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THURSDAY, MARCH 15, 2007
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Auburn returns talent in hoops
Lebo warns of overconfidence

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

Less than a week after Auburn's basketball season ended with an SEC tournament loss, head coach Jeff Lebo cautioned those who follow the Tigers not to get overconfident for next season.

Yes, the Tigers should return all five starters, plus the top three players off of the bench.

But Lebo, who just completed his third season as Auburn's head basketball coach by going 17-15, knows that having eight of the top players returning doesn't necessarily mean success.

Lebo points at the SEC this year and what's coming back for next season as evidence that nothing should be taken for granted.

"On our side, Arkansas has everybody back," Lebo said. "They're in the NCAAs. Everybody is good. You don't know what will happen. Our expectations will be higher. Where they fit into the league, I don't know."

The season just ended wasn't a downer, though.

The Tigers finished with a winning record for the first time since 2002-03. Auburn didn't finish last in the SEC Western Division. Instead the Tigers tied for third after going into the final day of the conference season in a four-way tie for first.

Freshman DeWayne Reed improved from the first to the last game, providing a spark that helped the Tigers win three straight games following a four-game losing streak.

Sophomore's Korvotney Barber, Quantez Robertson and Josh Dollard showed improvement.

And transfer Quan Prowell proved to be a shot in the arm late in the season that helped Auburn push to within a blink of a postseason tournament.

Now that Lebo has what he considers a stable program, the next step is to improve the little things — on the court presence, game knowledge and defense, for example. "Our basketball IQ has got to increase," Lebo said. "Defensively, we've got to get better. I never talk in terms of wins and losses. I want to get better and I think we have."

Still, after going 14-17 and 12-16 in Lebo's first two years, there was marked improvement. Also, defection from the roster isn't expected.

"We got over the hump and beat some good teams," Lebo said. "We were much more competitive on a more consistent level than we have in other years."

Lebo added, "I liked what we did, even though we were losing. Kids stayed together. They were receptive and worked hard. They didn't point fingers.

"We were a couple of decisions from winning the SEC West," Lebo said.

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