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SEC Tournament Roundup, Day One: Auburn’s Tony Barbee fired Wednesday

The biggest news from the first day of the SEC tournament came off the court, when Auburn coach Tony Barbee was fired about an hour after the Tigers’ 74-56 loss to South Carolina opened the 2014 SEC tournament in Atlanta.
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Barbee, who had just completed his fourth season at Auburn, was 49-75 as the Tigers’ coach and never won more than six games in an SEC season. Auburn lost its first six games of conference play this season and finished the season losing seven of its last 10. Kentucky coach John Calipari has spent a lot of time praising Barbee’s job at Auburn over the years; Barbee played for Calipari at Massachusetts from 1989-93, and Barbee’s first coaching job was as a graduate assistant on Calipari’s 1995-96 UMass team that lost to Kentucky in the Final Four.


Barbee was an assistant coach under Calipari at Memphis from 2000-2006 before compiling an 82-52 record in four years as the head coach at UTEP. He won one Conference USA title and appeared in one NCAA tournament, losing to Butler in the first round of the 2010 tournament.  It was Barbee’s last game at UTEP before Auburn hired him to replace Jeff Lebo.


Auburn made no postseason appearances during Barbee’s tenure. The Tigers have not qualified for an NCAA tournament since 2003.


South Carolina freshman Duane Notice scored a career-high 23 points in Wednesday’s win. The Gamecocks finished 11 of 15 from three-point range. South Carolina advanced to Thursday’s second round to face Arkansas at 3:30 p.m. ET.


AL.com’s Brandon Marcello, an Auburn beat writer, compiled a list of potential candidates to replace Barbee. His top choice: former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, whose show-cause penalty from the NCAA expires this offseason. As Marcello wrote:


The 53-year-old could have his pick of the litter when it comes to jobs in the near future, but Auburn could be the first to give him a call.


Gary Parrish of CBSsports.com said another leading candidate may be Louisiana Tech head coach Michael White. White spent seven years as an assistant at Ole Miss (where he also played) before taking over Louisiana Tech in 2011. The Bulldogs won a share of the WAC title last year, and they won a share of the Conference USA title this season.


Mississippi State 82, Vanderbilt 68


Mississippi State, the last-placed team in the tournament, earned an unlikely win over Vanderbilt to advance to the second round. The Bulldogs snapped a 13-game winning streak with the win, topping the Commodores for their first win since Jan. 22.


Vanderbilt played over its head at the beginning of the SEC season with just seven scholarship players—leading scorer Eric McClellan was kicked off the team in January, a move announced the days before Vanderbilt hosted Kentucky—and started league play with a 5-4 record that included wins over Tennessee, Missouri and Georgia. But the Commodores lost eight of their last 10 games.


Craig Sword scored 20 points for Mississippi State on Wednesday. The Bulldogs will play Ole Miss on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET.

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