Nevada and Pitt's PG worries

October, 28, 2008
Quick hitters for Tuesday:

• Nevada coach Mark Fox said he has no idea when starting guard Brandon Fields and freshmen Ahyaro Phillips and London Giles will be reinstated after a shoplifting incident earlier this month.

Fox was counting on Fields being his leader in the backcourt after he started all but one game last season. He was the Wolf Pack's third-leading scorer with 12.4 points a game.

Nevada, the likely WAC favorite, could struggle without Fields. That's fine. Fox says he's not about to compromise. He's extremely disappointed with the incident.

"It was a shock," Fox said. "I expect them to live up to a standard. There's no question we were counting on him."

In Fields' absence, Fox said assistant coach Kwanza Johnson, who played at Tulsa, has had to practice. Fox said Johnson is still in good shape and the Wolf Pack need the bodies. He said Lyndale Burleson, a senior guard, will replace Fields, a junior, for the foreseeable future.

Luke Babbitt hasn't been affected. The highly touted freshman forward is expecting to make a major contribution. Fox said he's living up to the hype with a terrific attitude, passing and ability to finish plays.

• Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said LeVance Fields will do five-on-zero workouts this week but will not participate in any contact drills. The plan for Fields, recovering from foot surgery and an infection that occurred after the procedure, is to go two days on, one day off for the foreseeable future. Dixon said Fields is due for X-rays to check on the healing of the foot on Monday.

• Virginia Tech is scrimmaging at Georgetown this weekend. Memphis is at Saint Louis. Nevada is at Saint Mary's. A number of these scrimmages are taking place across the country. Coaches prefer these to exhibition games, but at a number of schools they must play an exhibition game because they need the revenue of a home game.

• The A-10 made its preseason predictions known Tuesday and it shouldn't come as a surprise that Xavier was the pick to win the league. Temple, Dayton, Saint Joseph's, Charlotte, UMass and Saint Louis were the top seven. Richmond, Rhode Island, La Salle, George Washington, Duquesne, Fordham and St. Bonaventure were the bottom seven.

If there is one team in the top seven that could surprise and win the A-10 it is likely UMass. The Minutemen, under new coach Derek Kellogg, return the top backcourt in the league with Ricky Harris and Chris Lowe. Experienced guards are a must in this and any league. But what was obvious in looking at the three all-league teams, all rookie-team and all-defensive team is that this league is devoid of a star. That doesn't mean someone like Derrick Brown of Xavier or Dionte Christmas of Temple can't become one, but the league enters the season without a nationally known name.

• The Missouri Valley conference issued its predictions and Creighton was the top pick. Southern Illinois, Illinois State, Drake, Bradley, Northern Iowa, Indiana State, Evansville, Wichita State and Missouri State round out the league. The top five in this league will all be competitive enough for postseason berths. It's still amazing to me how far Wichita State has fallen since Mark Turgeon left. I wonder if Gregg Marshall would have rather stuck it out at Winthrop and seen if he could have landed South Carolina last spring when Dave Odom retired. Instead, he was in Kansas while Darrin Horn of Western Kentucky was the opportunistic one, landing the job after a Sweet 16 appearance.

• Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett could have easily gone to Oregon State. Why did he stay? "Because I like it here," Bennett said last week in his office, which is adorned with multiple Australian flags. Bennett has had a history of luring Aussies to Saint Mary's and has five on this season's roster. "I like the players, the staff and the school. I like what it's about."

Bennett is entering his eighth year at the school and his decision to stay in Moraga will help Saint Mary's stay competitive with Gonzaga atop the WCC for years to come.

• ESPN and coaches in the WCC should be pleased to know that McKeon Pavilion has new lights. Games at Saint Mary's have seemed dark on television and also to those who have coached in the games. The Gaels have three home games on the ESPN family of networks -- Gonzaga on Feb. 12, San Diego on Feb. 19 and the BracketBuster game on Feb. 21.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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