New Mexico’s Jamal Fenton suspended first three games

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New Mexico will be without guard Jamal Fenton for the first three regular season games after he was suspended by the NCAA for minor rules violations.

Fenton reportedly violated NCAA rules due to accepting some impermissible benefits.

The 5-11, 170-pound senior averaged 6.5 points per game in 2011-12. The Houston native didn’t play a ton last season — logging 16.7 minutes per game — but he was efficient, finishing second on the team with 84 assists, appearing in all 35 games last season with six starts.

Looks like the Lobos have fallen victim to the NCAA’s almost automatic “we’re watching you” preseason tactics. Every season, a few teams get hit with some sort of minor violation that hurts them in the beginning of their year. Last season, Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli sat the first six games of the season after he was found guilty of the same kind of issues. Warranted or not. It’s almost as if the NCAA wants to find something to send a message to teams that they still have an eye on them. It’s lame.

Fenton will be allowed to play in both of New Mexico’s exhibition games, against Victory University and New Mexico Highlands. However, he’ll miss the Lobos’ season opener against Davidson, at home, as part of ESPN’s always awesome “24 Hours of College Basketball” event and the first two games of The Paradise Jam, held in the Virgin Islands. Their first game of  that tournament will be against Illinois-Chicago, followed by either George Mason or Mercer.

As a result of the suspension, New Mexico’s guard depth will take a temporary hit. Kendall Williams will have to carry the load, along with Hugh Greenwood. Williams dished out 142 assists last season, Greenwood was third behind Fenton with 83.

It’s definitely not what coach Steve Alford wanted to start the season, but all three games are winnable and Fenton gets to play in both warm-up games, so he won’t be rusty when he comes back.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.

LSU looking into starting lineup options

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 7:  Head Coach Johnny Jones of the LSU Tigers watches his team play during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 7, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 81-78.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.

While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.

Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?

Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.

Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.