season, and was, generally speaking, far more competitive than it had been during most of the Lebo era. It was only the second time during his tenure that the team managed a record of over .500. The season also included a rare postseason appearance for the Tigers, who advanced to the quarterfinals in the NIT.
One thing that makes the progression of this team to something bigger in 2009-2010 difficult to imagine is the loss of some key cogs from last year's roster, players that will ultimately be difficult to replace. One of those players is Korvotney Barber. This inside presence was a force for Auburn last year, and his rebounding ability cannot be matched by a single player currently on the Auburn roster. The loss of point guard Quantez Robertson is also going to be a difficult pill to swallow for this team.
One of the biggest concerns for the Auburn program entering this season is that, despite a good number of recruits coming in, none of them are really top-flight guys. None have a rating of more than three stars coming in. The best of the bunch is probably shooting guard Andre Malone. He's big for his position, which will put in many advantageous situations against smaller defenders, and as such, he may be more quickly able to adapt to the position than some of the other freshmen will be to theirs. Ken Gabriel is another significant incoming freshman. He is a power forward, albeit an undersized one. It is going to be interesting to see if he can step in to replace some of the inside presence being lost with the departure of Barber.
As far as returning talent, Auburn does have some good players returning. The problem is, none really look ready to step up to become great ones. DeWayne Reed will take over the point, and should do a capable job distributing the ball. Tay Waller will play the 2, and will be relied upon to up his scoring this year from the 12 ppg he managed last season. Look for him, and his nearly 40% shooting percentage, to be closer to 16 ppg this year. Another player to watch is senior Lucas Hargrove, considered by many to be one of the better all-around players on the team. His senior leadership will be relied upon.
All in all, this is an Auburn team that will likely take a step back. The question is, how significant of a step will it be. If the team can find an offensive leader, a go-to guy, over the course of the year, the team may have enough talent to overcome the losses in the middle. However, if it takes time for the youngsters to get their feet wet, and none of the returning veterans are able to step up, it could be a fairly long season for Auburn.
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AUBURN TIGERS BASKETBALL
AUBURN TIGERS BASKETBALL
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