- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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1. Auburn's offseason news has consisted of a point-shaving charge to Varez Ward and now a marijuana arrest for Shaq Johnson. The Tigers haven't been relevant in years and don't get noticed unless something goes awry. Tony Barbee has had a significant turnover rate in the past three seasons, now up to 12 players through transfer or dismissal. Barbee had a respectable run at UTEP in four seasons, going 30 games above .500, reaching the CBI finals before an NCAA tournament appearance. The move to Auburn was a huge pay raise and seemed to be the right thing with the program needing another facelift. But the Auburn job is arguably one of the toughest in the SEC or in a top seven conference. Barbee has won a total of 12 SEC games in three seasons. That number doesn't look like it will climb much higher next season. Barbee didn't suddenly become a poor coach. But his attrition rate proves that selecting the right recruits and vetting them -- even more than normal -- has to be the new charge or else a chance to climb out of the abyss may be futile. Barbee is a reserved person, not one to draw too much attention to himself. He has no choice now but to hunker down and pull off the unexpected by rising above what are sure to be low expectations. The fourth year of a program is a pivotal season. The drama needs to end so the narrative can be about Auburn getting attention it earns on the court, not off.
2. Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins was thrilled with the performance of one of his star players, Dwight Powell, who was second on the Canadian World University Games team in scoring at 12.1 points a game (behind Baylor's Brady Heslip) in Kazan, Russia, earlier this month. Powell lost his mother, Jacqueline Weir, on Sept. 13, 2012. Stanford's team and staff rallied around Powell and attended a memorial. Powell was able to still play his sophomore season and was named the Pac-12's most improved player -- going from 5.8 points as a freshman to 14.9 as a sophomore. The Cardinal have a real shot to finish in the top three of the Pac-12, and a lot of that has to do with the play of Powell. Dawkins is beaming with pride over Powell's development and his progress. He should. He has stuck by him throughout a terrible ordeal, thousands of miles from his Toronto home. These are the good stories, the ones in which a coach rallies around a player in a time of need with a bond built between the two that can have a lasting legacy.
3. As expected, Michigan gave John Beilein a contract extension, which takes him through the 2018-19 season. This is exactly what the Wolverines have needed -- a long-time, consistent coach who is a proven winner. Of course, it helps if he fits and the timing is right. Tommy Amaker came to Ann Arbor after the Brian Ellerbe years and following NCAA sanctions. The expectations were high but hard to meet. Amaker has found his groove at Harvard where he is thriving. Beilein had West Virginia winning at a high clip. He needed time to develop his style at Michigan. And he's rolling. Having Beilein locked in at Ann Arbor and Tom Izzo a fixture in East Lansing gives this in-state rivalry two of the game's best coaches. This should ensure that both programs will be regulars in challenging for Big Ten titles. Beilein made Michigan nationally relevant again by reaching the Final Four, and added a title game appearance to enhance the comeback story. The recruiting is still strong and the staff has settled down into a highly capable recruiting core. The Michigan students who arrived two years ago (and those who are to come) are getting a basketball program/coach combination that are in concert just as well as they were 20 years ago -- but without any of the NCAA enforcement drama.