Should Tony Barbee get another year?
(Photo by Acid Reign.)
War Eagle, everybody! I decided to watch a little Auburn basketball tonight on my DVR, and I think a cage match broke out. At home in Auburn Arena, Auburn took out the trash and decked South Carolina 83-67. A 16 point win at home against a team that’s 3-12 in the SEC is not too much to crow about, but Auburn continued their physical ways. South Carolina tried to beat Auburn at their own game, and a foul-fest ensued. The teams combined for 60 free throw attempts, with Auburn getting 35 of those.
About the only place where South Carolina came out ahead was in the rebound department, clearing 36 rebounds to Auburn’s 25. However the Gamecocks negated that advantage by turning the ball over 20 times to just 11 for Auburn. While elbows, hacking, charging, and a couple of technical fouls on Auburn were the order of the day, the real story was Auburn outshooting the Gamecocks. Auburn hit 52 percent from the floor, while South Carolina was just 40 percent.
Chris Denson led the way on the scoreboard with 22 points for the Tigers, going 8 for 11 from the floor. The Tigers led by as much as 20 in this game, before surviving a late run by the Gamecocks. The Tigers improved to 13-13 on the season, and 5-10 in the SEC. There’s certainly a sense of optimism and perseverance on this team. Auburn has remaining regular season games at Alabama, Tennessee at home, and at Texas A&M. The Vols are the biggest challenge left on the schedule at 17-11, 8-7 in the SEC. However, the Vols have been pretty abysmal on the road, going just 4-8. Alabama and Texas A&M will be at home against the Tigers, and Auburn has won just one game away from Auburn Arena this year, at South Carolina.
Still, Auburn could win their remaining three games, and finish the regular season at 16-13. Would that be enough to save head coach Tony Barbee’s job? It can be argued that in year four, he’s a long way from what previous coach Jeff Lebo accomplished in his fourth season. Lebo’s 4th season included a 24-12 record, including 10-6 in the SEC. That team went 1-1 in the SEC tourney, then won 2 games in the NIT. Barbee hasn’t even been close to a post-season appearance. In the SEC, Barbee has gone 4-12, 5-11, 3-15. and this year 5-10 thus far in the SEC. Lebo was let go in early 2010 following a 15-17, 6-10 season.
Jeff Lebo’s five-year, regular season SEC record was 31-49. Currently, Barbee is 17-46 in three-plus seasons. It’s possible he could equal Lebo’s 49 SEC losses in one less year, should Auburn fail to win one of the last three games. To top it off, this year’s team isn’t a scrappy team that wins a game here and there with less talent. This is a team with some legitimate SEC scorers, that wins by outshooting and outhustling teams, when it isn’t shooting itself in the foot. I’d argue that Barbee has brought in better talent, but he’s not getting the wins out of them that Lebo did. Seeing Lebo coach this current bunch would be interesting. He was a schemer, that Lebo. It would be even more interesting to see what Cliff Ellis would have accomplished with them. Auburn hasn’t been the same since Ellis was fired by Interim Jackass Ed Richardson.
That said, I’d like to see how this team closes the season out. I cringe at the fouls this team commits, but then again they sometimes remind me of the late 1980s “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons teams. That team would hurt folks. They knew exactly how many fouls they had to give, and if you took the ball into the lane against them, you’d better have your insurance premiums paid up.
I think it’s possible that Barbee stays on, if he beats Bama in Tuscaloosa this Saturday. The game’s at 2:00 PM in Coleman Coliseum. Bama’s coach Anthony Grant is fighting for his job, too, and it won’t be an easy game. Tide fans are not happy. I think I saw a “dumpster fire edition” post about Bama basketball over at RBR a couple of days ago. Just beat Bama, baby! For me, if we’re beating Bama, all is right with the world!
In the more realistic terms the powers that be are going to be considering, I think Barbee needs to win at least three more games this season, to survive. Whether these are the last three of the regular season, or he gets them in the SEC tournament and/or postseason, I don’t think he can survive even a 14-17 finish. A win over Bama would help, but alone it won’t matter if he finishes the regular season 14-16, and gets dumped from the SEC tourney in the first round. A paltry crowd of just 4434 folks watched this one, well less than half capacity. The Tigers need to put more seats in the stands, plain and simple.