Madison Square Garden Next With One More Win

Auburn, Ala.--With one more win Jeff Lebo's Tigers will advance to the NIT semi-finals on Tuesday, March 31st in New York, but there is one major hurdle remaining with a talented Baylor team standing in Auburn's way.

The Bears from the Big 12 Conference will be in Auburn for a 6 p.m. tipoff on Tuesday evening in a game that will be televised by ESPN.

"It would be awesome," Lebo says of the possibility of advancing to the NIT Final Four that will be played in Madison Square Garden. "It is a huge stage.

"People don't realize how hard it is to just get into postseason," the Auburn coach says. "In the NCAA you have 34 at-large and that is kind of the same ratio that get into the BCS (bowls) in football. You have 32 in the NIT now, which is harder because five are automatic bids so you have fewer chances to get into postseason.

"You have about a 28 percent chance in basketball to get to postseason," Lebo points out. "Football is like 53 percent. For us to get a chance and then to win a couple of games, it is as far as Auburn has advanced in the NIT.

"Any time you are competing for a championship and you get a chance to travel to New York and if you win this game, you get a chance to play on the greatest stage of all basketball in the world (Madison Square Garden). It is a pretty neat reward for the kids. We have this one to get through, and it won't be easy."

Coach Jeff Lebo's Tigers are one of three SEC teams with a chance to win the NIT title.

Auburn is 24-11 and winners of 11 of its last 13 games. Baylor will bring a 22-14 record into Tuesday evening's contest.

The winner of Tuesday's night game at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum will play the winner of Wednesday night's St. Mary's at San Diego State contest. On the other side of the bracket, a pair of SEC teams are still competing for the NIT title. Florida will play Penn State on Tuesday night with the winner advancing to Madison Square Garden and Kentucky will play Notre Dame in the other quarter-finals matchup on Wednesday.

Baylor has defeated Georgetown and Virginia Tech to advance to round three of the NIT after making a run to the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament.

"Their offensive efficiency has been good," says Lebo, explaining why the Bears are playing good basketball late in the season. "You look at the last two games and I think they have shot the ball very, very well. Their shooting percentage is high.

"They are kind of like us a little bit," the Auburn coach says. "They have some speed in the backcourt. They have some quickness. They will play three guards. Sometimes, they will play four and most of the times three. They have a lot of different spots where they can score from. It's a different guy in different games.

Senior Rasheem Barrett will be playing his final game at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday vs. Baylor.

"We have kind of been like that lately," he adds. "One night it is Tay (Waller) and another night it is Frankie (Sullivan) and another night it's (DeWayne) Reed and one night it's Tez (Robertson) or Lucas (Hargrove) or Rasheem (Barrett) so you have a lot of different guys who can score. They are kind of like that, too."

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