‘Only opinion that matters is ours’

Auburn men’s basketball coach Tony Barbee doesn’t put much stock into Wednesday’s preseason SEC Media Days poll that picked the Tigers to finish last.

Barbee speaks at SEC Media Days Wednesday/Todd Van Emst photo

“The bottom line is that games are not won or lost based on preseason polls. It’s how you do in those games and how you finish throughout the season,” Barbee said. “One thing that this team has really worked on is that the only opinion that matters is ours inside that locker room. From the coaches to the players, we’re going to be judged on a daily basis by everyone, but those opinions don’t matter.

“The best thing about this team is that we’re motivated, and not by preseason polls.”

In his fourth season at Auburn, Barbee will try to get the basketball program back on track after finishing 9-23 overall and 3-15 in the SEC last year.

This year’s team will be led by seniors Chris Denson, Allen Payne and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, along with Virginia transfer K.T. Harrell.

“We don’t really worry about where we’re picked,” Payne said. “It’s just one of those things that doesn’t really matter to us. The biggest thing that Coach Barbee is preaching to us is that we’re our own judge. We just do what we do and we don’t really worry about what other people think.

“For us to be picked last is something that I personally do not agree with, but I can’t really worry about those things. Everything will play out in the next couple of months.”

Barbee called Dixon-Tatum, who averaged 3.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a junior, one of Auburn’s most improved players.

“Our senior center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum has really set himself up to have a great year,” he said. “Allen Payne and Chris Denson have really worked hard to improve their bodies and their game, so I’m excited about our veterans, but some of our newcomers might help us make a difference this year.”

Payne is one of the Tigers' three seniors/Todd Van Emst photo

Harrell, who was one of Auburn’s best scorers during a summer trip to the Bahamas, is one of the newcomers expected to make an immediate impact along with junior college transfers Chris Griffin and Malcolm Canada, and true freshman point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen.

“Everyone is asking what kind of player he is and how well does he score, but K.T. is a basketball player. That’s the best way I can describe him,” Payne said. “If he needs to score, he can score. His leadership goes along with his work ethic, and that’s been the biggest thing for him.”

The Auburn women’s team was picked to finish 8th in the SEC under second-year head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy. The women will blend three returning starters with eight newcomers from a team that finished 19-15 last season and will try to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009

“Right now, we look very young,” Williams-Flournoy said. “With eight newcomers, it’s a lot of teaching and a lot of patience. It’s a lot of stopping practice and explaining. So, right now, we look very young and very slow and just going through the motions.

“They’re just doing everything we ask them to do and not understanding why. They need to figure out, hopefully before Nov. 9 when we open the season -- why we do what we do. Once that happens, then the light will go on.”

The men will play an exhibition game against Victory University at the Auburn Arena Oct. 28. The women open the season Nov. 9 at home against Georgia Southern.

Men's predicted order of finish
1. Kentucky (21)
2. Florida (5)
3. Tennessee (1)
4. LSU
5. Missouri
6. Alabama
7. Ole Miss
8. Arkansas
9. Texas A&M
10. Vanderbilt
11. Georgia
12. South Carolina
13. Mississippi State
14. Auburn
***First-Place Votes in Parentheses

Women's predicted order of finish
1. Tennessee (10)
2. Kentucky (5)
3. LSU
4. Texas A&M
5. Vanderbilt
6. Georgia
7. South Carolina
8. Auburn
9. Missouri
10. Florida
11. Mississippi State
12. Arkansas
13. Ole Miss
14. Alabama

***

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