The Southeastern Conference received a bit of a wake-up call on Selection Sunday this past spring, as the conference received just three bids. An issue for some of the teams left on the outside looking in: non-conference scheduling. While a program like Kentucky had no such issues in booking challenging contests, the same couldn’t be said for some of their fellow conference members.
With that in mind commissioner Mike Slive announced that scheduling expert Greg Shaheen (whose work with the selection committee gives him the ability to inform programs of what exactly the committee wants to see schedule-wise) would evaluate the non-conference slates of member schools. One school whose schedule was changed as a result of this evaluation was Auburn, which was ultimately replaced in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off by Northeastern.
On Friday the Tigers released their full schedule, and it’s a slate that should place head coach Tony Barbee in position to improve on last season’s 9-23 mark. The toughest non-conference game on the schedule will likely be Auburn’s trip to Ames, where they’ll take on Iowa State on December 2. But outside of that contest and games against Murray State (November 23) and Illinois (December 8 in Atlanta) there isn’t much “meat” on the slate.
With that in mind, fans will expect the Tigers to at the very least reach double digits in victories in 2013-14. And while simply winning ten or more games isn’t something to get excited about, that would be an improvement when considering how the Tigers played last year. It would also help the computer profile of the SEC if programs such as Auburn raised their level of play.
Auburn had the worst RPI (254) of any major conference team in the nation last season and the SEC only had three teams in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers went 9-23 in 2012-13 and lost 16 of their final 17 games in the worst single-season stretch in program history.
Barbee is entering his fourth season as Auburn’s head coach with the worst three-year conference record in program history. He is under contract for $1.5 million per year through 2017 and has a buyout of $750,000 for each year of his remaining term, or just shy of $3 million entering the season.
With Frank Sullivan and Rob Chubb out of eligibility the Tigers have some holes to fill, meaning that their summer trip to the Bahamas came at just the right time. Virginia transfer K.T. Harrell will be one of the players asked to lead the way offensively for the Tigers, who finished ninth in the SEC in scoring (64.8 ppg) and 11th in field goal percentage (40.9%) in 2012-13.
“This summer has been really good for us,” Harrell said following Auburn’s 88-60 win over the Bahamas All-Stars earlier this month. “As a team we have gotten so much closer. This has been the best summer that I have been a part of as far as camaraderie and how close we have gotten. This trip has helped us a lot.
“Practice has been great, we have gotten better execution-wise. Everyone knows what we are planning to do and our identity so this has been really good.”