Friday, March 4, 2011
Auburn 2011 = Alabama 2010
Ahh yes, admit it. The picture fooled ya. You though this was about football but its not. Its about Alabama and Auburn Basketball!
As the 2011 SEC Basketball season winds down this weekend, one can't help but notice the improved play of Tony Barbee's Auburn squad down the stretch. Although the Tigers have had some embarrassing losses (see: Presbyterian), Barbee's team has played extremely well of late and have become a competitive team.
In this process, the 2011 Auburn Tigers look alot like the 2010 version of Anthony Grant's first year team at The Capstone. Grant's 2010 team played extermely hard, much like Barbee's team does, and showed huge gains throughout the season. It also had some difficult, close losses at home and on the road, but the 'Bama fan base felt they had the right man for the job. I'm sure the Auburn Basketball fans (all four of them) feel the same way about Barbee.
Grant's first team lost 1 point home games to the likes of Florida and Vanderbilt, much like Auburn has dropped close games to Florida and Arkansas at home. 'Bama had a huge non conference win vs Baylor much like Auburn had over Florida State. Grant also saw a huge lead dwindle away on the road at Ole Miss like Auburn did this year in Tuscaloosa. Alabama also fought its way back from huge defecits to beat South Carolina twice late in the 2010 season like Barbee's teams have done against Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Now that Barbee has a couple of transfers coming in next year (see former Jeff Davis and Texas player Veraz Ward at point guard), the return of a healthy Frankie Sullivan and the addition of a good recruiting class, the Tigers may be poised for a break through season in 2012 like Alabama has had in 2011.
Being the hard core Alabama hoops fan that I am, one may think I would want to see Auburn struggle at basketball, but truth be told its just the opposite. Its good for the sport in a football crazed state when both programs hoops teams are having success. Unfortuantely outside of 2003, when Auburn went to the Sweet 16 before falling to Carmello Anthony's Syracuse squad in Albany, NY and Alabama raced to its only #1 ranking in basketball, neither team has been able to sustain success together at the same time since the 1980's.
As a result, one progam seems to have more success then the other, continuing to render second class status to hoops. When Auburn's been good (1998-2000), Alabama's been terrible. When the Tide's been high (1989-1995, 2001-2006), Auburn's been terrible. Of course, they've both been horrendous together too. But this could all change to a degree. Basketball will never overtake football in the Yellowhammer State, but if Alabama and Auburn could compete for an extended time at a high level on the hardwood, battling for SEC championships and NCAA success at the same time, then basketball would quickly become more relevent.
Its not a guarantee, but for the first time since Wimp Sanderson was in Tuscaloosa and Sonny Smith was on The Plains, its seems like both programs are on the upswing together. Alabama has sold out 6 home games in Coleman Colesium and Auburn invested $90 million in its new arena. All of these factors could lead to extended success under Grant and Barbee, and a renewed interest in basketball in Alabama, which would be a great thing for long time hoops fans in a football crazed state.