Questions remain for players as practices begins

October, 17, 2008
This week brought a few reminders about how fleeting all the chatter about the strength and depth of teams can be.

Check out this blotter:

• Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl talked this summer about competition at the point between freshman guard Daniel West and JC transfer Bobby Maze. The hope was that J.P. Prince could go back to his natural wing position. He still might, and Maze could end up being the starting point. But the Vols lack competition for the immediate future now that West hasn't been cleared to practice due to eligibility issues.

• Nevada coach Mark Fox wants to take his time with highly touted freshman forward Luke Babbitt. Fox was expecting to not have to worry about returning starting guard Brandon Fields. That is, until Fields and two freshmen, London Giles and Ahyaro Phillips, were suspended for misdemeanor petty larceny. The Wolf Pack is the pick in the WAC, but they will be extremely vulnerable if Fields is out for a long period of time. Nevada has a nasty nonconference schedule, including a rare home game on New Year's Eve against top-ranked North Carolina. This team needs to grow by then, not regress.

• Pitt's Levance Fields has been hurting from the effects of surgery on his broken foot in August. Fields' recovery has been slowed in the fall. The Panthers weren't sure he would make it by October, and now are hopeful he can play when the games mean something in late November. It's quite simple: Pitt needs a healthy Fields at the point in January to compete for a Big East title. Without him, they can still be formidable up front with DeJuan Blair and Sam Young, but won't be league champs.

• Louisville senior forward Terrence Williams had successful surgery on his knee and will be out for four to six weeks. The Cardinals are deep with plenty of similarly versatile players. But not having Williams' experience early in the season won't help. Like Fields, the Cards need Williams in January to be fit so they can challenge Connecticut and Notre Dame for the Big East title.

• North Carolina's Marcus Ginyard is out for at least the next month or more with a stress fracture in his left foot. The Tar Heels are deeper than they were a year ago with another strong freshman class, but Ginyard's experience on the court is hard to replace. As with most title contenders, the Tar Heels you see in November and December won't be the complete product you'll discover in March.

• San Diego State is a legitimate threat to unseat BYU and UNLV atop the Mountain West, but not if senior forward Lorrenzo Wade isn't playing. Wade is still suspended after pleading not guilty to a felony charge of stealing a television from a woman's home. Wade led the Aztecs in scoring last season with 14.8 points a game. The incident occurred Sept. 21, and Wade was suspended two weeks ago. He's not expected to be reinstated in the immediate future. If Wade doesn't get his act together soon and earn his way back, the Aztecs can say goodbye to a first-place challenge.

• UAB's Robert Vaden was arrested for public intoxication in Bloomington, Ind., last weekend, just after he was voted Conference USA's Player of the Year. Vaden's punishment isn't known yet. He was already on probation for getting arrested for a disorderly conduct charge in Birmingham last year. For Columbus weekend, Vaden went back to IU, where he was a scoring guard for then-IU coach Mike Davis, his current coach with the Blazers. This is another one that doesn't need any scientific explanation. It's rather first-grade material. If Vaden plays, then the Blazers have a chance at the NCAA tournament. If he doesn't, they won't. It's up to him to behave from this point forward if he's given the chance.

Here's what we still don't know as practice starts on major eligibility issues:

• Will USC get Alex Stepheson for this season after he transferred from North Carolina? He is seeking a waiver to play right away for hardship within his Los Angeles-based family.

• Will Seton Hall get New Mexico State's Herb Pope -- who was shot near his Pittsburgh-area home in high school and claims plenty of home duress in his eligibility appeal to the NCAA -- to be eligible immediately?

• Will the Pirates also get Missouri's Keon Lawrence eligible (academic reasons) in mid-December after Lawrence transferred home to be near his family in Newark that is apparently, according to coach Bobby Gonzalez, going through tough times?

• Will Connecticut, as the Huskies' coaching staff expects, get small forwards junior Stanley Robinson and freshman Ater Majok eligible in mid-December, too? Robinson's issue apparently isn't eligibility but more of a responsibility one, while Majok does have to get through the NCAA clearinghouse. Meanwhile, Nate Miles, the expelled UConn freshman forward, started using a scholarship that can't be given to someone else this season. That means Robinson, if he's eligible, would and apparently plans on paying his own tuition for the spring semester (he qualifies for financial aid). The UConn roster lists 11 scholarship players now; Majok would be the 12th, and Miles has the 13th locked.

One final nugget

•Saint Joseph's Phil Martelli signed a four-year extension to take him to 2015-16 with the Hawks. Martelli's name has been bandied about recently for openings such as Providence and Rutgers. But there may not be a coach who fits his school and his city more than Martelli. I never believed Martelli would leave Saint Joe's or Philadelphia.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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