Auburn, Ala.—Coming off an up and down first season as Auburn’s Head Basketball Coach, Tony Barbee has a lot to be looking forward to as his team begins working towards the 2011-2012 campaign. With guard Frankie Sullivan back from injury and transfers Varez Ward and Noel Johnson ready to go Barbee said he’s pleased with what they have done in one year on the job including a talented incoming freshman class to add depth.
“I’m excited about the prospects for next season and obviously when you take over a program and you try to reshape it and rebuild it in your own image, it takes some time. “It’s a step-by-step process and
obviously a lot of that has to do with recruiting. “I’m excited about how the guys have worked this summer to get stronger and develop their games. I’m excited about the transfers Varez Ward and Noel Johnson
who sat out last year that will be joining us. I’m excited about them joining the team.
“I look forward to having Frankie Sullivan back 100 percent healthy and a part of the team. I’m also excited about the incoming freshman class. I think they are going to fill out the roster and give us great balance and better depth than we had last year. I wish the season was here tomorrow but obviously we still have the rest of the dog days of summer to finish up.”
Recently the Southeastern Conference voted to eliminate the divisions in basketball beginning with the 2011-2012 season. That is something that many coaches have wanted for quite some time and although Barbee has only been in the SEC one season as a head coach he thinks it’s the right move for the conference as a whole.
“I think it was time to look at the change of divisions,” We’re still going to schedule in the division format similar to what the Big 12 has always done before their turnover. They’ve always scheduled in the north-south kind of football conference kind of way, but they just didn’t advertise it in that way in terms of two separate divisions. I think perception issue in this league that we’ve almost had two separate leagues and that hasn’t benefited the league as a whole, so I think now that we’re going to one we’re going to be one
league it’s going to benefit us in terms of perception.”
The question now comes as to how teams will schedule and if there will be extra SEC games added to the slate. Barbee said if it comes down to that then it can only help each team in the league because of the added strength of schedule.
“In terms of adding more games, it’s something that we’re going to study as a league to really determine what the benefit is of keeping it at 16 games, going to 18 or possibly 22,” Barbee said. “ I really don’t have a thought on that yet because I really haven*t looked at it yet and studied the benefit of it but I do know, if it’s going to be 18 games, adding two more games against teams in this league can probably do nothing but benefit because of the strength of the basketball programs in this conference.”
Another of the potential problems the added SEC games could add for teams is that it could make it harder to get quality non-conference opponents on the schedule because of not only the fact that you need some guaranteed wins, but also because of the conflicts it would create in adding dates to the schedule. Barbee said while there are some problems it hasn’t bothered his program to this point.
“I don’t think scheduling here at Auburn is hard at all from what I’ve seen so far,” Barbee said. “We’ve had plenty of opportunities to add some quality opponents to our schedule. We’re in the process of doing that. Our schedule is not complete, but I think scheduling is a science just like recruiting is. You’ve got to be creative in ways to get the kind of schedule that you want given where you are in the growth of your program. For us, it might be little different than say where Kentucky is in terms of what they are trying to
get done scheduling wise, but at the end of the day here at Auburn we’re going to try to build a national program, and the only way I think you do that is building a national schedule, but at the same time
I’ve got to be smart about it in terms of where we are in the genesis of the program.”
Next season Auburn will play Seton Hall in New Jersey on Dec. 2 as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. The Tigers will also play in the 2011 Hawaiian Airlines Diamondhead Classic along with Clemson, Kansas State, Xavier, UTEP, Long Beach State, Southern Illinois and Hawaii. That takes place Dec. 22-24 at the University of Hawaii.
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