SEC Transition Basketball: Auburn TigersPosted by Brian Joyce on July 18th, 2012
It’s hot out there, and to many of us, college basketball is the last thing on our minds. But here at the SEC Microsite, we’re going to be rolling out mid-summer resets of each of the (now) 14 basketball programs in our league. We’re calling it Transition Basketball, and you can expect we’ll cover three or four teams a week until we’re done. By that time, we’ll actually start to be turning the slight corner into the fall, and from there it’s a smooth slope down to Midnight Madness in mid-October. Today’s update: Auburn.
State of the Program
Auburn was host to a losing record, the worst adjusted offensive efficiency rating in the SEC (and one of the worst in all of the six power conferences), and a point shaving scandal in 2011-12. Not exactly the signs of a team on the rise to success. Eight players are gone from a team that went 15-16 overall and 5-11 in conference play, yet coach Tony Barbee has reason for optimism. “In these first couple years, because of the strength of the other teams in the league, it was going to be tough to crack the top half of this league,” Barbee said. “Now I think with the group of seniors we’ve got coming back, the influx of talent we’ve got coming in, we’re a team that’s going to transition from the bottom half of the league to the upper half of the league. That’s my perspective.”
Barbee’s Tigers are slowly making progress, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Auburn notched four SEC wins in 2011. Barbee took another step forward with five conference wins in 2012. Though the Tigers last achieved a winning record in 2009, Auburn hasn’t made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003. Barbee’s goal of moving into the upper half of a deep SEC means competing with the likes of powers Kentucky and Florida. Auburn hasn’t beaten Florida since the SEC Tournament in 2009 and hasn’t beaten Kentucky since 2000. With the amount of change the team has undergone in such a short time period, it is hard to fully buy into Barbee’s lofty goals.
Help is on the way in Auburn. Barbee, known for his phenomenal recruiting, received commitments from two four-star prospects, Shaquille Johnson and Jordan Price. Johnson is a high flying 6’5″ athletic small forward from Alpharetta, Georgia, and Price is a 6’5″ shooting guard from Decatur, Georgia. Johnson and Price, in particular, warrant excitement for Auburn fans. Talent wins games, and coach Barbee is accumulating SEC-level talent in Auburn. Only time will tell if he has the right blend of players to move the program in a positive direction.
Johnson and Price may receive all of the accolades, but Barbee put together a deep class. A couple of junior college players, Shareif Adamu and seven footer Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, will suit up for the Tigers as well. Dixon-Tatum averaged 6.1 blocks per game at the JC level and will add some depth behind center Rob Chubb. 6’9″ forward Jordon Granger and 6’3″ point guard Brian Greene complete the 2012 class for Auburn. When asked which of his incoming recruits would contribute right away, Barbee has been impressed with Greene in particular. “Jordan Price is the highest rated of all the recruits, but the one player who has stood out to me and the staff this summer is Brian Greene,” Barbee said. “I won’t say he’s been a surprise, because it’s why I recruited him. The year he spent at IMG was very beneficial to him for a maturity standpoint, being away from home for a full year.”
Rob Chubb is a 6’10” senior center, who could be amongst the conference’s best big men next season. Chubb averaged 8.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while starting in 30 games during his junior year. Though mired with inconsistency, coach Barbee sees his big man leaving a large impression on the SEC. “You look at the attrition in this league — Rob Chubb has a chance to be one of the best big guys in this league,” Barbee said. “That’s an amazing statement to make given where he started, but it all has to do with the hard work and effort that he put in to put himself in this position.”
Barbee applauds the extra effort that Chubb has put in to developing into an SEC center. “He was a kid that struggled with his confidence early in his career — whether he even belonged at this level,” Barbee said. “We came in the door and he was just 210 pounds, and I didn’t think he would ever play here. But I told him that if he would commit to that weight room, he would see the transformation in his game. Now he’s 252 pounds.” And now all of that hard work might finally pay off.
Three Questions With Track ‘Em Tigers’ PW Elder
PW Elder writes about Auburn basketball for the SB Nation blog, Track ‘Em Tigers. Elder, otherwise known as “AubTigerMan” follows all Auburn sports when he’s not brushing up on Civil War history. He was gracious enough to spend a few minutes with us talking Tiger basketball. For more on Auburn, follow Track ‘Em Tigers on Twitter @TrackemTigers. Here’s what Elder had to say about Auburn’s upcoming season.
Rush The Court: At last count, eight players have transferred, been dismissed, or graduated from the Auburn program leaving just four returning scholarship players and a slew of newcomers for next season. Which of those eight guys will the Tigers miss the most next season and why?
PW Elder: I think everone has to agree that would be Kenny Gabriel, who graduated. He was the team leader and “Mr Do it All” for Barbee. He was named the Team’s MVP and finished tied for second in the SEC with 2.3 blocks per game and was eighth in the league with 7.3 rebounds. He also recorded the first triple-double in the history of Auburn basketball with 24 points,13 rebounds and 10 blocks last season against Bethune-Cookman on January 2.
RTC: Despite the aforementioned losses, coach Tony Barbee is setting expectations high. He recently said, “This will be the most talented team I’ve had since I’ve been here. Other people might be saying, ‘Well, we lost this guy, we lost that guy.’ Well, the players we brought in are better than the players that left. That’s why our program is moving in the right direction.” Is this the most talented Auburn team since Barbee’s arrival? Or is he putting an extremely positive spin on next season? Can you bring us back to reality?
PE: Of course Barbee is putting the best spin on the upcoming season he can but at the same time he just might be right in saying 2013 may be the most talented team he’s had at Auburn . It certainly has the potential to be with the addition of 7-foot 230lb. JUCO center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum. from Anderson, Indiana; Shaquille Johnson, a 6-foot-5 small forward from Alpharetta, Georgia; Jordon Grangera 6-foot-9, 215-pound forward from Florissant, Missouri; Jordan Price a 6-foot-5, 218-pound guard from Decatur, Georgia, and Brian Greene, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound combo guard from Harvey, Illinois, who played at the IMG Academy.
First, let me say that I am a Tony Barbee fan. I believe he was the right hire at the right time. But I think the reality of 2013 being his best team yet will depend on if there are no stumbling blocks like Auburn experienced last year. In 2011-12 the Tigers started the season losing two talented freshmen right out of the gate with Cedrick McAfee and Bernard Morena going down with preseason injuries. Then Allen Payne suffered a season-ending knee injury and the jewel in the 2011 recruiting class, Josh Langford, missed most of the SEC season with complications from a concussion suffered in the Arkansas game. Several other players were in and out of the lineup all season, as well, due to injuries and suspensions. Most notably shooting guard Varez Ward who nursed a quadricep injury and then was later suspended from the team.
Despite those hardships Barbee appears to be at the precipice of finally getting the Tigers over the hump. I felt at the end of the 2011 season that he will get the job done and I still believe that today. Before he’s through Tony Barbee will have Auburn in the postseason and will win the SEC. The championship won’t happen in 2013 but I believe the Tigers should be making their first postseason appearance since the 2003 NCAA and the 2009 NIT.
RTC: Rob Chubb followed up a 14 point, eight-rebound performance against Kentucky with eight points but zero rebounds against Ole Miss. The next game against LSU he has 15 points and 12 rebounds, only to follow that up against South Carolina with one point and seven rebounds. A flash of brilliance, only to be followed up with a dud. If the word “inconsistency” defined Chubb’s junior season, what word will define his senior year? Is this a breakout year for the big guy?
PE: Anyone who has followed Auburn Basketball is aware of the on again off again performance of Rob Chubb. I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think we will see a breakout year for the senior. However, I believe the word that may define Chubb this year will be “reliable.” The reason I say that is he has improved every year he has been at Auburn and I expect the same this season. His growth has been directly related to his response to Barbee’s coaching. At any rate he’s an important part of the team for three reasons. First, after two years in Barbee’s system, he understands what is expected of him. Second, he can provide steady senior leadership for the younger guys. Third, Rob Chubb is a fan favorite with the student section. Putting butts in the seats and generating fan interest is huge for home court advantage. Finally, Chubb has the potential of averaging 14 points and 10 boards a game. If Barbee can get Chubb to realize anything close to that potential – the Tigers will be a force to be reckoned with in the SEC West.
Twitter Style 2012-13 Outlook
Embattled with change, it is hard to imagine Tigers making much of a push. Finishing near bottom half of the league seems appropriate.
Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.