BY AARON BRENNER | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. – Back when his former head football coach found himself on the hot seat, Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs stated he assesses each head coach in the department after every season in regards to their job status.
That coach, Gene Chizik, was fired the day after his season was over. It seems unlikely Tony Barbee will face the same fate a few days from now, but the Tigers’ men’s basketball coach is overseeing one of the lowest regimes in program history.
“He hasn’t given me his feedback,” Barbee said Monday afternoon, asked about Jacobs. “He’s asked me where I think the team is heading into Texas A&M.”
The Tigers (9-22, 3-15 SEC) have one final chance make something of the season, serving as the first-ever No. 14 seed in the SEC men’s basketball tournament Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET in Nashville taking on new conference member Texas A&M.
Walking off the court at Humphrey Coliseum following Auburn’s 74-71 overtime loss to Mississippi State – in a battle to stay out of last place in the SEC standings – Barbee answered a question whether he was worried about his job status with “No. Not at all.”
Two days later, the question repeated in terms of Jacobs’ feedback about the future, Barbee said, “We haven’t had conversations about that.”
Auburn has lost nine straight games, and 15 of 16, to complete the program’s weakest conference result by winning percentage since 1988-89 (2-16) and second-worst in 75 years. Barbee’s composite league record (12-38) is the worst three-year SEC stretch the program’s ever seen.
Asked if he’s had trouble getting players to buy in at this juncture, Barbee said, “I haven’t seen that as an issue.”
Aggies shorthanded? No. 11 seed Texas A&M (17-14, 7-11) could be a different team without Elston Turner, who told A&M reporters he broke his left pinky finger when he was “karate-chopped” while dribbling against LSU last Wednesday.
He missed Saturday’s game at Arkansas, but plans to play Wednesday night in the SEC tournament.
Outscored in the SEC only by Marshall Henderson of Ole Miss, Turner (19.4 points per game) poured in 21 points against Auburn in the Aggies’ 65-56 victory at Auburn Arena Feb. 20.
“We’re going to prepare like he’s going to go, and then we’ll adjust accordingly if he doesn’t go,” Barbee said. “The type of competitor he is, I fully expect him to be out there playing.”
Weekly honors unkind to Auburn: Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes was named SEC Player of the Week, and Mississippi State guard Craig Sword was SEC Freshman of the Week, making this the second time in a month both awards have been swept by Auburn opponents during that week of action.
In all, eight weekly honors were awarded to players who took on Auburn the previous week, to seven different players (Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel was freshman of the week twice.)
Other than Noel, none of those six Auburn opponents received more than two Player or Freshman of the Week accolades this season. The others were Stokes, Sword, Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Arkansas’ Marshawn Powell, Florida’s Michael Frazier II and Vanderbilt’s Kevin Bright.
Auburn guard Jordan Price picked up the Tigers’ lone SEC weekly honor this season, on Dec. 17 after going 8-for-8 from 3-point range against Grambling State and Furman.
Wallace a community man: Senior guard Josh Wallace was Auburn’s representative on the SEC Basketball Community Service Team.
A former athletic walk-on who has played all 31 games this year (starting 19), Wallace has lent his time to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County, along with other community service endeavors at East Alabama Medical Center, an Auburn/Opelika run for breast cancer awareness and Auburn’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee. He’s also active in FCA and has spoken to local youth basketball teams.
“It means a lot to me giving back to the community and makes you feel good,” Wallace said in a university release. “I grew up around people who always gave back, and that was one of my goals that when I grew up, I wanted to give back to the community when I could.”
Last week, Auburn’s Blanche Alverson was named to the Women’s squad, for her coordination of the Ballin’ for Books campaign.