Auburn Basketball: Tigers Have Bright Future with Coach Tony Barbee

Nathan DealCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2011

Auburn's Earnest Ross celebrates after the Tigers came back to beat Mississippi State this season.
Auburn's Earnest Ross celebrates after the Tigers came back to beat Mississippi State this season.

The 2010-2011 Auburn basketball team will likely go down in history as the worst team Auburn has ever had.

Auburn, which has a solid basketball history which includes star players like Charles Barkley and eight NCAA tournament appearances, finished the regular season 11-19 (4-12 SEC).

But the record doesn't indicate just how well these Tigers actually played.

Everything about Auburn was new this season: new arena, new staff, new head coach and new team entirely.

Stars from the past few years at Auburn, like Tay Waller, had graduated.

Once Tony Barbee took over, he won a lot of fans over when he brought in a strong recruiting class. Unfortunately, some of this class didn't qualify and had to go to JUCO. Most of the recruits who did join Barbee's club ended up injuring themselves.

The situation was as unfair as can be for Barbee, the Auburn Tigers' new basketball coach.

The star players for the team found ways to get hurt. The team was short on depth and talent. Simply put, it was a MEAC-caliber team in terms of talent playing in the SEC.

Auburn fans already knew it would be a rough ride. Just like when they knew the football team would win the BCS National Championship and QB Cam Newton would win the Heisman Trophy, they were correct.

The Tigers were out-manned and outplayed by most of the teams they played, but they still put up a fight.

The team never quit. Not once. They might have been bad, but they left it all on the court every night.

However, when it got ugly, it got really ugly.

In their first SEC game of the season, Auburn trailed LSU 32-6 at halftime. SIX points in 20 minutes. Needless to say, Auburn would go on to lose.

The Tigers started the SEC season 0-6, but then things changed.

Auburn beat South Carolina on the road by double-digits to win their first SEC game.

In fact, since then, the Tigers have been on somewhat of a "roll."

Of course, a good team wouldn't find winning three of your final nine games that great, but for this team, it is. Especially the way it happened.

The Tigers came back from a 19-point deficit against Mississippi State at Auburn Arena. In the next-to-last game of the regular season, Auburn came back from a 20-point deficit to beat Ole Miss. Then, in the regular season finale, Auburn came back from a 15-point second-half deficit to beat LSU on their home court. bad as Auburn was this year...they didn't even finish last in the SEC West. They finished fifth, ahead of the Bayou Bengals from Baton Rouge.

Auburn might have gone 11-19 and they might have only won four SEC games. But if anything, Auburn fans should be excited about what the future holds for the Tigers on the hardwood.

Fans have already realized this. As the season went on and the losses began piling up, Auburn Arena actually became fuller and fuller. Auburn had several sell-outs at home near the end of the regular season.

I don't care what you say. This team played hard and Tony Barbee coached his rear-end off.

As far as the 2011-2012 Tigers team is concerned...Auburn fans need not be concerned. Every player on this year's team, including studs like Kenny Gabriel, Earnest Ross and Rob Chubb, will return.

In addition, the Tigers gain the following next season that they didn't have this season: The star players Barbee recruited that didn't qualify for this season, the incoming recruiting class, Texas transfer Varez Ward, Clemson transfer Noel Johnson and injured team leader Frankie Sullivan.

Noel Johnson is a 6'8", 200 pound guard. Varez Ward is a 6'2", 192 pound guard. These additions will be huge for Tony Barbee in his second season.

Also, there's the little recruiting factor. Barbee has already received commitments from several four-stars this year, and if they qualify, Auburn will be dangerous in 2012.

The Tigers have their regular SEC West schedule, and from the look of things, Alabama might be the only truly strong opponent in the West for Auburn.

Auburn also gets SEC East powerhouse Kentucky at home, along with Georgia, who has drastically improved with Mark Fox as coach.

Ladies and gentleman, Auburn could win the SEC West and make the NCAA Tournament next season. After having the worst team in school history this year.

Tony Barbee has the momentum rolling for a program that hasn't had energy in a long time.