Tigers to Open SEC/Big East Invitational

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Jeff Lebo's Auburn basketball team will play West Virginia as part of the first SEC/Big East Invitational.

Auburn will play the Mountaineers at 7 p.m. CST on Dec. 5th at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center as part of a doubleheader. The late game will match Georgetown vs. Alabama with that tipoff set for 9:30 p.m.

SEC officials announced on Thursday that four teams from each conference will play at off-campus sites for four years. The other doubleheader for the 2007-2008 season will be played at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia with South Carolina taking on Providence and LSU facing Villanova.

Auburn, which finished 17-15 last season, returns all five starters as well as all key reserves from the 2006--2007 team. The Tigers have an all-time record of 15-11 vs. teams from the Big East.

West Virginia finished 27-9 after defeating Clemson in the NIT Championship Game at Madison Square Garden inNew York.

Auburn's game vs. WVU will be televised by ESPN2. "This invitational will showcase two of the premier conferences in college basketball," says Pete Derzis, senior vice president and general manager of ESPN Regional Television, who helped set up the SEC vs. Big East showdowns.

Korvotney Barber will be a junior forward for the Tigers when Auburn takes on West Virginia.

"Both conferences compete at the highest level, as evidenced by their recent appearances in the Final Four, and we are pleased to feature them on two consecutive nights on our networks," Derzis says.

Teams from the SEC and Big East have won four of the last five NCAA men's basketball titles. Florida has won the past two, Connecticut won in 2004 and Syracuse won the title in 2003. This past season, five SEC teams made the NCAA field with Florida, Vandy and Tennessee reaching the Sweet 16. Final Four participant Georgetown and Pitt made the Sweet 16 this year out of the Big East.

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo says, "This is great for college basketball and for the SEC, Big East and ESPN to agree to this format. It is outstanding for both leagues, and it is important to have high-level basketball exposure in December.

"West Virginia won the NIT, and they have everyone back except for Frank Young. For the last five years, they have been one of the better teams in the Big East. It will be a tough game for us, but it's also good for our kids. It is nice that we are playing in Birmingham, and it will be great for our Auburn fans to see us play there."

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive says, "The Big East/SEC Invitational provides a great opportunity to showcase two of the nation's premier basketball conferences to a national television audience. This event increases exposure for both conferences early in the season by creating exciting match-ups that will appeal to college basketball fans across the country."

Mike Tranghese, commissioner of the Big East, says, "This annual series is going to offer college basketball fans some high-quality December competition in first-class venues. We're excited to be working with the SEC. Our schools have some great relationships with SEC schools in basketball and football and this series will only strengthen those ties."

West Virginia returns four starters, but lost its head coach, John Beilein, to Michigan. Returning starters include Darris Nichols (10.9 points), Alex Ruoff (10.3 points), Joe Alexander (10.3 points) and Da'Sean Butler (10.1 points).

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