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FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2007
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Tigers have sights set on NCAA tourney bid

By Ross Dellenger
sports@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

AUBURN — Auburn basketball coach Jeff Lebo says his expectations for the 2007-08 season have never been higher in his past three years of coaching the Tigers.

Guard Quantez Robinson agrees.

"The whole team believes we can make it (to the NCAA tournament)," said Robinson, who has started all 60 games of his collegiate career.

The road to the NCAA tournament begins Friday when the team holds its first practice, just a month away from the season-opener at Tulane on Nov. 9.

The Tigers haven't made the NCAA tournament since 2003 when Cliff Ellis' 10th-seeded Auburn team went to the round of 16.

During his previous stints at Tennessee Tech and Tennessee-Chattanooga, Lebo didn't go to the NCAA tournament. He's taken a team only once to the postseason, a National Invitational Tournament quarterfinal appearance in 2002, his final year at Tennessee Tech.

"With the way we finished last year, obviously gives us a reason to be optimistic," Lebo said.

The Tigers return all five starters from a 17-15 team that was just a game shy of sharing an SEC Western Division championship last season after closing the season winning three of four regular-season games.

"It's the first time really in a long time that I have had some experienced players coming back that we feel good each night that we have a chance if we do the things necessary," Lebo said. "I feel more confident, but you never feel comfortable because the league is so good."

Lebo said senior guard Archie Miaway did not qualify academically to play this semester. Miaway has also been suffering from a knee injury.

Sophomore guard DeWayne Reed broke his foot while on the team's summer tour in Cancun, Mexico. Lebo said Reed, who averaged 5.4 points and 3.0 assists a game, is about 85 percent healthy.

Lebo hopes the team's summer excursion to Cancun helped players learn how to deal with adversity. Lebo said the basketball environment wasn't quite "ideal." It included an "extremely hot gym," bent rims and an odd-feeling ball.

"The court was slick and all kinds of stuff were going on, and you having to play through that adversity," he said.

The team went undefeated in Mexico, beating its three opponents by a combined score of 300-222. So maybe Lebo was just exaggerating about the conditions? Robinson disagrees with that.

"As soon as we all walked in, we started sweating," he said. "As the game went on, it felt like you stepped right out of a swimming pool. It was so hot in there."

Auburn hoops practice begins

When: Friday

Top players returning: Junior Josh Dollard, a 6-foot-7 forward, led the team in scoring, averaging 12.5 points per game, and rebounding, pulling down 7 an outing. Senior Quan Prowell, a 6-8 forward, follows with 12 points per game and 5.3 rebounds.

Regular-season opener: At Tulane on Nov. 9.

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