Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo watched Barber hit 11-14 field goals vs. Tennessee on Saturday while scoring 24 points and adding nine rebounds. However, it wasn’t enough as the Vols prevailed in the semi-finals of the tournament setting up a match between UT and Mississippi State in the finals at the St. Pete Times Forum.
“He was great all year,” said Lebo, who added that Barber deserved to be a first team All-SEC selection. Barber was named to the second team All-SEC squad selected by the league’s coaches and that didn’t sit well with Lebo.
“I was just so disappointed,” he coach said. “Not to take away anything from any of the guys that were first team. They all deserved it, but what he's meant to this basketball team, what he did this year, the only guy scoring in double figures, double rebounds, double in all the games in SEC play...
“For him not to be on it bothered me a little bit because to me he's a first team All-SEC guy if I could vote for it. I couldn't vote for my own guys, but he would be in the top four. MVP, I think, of our team. He's had an unbelievable year.
“His toughness physically, his toughness mentally, his leadership,” Lebo added in praise of the senior. “He's battling every night against bigger guys, and he comes out of just about every game with these kind of numbers, and I'm just awfully proud of him.”
Barber missed the entire SEC season last year after having surgery on his wrist. He hoped to get a medical hardship redshirt, but the NCAA denied the request because he was several minutes of playing time past the cutoff.
“He's a kid that has really, really improved from the time he came to where he's left,” Lebo pointed out. “I told him I'm not saying goodbye to him yet. We're not having that speech yet. We still have some basketball yet to be played.”
Lebo and Barber hope the senior will be doing that playing in the NCAA Tournament. They will find out Sunday if that is going to happen when the NCAA’s selection committee announces the 65-team field.
The Tigers are 22-11 after defeating Florida in the quarter-finals of the SEC Tournament and then falling to Tennessee.