Barbee Not Concerned About Preseason Poll

Comments from Tony Barbee, Allen Payne and Coach Flo are featured from SEC Basketball Media Days.

Birmingham, Ala.--Auburn coach Tony Barbee told media members at SEC Basketball Media Days that the lack of respect his team received in the league's preseason poll doesn't concern him, but senior forward Allen Payne noted that the players have vowed to show the critics that the 2013-14 Tigers will be a good team.

"Everybody's asked me about it," Barbee said on Wednesday after it was announced that Kentucky was picked to win the league and Auburn is picked to finish in last place in the media poll. "The games are not won and lost based on preseason polls. That is the bottom line. It is how you do in those games and how you finish throughout the season.

"One thing this team has really worked on, especially with the help of the sports psychologist who worked with us this summer, is the only opinion that matters is ours inside that locker room from the coaches to the players," Barbee said.

"You are going to be judged on a daily basis from your fans, to your family to your friends, but those opinions don't matter. The only opinions that matter are your teammates and coaches. That is the best thing about this team. This team is motivated and not because of preseason polls."

Barbee said the Tigers' exhibition victories in The Bahamas combined with 10 summer practices were "invaluable" for team-building with a roster featuring eight newcomers. "We also brought in one of the leading sports psychologists in the country this summer to work with us before we went on the trip to work on the bonding and chemistry. This team is as close as any team I have coached at Auburn. That is going to go a long way in that area."

Barbee noted that he had used the same sports psychologist previously, but this is the first time he had tried it at Auburn. He pointed out that he decided to do it this summer with the 2013-14 squad because he decided this group would really benefit from it and noted that so far he believes that has been the case.

"We will see if that same bond, that same chemistry level, will be there when we start the regular season games," Barbee said. "There is an accountability level there between the players which is different. If guys are being called out by their teammate there is not the sensitivity that there was before. There is an understanding that he is saying that because he cares about me and he knows me."

Barbee noted that last year's team was "too sensitive" to constructive criticism. "This team is a little bit different," he said. "It is a work in progress. It is kind of like a marriage. It is something you have got to work on every day or else it will slip. That is one thing we are focused on now with this group."

Heading into his fourth season with the Tigers, Barbee declared this is his "most talented" squad. "We are as deep as we have been. We have guys who can score the ball from our point guards...our twos and threes can score and shoot it from range. I like the combination of bigs. We have got some versatility in those four and five (power forwards and centers) positions from our size, to our length to our athleticism that we didn't have.

"We have some versatility," Barbee added. "We can play big, we can play small."

The Tigers struggled to a 9-23 record last year, the worst of Barbee's three seasons at Auburn. Asked what message he had for fans who have been disappointed with the lack of success in the program, he said, "I think this is a team that is going to make everybody proud, but that is going to be borne out on the floor.

"For a team that had the type of season that we did last year the enthusiasm on our campus right from our student fan base to the support we had at our Jungle Jam to the things we did on our foreign trip to The Bahamas this summer, we have a lot of momentum going into this year."

Allen Payne will be a senior forward for the Tigers.

Payne said the players are not going to say much on the subject of lack of respect, but are headed into the season confident that better days are on the horizon. "Absolutely, without question we are going to be a much better team," he declared, noting the Tigers have been having very good preseason practices.

"We are keeping everything inside our locker room and we are going to be our own judge," he said when asked about his opinion of the Tigers being picked to finish in the SEC basement. "We are letting our play speak for itself," he added.

AU women's coach Terri Williams-Flournoy makes a point at media days.

News and Notes: The Tigers will play an exhibition game on Oct. 28th vs. Victory University. The regular season opener is Nov. 8th vs. Nicholls State...Seven-foot freshman center Ronald Delph will be redshirting this year, Barbee said. The Tigers have three other centers with seven-footers Asauhn Dixon-Tatum and Benas Griciunas on the roster joined by Matthew Atewe...Barbee said Griciunas is a "fantastic addition" because of his three-point shooting ability and potential to play power forward in addition to center...Barbee said he believes the Tigers will play "faster" than his previous teams at Auburn did...The AU coach noted that he likes the new rules in college basketball that will attempt to eliminate excessive contact. The coach said that he physical play of recent seasons has hurt the free-flowing nature of the game and all too often turned contests into a "rugby match."...Payne said he believes one of the team's strengths this year will be its mental toughness...Payne said that he has been impressed with Shamsid-Deen. "He is super competitive," the senior forward said.

Tyrese Tanner is shown at media days on Wednesday in Birmingham.

AU women's coach Terri Williams-Flournoy brought forward Tyrese Tanner to the media days event and noted that the senior from Birmingham is developing into the leader the Tigers need her to be in games and practices. The coach said that she expects Tanner to improve her team-leading scoring average of 14 points per game as well as become a better rebounder after a strong finish as Tanner led the Tigers into the quarter-finals of the WNIT...Tanner said the Tigers, who feature six true freshmen and two juco transfers, are a deeper team. She also noted the Tigers are in outstanding physical condition. "Our preseason has been really good," the senior said. "I feel like we are conditioned enough to run and press for 40 minutes. Coach Flo has done a really good job with us and with the freshmen. We are pretty excited."...This year's media days event is being well attended. The SEC issued 1,039 credentials to event, almost as many as the football media days this summer at which the SEC issued 1,200 credentials.

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