"This has been the strongest leadership I've had since I've been at Auburn," Barbee said of a group that features guards Frankie Sullivan and Josh Wallace, center Rob Chubb and guard/forward Noel Johnson.
"The seniors have done a great job," the coach stated. "That's a part of building a program, which is the reason why I came to Auburn.
"I know we're starting to get there when the players that have been with me for two years are finishing my sentences before I finish them," he noted. "When I start to see those veteran players who are comfortable in their own skin now and are coaching the younger guys and helping them along is a great start."
The Tigers suffered through a disappointing 2011-2012 season in which they had injury issues and suspensions. The result was a 15-16 record in a season the players and coaches had high hopes with the expectation of reaching a postseason tournament.
The team's top scorer last season, Sullivan, averaged 12.9 points per game even though he was less than full speed recovering from knee surgery. Barbee likes what he is senior from the guard this preseason.
"Frankie Sullivan is finally able to play at 100 percent," Barbee said. "I can't remember the last time he missed a shot in practice. He's been playing really well. It's the same thing with Rob Chubb. He's playing with a senior's confidence now at 255 lbs. He looks different and he's playing different."
Frankie Sullivan takes a shot during his junior season.
Will this be the season Barbee gets the Tigers over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament, or least the NIT?
"For me the expectations are going to be high," the coach said. "Nobody can put a higher expectation on my program or myself than my players or myself. With that being said, we just want to step forward and keep the momentum going.
"From year one to year two we got better and had more wins, more conference wins, a higher RPI, a higher strength of schedule and we want to keep that momentum going this year.
"When I talk about expectations, I don't want to talk about the number of wins because whenever I look at our schedule, I don't see a game we are going to lose. That's how I look at things. It's going to be a fun year for us.
"Practice has been competitive and spirited," the coach noted. "We have a lot of positive things going on and we are excited about the year."
The Tigers will have a scrimmage at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Auburn Arena. The first exhibition game is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday vs. Victory University.
Auburn will open the regular season with a home game on Nov. 9th vs. IPFW before heading to South Carolina to play in the eight-team Charleston Classic. The Tigers will open the event against Murray State on Nov. 15th.
The Tigers are forecast to be in the bottom half of the 14-team SEC. Commenting if this is the season his team can be a major factor in the SEC race, Barbee said, "We're getting close. It's a process and each year we want to take positive steps forward. This year our roster is stronger than it was last year. These positives are going to equal to a higher finish in the conference.
"We have some difficult competition with Texas A&M and Missouri joining the league," he added. "The top of the league has remained strong and the middle and bottom of the league have gotten stronger."
For Williams-Flournoy, who the Tigers hired away from Georgetown where she regularly took her team to the NCAA Tournament, taking a job at Auburn returns her to the league where she was on the staff at Georgia. She said it is difficult to get a read on how competitive her team will be in the league with the Tigers making a transition to a new coaching staff and a new style of play.
Auburn's new coach makes a point during a timeout of an exhibition game this summer.
Coach Flo, as she is known to her players, has been installing a full-court pressure defensive system and the Tigers are committed to being an up-tempo, fastbreak team on offense.
"It's hard to say right now how we stack up because we are still so much in the learning phase," the coach said. "As a new coach coming in, you always want to try to be in the middle of the pack.
"When I was at Georgetown, if you were in the middle of the pack in the Big East, you were doing pretty well in a conference that put seven or eight teams in the NCAA tournament," she pointed out. "We are trying to get there right now. We keep telling the players that, getting them to understand that and to know that everyday we have to get better to get there."
The Tigers have played four exhibition games, posting a 3-1 record in those contests played in Australia. They will open the regular season on Nov. 9th in Raleigh, N.C., in the Wolfpack that features Maine as The Opening round opponent with Wofford and N.C. State also in the field. The home opener is scheduled for Nov. 15th at 2 p.m. vs. Alabama State.