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PITTSBURGH -- As the season tips off Monday night with a soft opening (something akin to debuting a new restaurant to family and friends during the week before the big weekend rush), there are still legitimate concerns about some significant players who are out.
• Pitt will play Rhode Island without starting forward Nasir Robinson (right knee surgery) in the opener of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. (The other opening games at the event include UC Irvine at Illinois, Navy at Texas and Seattle at Maryland). Robinson said early Monday that he has been biking to get movement back and is hopeful he can play on Nov. 18 against Maryland in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
|An ankle sprain will keep SEC preseason player of the year Trey Thompkins out of Georgia's season opener.|
• Georgia coach Mark Fox said Sunday night that SEC preseason player of the year Trey Thompkins won't play in the Bulldogs' opener Friday against Mississippi Valley State because of a high right ankle sprain. Fox said the Georgia training staff is aggressively treating the sprain.
The Bulldogs have a rough early season schedule with a home game against Colorado on Nov. 16, which is hardly a pushover with NBA-level players in Cory Higgins and Alec Burks. They then visit Saint Louis on Nov. 20, which would have been a much more difficult game had the Billikens not suspended two of their best players in Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed.
Georgia's schedule gets tougher with a game against Notre Dame in the first round of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando on Nov. 25. Once that tournament is over, the Bulldogs play always-pesky UAB before its rivalry game at Georgia Tech on Dec. 7.
Do the Bulldogs need Thompkins for all of them? No. But, for a team in a rugged SEC East, losing games early can add up when it comes time for selection or seeding in March. Had the schedule been softer earlier, then there might not be as much cause for concern.• It's hard to project if Kansas will have point guard Josh Selby for the opener against Longwood on Friday. There has been no indication from the NCAA that he will be cleared of an amateurism issue.
• The most discussed player who is dealing with an amateur issue is Kentucky's Enes Kanter. But unlike Selby, Kanter can't practice. The question for Kanter is: Did he receive more than the allowable expenses while playing for a Turkish professional team as a teenager? His case will be interesting for the NCAA since the organization got rid of the one-for-one game suspension rule. This comes down to expenses. How will the NCAA interpret what was fair for a player to receive and still maintain any amateurism before he transferred to the United States to play? Of course, this is with the understanding that there was no signed contract or agent agreement.
Kentucky is clearly a more legitimate contender with Kanter playing inside. But he's not as far along as DeMarcus Cousins was a year ago, and he doesn't have the maturity or locker-room ability that Patrick Patterson had last season. Kanter's overall impact is still hard to gauge, especially early in the season when he's still trying to adjust to the college game.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said Monday that he's treating it as if Kanter is an injured player who he is not able to contemplate playing since he's not practicing. Kentucky opens Friday against East Tennessee State, and there is no expectation that Kanter will be cleared for the game. The Wildcats then visit Portland to play the Pilots on Nov. 19 before facing Oklahoma in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Nov. 22.
• Baylor coach Scott Drew hasn't given any indication whether senior guard LaceDarius Dunn will be cleared to play for the Bears' opener against Grambling State. Dunn has been suspended from competition after an assault charge was leveled against him.
• Iowa State learned late Monday afternoon that Minnesota transfer Royce White is ineligible to play. The Cyclones were waiting to see if White had to sit out the year in residence (even though he never played for Minnesota) since he was suspended over multiple issues (theft for one). The NCAA denied White's waiver Monday. Iowa State is appealing the decision, and the school announced that it will appeal to a committee of faculty representatives and athletic directors. White transferred to Iowa State on July 12.
Coach Fred Hoiberg said White has been a major impact player for the Cyclones, giving them a scorer in the post and a beast on the boards. He said White bench pressed 185 pounds 22 times, "which would have made him one of the top players at the NBA combine." Iowa State opens the season against Northern Arizona on Friday. The Cyclones desperately need White in the rough Big 12, especially with the departure of Craig Brackins. The Cyclones' primary post is 6-foot-11 senior Jamie Vanderbeken, but he would not compare to the production that the 6-foot-8 White could produce, if eligible.
"We are disappointed in the decision, but we will start the appeal process immediately,'' Hoiberg said Monday afternoon in a statement. "We will exhaust every option available to try and restore Royce's eligibility. Royce is disappointed as well, but he is appreciative of our intent to appeal the decision."