Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Big basketball week

Both Auburn basketball programs face important games this week.
The two programs, however, have great emphasis on these games for different reasons.

For the women's team, now ranked No. 4 in the nation, all five of its final regular season games will be huge. So, too, will be the SEC Tournament.
If the Tigers can win out, they would almost certainly be assured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In fact, ESPN.com listed Auburn as a top seed in its most recent bracketology.
After three lackluster efforts, Auburn soundly thumped Alabama 81-54 on Sunday. Coach Nell Fortner said it was one of her team's strongest outings of the season.
Auburn faces Kentucky at home on Thursday and a tough Mississippi State road game on Sunday.
A top seed would go a long way toward Auburn making its way to St. Louis for the Final Four.
Fortner has said her team isn't worrying about anything but the next game, but this has to be looming in the players' minds.

On the men's side, the team is fighting to give coach Jeff Lebo some job security. Lebo, in his fifth year, likely needs to finish strong to get to the 2009-10 season.
The Tigers alleviated some pressure by beating Tennessee on Saturday. Now Auburn has home games against Arkansas -- a team the Tigers have already smashed this season -- and Mississippi State.
Winning both games isn't out of the questions and would go a long way toward Lebo making it to next year.
Rasheem Barrett has shown the ability to take over a ballgame on offense. Someone has to. The Tigers have won this year mostly when someone has been hot from the floor.
So far, inconsistency has been a major problem. For instance, Tay Waller, who can bury teams with his 3-point shooting, has scored just 22 points over the last four games.
Auburn needs at least two offensive weapons to be on their games on any given night. Saturday it was Barrett and Korvotney Barber. DeWayne Reed and Waller also have that ability and Frankie Sullivan and Lucas Hargrove have proven themselves as capable scorers.
The X-factor -- or Z-factor if you will -- is Quantez Robertson. He came off the bench for the first time in his four-year career Saturday because he arrived late for the game. Robertson, who is a minimal offensive threat, played a career-low 9 minutes.
Lebo praises Robertson for doing all the little things. His position, though, is "shooting" guard.
Here are his shooting numbers:

38% field goals
23% 3-pointers
55% free throws (including just 5 of 18 in conference play)
6.4 points per game

It will be interesting to see if Robertson returns to the starting lineup since the Tigers have more offensive threats on the floor when he is out. Lebo is playing it close to the vest, but defended Robertson by saying most of his best attributes don't show up in the boxscore.
My guess is that Robertson will be back in the starting lineup on Wednesday.

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