2009-10 SEC Basketball Previews: Auburn

Kurt Wirth@Kurt_WirthCorrespondent IOctober 11, 2009

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 14:  Head coach Jeff Lebo of the Auburn Tigers calls a play against the Tennessee Volunteers during the Semifinal round of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament on March 14, 2009 at The St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida.  The Volunteers defeated the Tigers 94-85.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Jeff Lebo has a comparatively long coaching history—and it's an ugly one.

Lebo is barely over .500 as a head coach at 81-76, and this season is looking like the end of the road for the Auburn head coach.

In fact, last year likely would have done it had it not been for a late resurgence. After a slow start to the SEC slate, Auburn's experience—not coaching—managed to pull them into second place in the Western Division...highest ever under Lebo.

2008-09 was Lebo's second year over .500 in five years at Auburn and easily the best record at 24-12 overall, along with an NIT quarterfinal appearance.

Those days are gone as the Tigers lose three starters, including possibly the most underrated big man in the nation in Korvotney Barber. Barber at times led the nation in field goal percentage and fell just 0.4 rebounds per game short of averaging a double-double.

Also gone is Rasheem Barrett, who was a steady role player capable of big nights, as well as the league's best true point guard in Quantez Robertson.

The War Eagle is losing its heart, and it is likely going to equate to a messy season in 2009-10. The three losses combined for 2,865 minutes last season alone, along with 814 shots attempted.

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Trying to fill those massive shoes are five lesser-known recruits.

Andre Malone
(No. 27 SG - three stars - 6'4" - 200 lbs.)

Malone is a big shooting guard who creates a mismatch for his defender. He should see decent minutes as a freshman.

Earnest Ross
(No. 40 SG - three stars - 6'4" - 185 lbs.)

Ross is a versatile player with a very strong body. He will likely come in at the three spot, as his long-range touch isn't the best—neither is his ball-handling. Expect him to play off the bench but struggle with turnovers.

Ken Gabriel
(PF - three stars - 6'7" - 200 lbs.)

Gabriel comes in as yet another smaller big man for Lebo. He's thick but a bit short for his position; he should come off the bench a good bit due to a lack of depth.

Robert Chubb
(PF - two stars - 6'9" - 200 lbs.)

This afro-armed big man has work to do and will serve as a role player off the bench.

Ty Armstrong
(PF - one star - 6'8" - 190 lbs.)

While this big man has some work to do, he had several high-major offers and has some upside.

With such limited talent replacing some outstanding losses, Auburn's chances both short and long-term are not good for competing in any kind of postseason.

Auburn brings back a few SEC-caliber players.

DeWayne Reed: 6'1", 175-lb. Senior PG
(13.2ppg - 2.6rpg - 1.46 A/TO - 67 stl)

Reed will step into Quantez Robertson's position and run the Tigers this season, as he is a very talented ball-handler and all-around defender. Will start.

Tay Waller: 6'2", 193-lb. Senior SG
(12.1ppg - 2.8rpg - 1.32 A/TO - 36.8% 3PT)

Another leader who handles the ball effectively and has a nice stroke from anywhere on the floor. Waller dominates the team's three-point shooting. Will start.

Lucas Hargrove: 6'6", 218-lb. Senior SF
(8.1ppg - 5.3rpg - 46.4% FG - 40 stl)

Yet another Tiger that's good on defense and at handling the ball. Hargrove is the most versatile player on the team and has plenty of range, but he should work on his effort from the charity stripe. Will start.

Frankie Sullivan: 6'1", 195-lb. Sophomore SG
(7.6ppg - 1.9rpg - 1.24 A/TO - 39 stl)

Sullivan is a typical Lebo-style player, small and lean who can defend and handle the ball well. Despite attempting 124 shots from beyond the arc, Sullivan barely hits a third of them and must work on his long-range effort to be truly effective. Likely to start.

Johnnie Let: 6'8", 210-lb. Senior PF
(2.8ppg - 3.4rpg - 52.2% FG - 8 starts)

Let has limited use outside of a big body on the block, though he's efficient near the basket on offense. His defensive presence is average, and he has an absolutely awful stroke from outside of five feet.

Brendon Knox: 6'10", 238-lb. Senior C
(2.5ppg - 1.7rpg - 66.0% FG - 10 stl)

Knox is a specialist who sees most games, but not a huge number of minutes. He's good for a dunk every now and then and has a good eye for knocking the ball out of a dribble-drive.

While Auburn lost a ton from a season ago, imagine how much more difficult 2010-11 will be, when just a single player will be an upperclassman.

Schedule Breakdown

Cupcakes: Missouri St. (A), IUPUI (N), High Point (H), Alabama A&M (A), Troy (H), Alabama St. (H), Charleston Southern (H), Georgia Southern (H), West Georgia (H)

Real Games: Niagara (H), UCF (N), N.C. State (N), Sam Houston St. (H)

Marquee Matchups: Virginia (H), Florida St. (A)

Opposite Division: South Carolina (H), Tennessee (A), Kentucky (H), Vanderbilt (A), Georgia (H), Florida (A)

Predicted Result: 13-18, 3-13; No Postseason

Analysis: The Tigers have a fairly weak schedule, but it works for them due to this team's complete lack of depth or experience.

What's Returning

Points: 61.60 percent (10th—SEC Avg: 73.81 percent)

Rebounds: 49.33 percent (11th—SEC Avg: 75.80 percent)

The Tigers have massive voids that will be nothing short of impossible to fill, and this should be a rough year for Lebo's squad. Lebo will join John Pelphrey on the hot seat, although Lebo is much more likely to be searching for a job next March.


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