Auburn b-ball coach voices optimism for team, concern for SEC rule changes

AUBURN, AL (WSFA) - Auburn men's basketball head coach Tony Barbee voiced his excitement for the Tigers' next season during the annual SEC Basketball Summer Teleconference.

"I'm excited about the prospects for next season and obviously when you take over a program and you try to reshape it in your own image, it takes some time," Barbee said.

Auburn is coming off a 11-20 season, where they finished 4-12 in conference play. But Barbee says that some new additions, such as tranfers Varez Ward and Noel Johnson, as well having some key players 100% healthy, will help turn the Tigers around.

"I think they are going to fill out the roster and give us great balance and better depth than we had last year," Barbee said.

But the 3rd-year coach also had some concerns about rule changes that could be made by the SEC.

The SEC has talked about eliminating the July recruiting period for coaches, something Barbee says won't benefit coaces, programs, or players.

"I'm for more access to recruits in terms of phone calls and evaluations," Barbee said. "The more we're in front of them as college coaches maybe that will eliminate some of the third party presence.

"I think that will go a long way to eliminate the amount of transfers we're having and some of the third-party presence that is big issue with the NCAA, so I don't think eliminating July, I don't think that's a benefit for anybody."

Barbee also says eliminating July could have a negative effect on the financial outlook of the programs.

"You're talking about during the July evaluation period in one stop you can see a couple of hundred prospects and if you eliminate that, then it's not as cost effective," Barbee said. "Now you're taking one flight to see one or two prospects."

One change made by the SEC Barbee was happy with was the elimination of the East and West Divisions in basketball. Barbee says he can look to his in-state rival as a perfect example for the need for change.

"There's no way an Alabama team that if we were one division last year, or one league, one conference last year that would have finished second in the standings behind Florida with their record," Barbee said. "I'm still not convinced they would not have been in the NCAA Tournament coming in second place in the SEC if you would have looked at it in that format."

Barbee says the elimination of divisions comes at the right time for the SEC to attempt to get more of its teams to the Big Dance.

"It's time to see if [elimination of divisions] will help us get more teams in the NCAA Tournament, which is the ultimate goal," Barbee said.

The Tigers' 2011-2012 schedule will be announced later this summer.