Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Glimmers Of Hope At Auburn

Tony Barbee knew that he was inheriting a reclamation project when he took the job at Auburn in April. Auburn is a team that not only not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2003, but they have only even finished better than 7-9 in the SEC once since then. This past season they went 6-10 in a bad SEC West, and they graduate four starters, as well as their top bench player. When you return only two players that earned more than 11 minutes per game from a team that had an RPI of 153rd in the nation, you know you've got work to do.

Barbee does have a couple of young pieces he can work with: Frankie Sullivan, the one returning starter, is a quality guard both offensively and defensively (he led the team in steals last season). Andre Malone and Earnest Ross are both long, athletic two guards who are raw, but as true freshmen this past season they still have time to develop offensive skills.

But the real story is the recruiting class, which has really come together. Shawn Kemp, Jr. was with Alabama's 2009 class, but had to delay college for a year because of academics (I talked about it at the time here) and is now in Auburn's 2010 class. He's one of five freshmen coming in, along with a Juco player, all six of whom are listed as 6'6" or taller. They already had a good athletic paint presence in the Juco transfer, Adrian Forbes, but he is now overshadowed by the new jewel of Auburn's class: Luke Cothran, who is reportedly going to sign. Cothran is considered by some recruiting services as one of the 50 best recruits in the 2010 class, meaning that with all of the other signings Auburn suddenly has their best recruiting class since probably the '05 class that was led by McDonald's All-American Korvotney Barber, the class that as seniors led Auburn to their only postseason appearance (the NIT quarterfinals) since 2003.

The 2010-11 season will still be a long one for Auburn fans. If they are anything other than the worst team in the SEC, the conference that is about 50-50 right now to be the worst of the BCS conferences, that will be a positive outcome. But they now have a young core that they can go forward with and feel good about. If they can put together a few more quality recruits in their 2011 and 2012 classes then there's no reason they can't be an NCAA contender by 2013.

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