Auburn, Ala.--Korvotney Barber went into his senior season with an NCAA Tournament bid on his mind.
The senior from Manchester, Ga., says his focus hasn’t changed, but notes his Tigers have more pressing needs to attend to and that is this week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament in St. Tampa, Fla., at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Auburn goes into the event with a first round bye as the two seed from the SEC West and the Tigers are the hottest team in the league with eight wins in their last nine games.
“We just have to stay humble and stay focused on what we have to do,” says Barber, whose Tigers are scheduled to play Friday at 8:45 p.m. CDT vs. the winner of Thursday’s opening round game matching the Florida Gators and the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Korvotney Barber has helped lead Auburn's late season success.
Auburn 21-10 overall and 10-6 in the SEC, earned two of those league wins against Arkansas. The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 73-51 in Fayetteville and won the rematch in Auburn 75-62.
The Tigers fell 68-65 to the Florida Gators on Jan. 14th at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in the only meeting between the Tigers and Gators this season.
Florida is 22-9 overall and 9-7 in the league while Arkansas is 2-14 in SEC games and 14-15 overall.
If Auburn is going to continue its hot streak it will need good play from Barber, a second team All-SEC pick by the league’s coaches. He is averaging 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. In SEC games he has been averaging 11.3 rebounds per contest and he has 11 double-doubles this year.
“The coaches tell me to just go out and rebound and get everyone like they are mine,” Barber says in explaining his success on the boards despite usually matching up against taller players in the post. “I just use my quickness,” he says. “I have a pretty quick second hop.”
The tournament starts at noon CDT at the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday as Ole Miss takes on Kentucky. Game two matches Georgia vs. Mississippi State.
Action in Auburn’s side of the tournament bracket starts in the evening session on Thursday as the Vanderbilt Commodores take on Alabama at 6:30 p.m. CDT. The winner of that game takes on Tennessee in the quarter-finals. The Razorbacks will take on the Gators in the final game of day one with the winner advancing to take on Auburn.
Barber says he would love to advance from Tampa to the NCAA Tournament, but says that Coach Jeff Lebo is worrying about the big picture issues like what the Tigers need to do to secure a bid to the big dance.
“I just go out and play hard every night and try to help my team every game,” Barber says.
Lebo says he believes his Tigers are worthy of an NCAA bid, but says the Tigers need to keep winning to make sure that happen. “Our focus is on the next game,” he says. “We are not worried about what is going after Friday.”
The Tigers can take the drama out of being on the NCAA bubble by winning the league tournament and earning an automatic bid. Lebo says his team is a threat to do it, but notes a lot of other teams in the SEC can get hot and do the same thing. “I have been in this league for a long time and this is about as open a tournament in the league this year as any I can remember,” the coach says.
Hoops Notes: Auburn is 2-3 all-time vs. Florida in SEC Tournament games, but has lost 10 straight overall contests to the Gators...Auburn is 0-1 vs. Arkansas in SEC Tournament matchups...The Tigers are 2-0 in games at the St. Pete Times Forum and 5-1 in games played in Tampa...The SEC Tournament games are being televised regionally by Raycom Sports. The championship game will be televised nationally by CBS...If the Tigers win on Friday they will advance into the semi-finals for the first time since 2003....With another victory, the Tigers would have 22 wins, which would tie the 2002-2003, 1985-86 and 1984-85 teams for the third most wins in school history. The school record is 29 by the 1998-99 team...Senior guard/forward Rasheem Barrett says Auburn’s strong defensive play is a key reason for his team’s good play in recent games. The Tigers are allowing just 64.2 points per game, which puts them first in the conference.
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