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September 20, 2010

Left scrambling: Ten holes to fill in 2010-11

When the 2009-10 season ended, the 10 guys we're spotlighting today were expected to be -- at the least -- key role players for their teams this season.

Instead, for various reasons -- injuries, academics, coaches' decisions -- these guys won't play this season; further, their situations have become news within the last two months, leaving coaches scrambling to find ways to overcome their departures.

Here are the 10.

Michigan State G Chris Allen
LAST SEASON'S KEY STATS: 27 starts, 8.2 ppg, 39.8 3-pt FG%
BUZZ: Allen, who was a key 3-point threat and a solid defender, left Michigan State in August and transferred to Iowa State. He had been suspended before the Big Ten tournament by coach Tom Izzo for "not being a good teammate." He returned for the NCAA tourney, but he and Izzo eventually decided it was best if he left Michigan State. He would've been a key part of Michigan State's backcourt this season; instead, he'll sit out and be eligible at Iowa State in 2011-12.

Washington F Tyreese Breshers
LAST SEASON'S KEY STATS: 12 starts, 9.9 minutes per game, 3.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 26 blocks
BUZZ: Breshers was a top-75 recruit in the 2008 signing class, but it was announced last week that his career is over because of an undisclosed medical issue. Washington would be a guard-oriented team even with Breshers, but his departure will put even more pressure on the backcourt. The top frontcourt player now is 7-foot center Aziz N'Diaye, who arrives from junior college.

Northwestern F Kevin Coble
LAST SEASON'S KEY STATS: Injured last season; 15.5 ppg, 39.5 3-pt FG% in 2008-09
BUZZ: Coble missed last season with a foot injury and was set to return to a Wildcats team that was returning four starters. But he surprised more than a few people when he announced in late July that he was giving up basketball to focus on academics; he hopes to graduate in December. Northwestern does have the four returning starters, but the Big Ten appears deeper than it was last season and Coble's offensive game would've provided a boost for a Wildcats team still searching for its first-ever NCAA bid.

Oregon C Michael Dunigan
LAST SEASON'S KEY STATS: 21 starts, 9.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 37 blocks
BUZZ: Dunigan's is the biggest departure of the five that have occurred since Dana Altman replaced Ernie Kent as coach. Dunigan would have been the interior anchor of an otherwise small Ducks lineup. Now that Dunigan has signed with a pro team in Israel, Oregon must find a way to survive with nine scholarship players and only two taller than 6-6.

Connecticut C Ater Majok
LAST SEASON'S KEY STATS: 22 starts, 2.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 42 blocks
BUZZ: Majok was a highly touted recruit who ended up playing just 26 games in his UConn career; he announced his departure early this month. His potential will be missed, not necessarily his production. He appears set to play pro ball in Australia, where he has lived since he was 14. UConn lacks depth up front and now needs some freshmen to provide important minutes. The Huskies also need sophomore big man Alex Oriakhi to become more offense-minded.

Providence F Jamine Peterson
LAST SEASON'S KEY STATS: 19.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg
BUZZ: Peterson was in a rare group of players who averaged a double-double last season, but it wasn't enough to keep Keno Davis from kicking him off the team. Peterson, nicknamed "Greedy" (seriously), decided to pursue a pro career. Providence hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2004, and it could continue to be a tough road for the Friars in 2010-11. Two players were arrested in April as well.

LSU G Bo Spencer
LAST SEASON'S KEY STATS: 14.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.7 apg
BUZZ: LSU was 11-20 overall and 2-14 in the SEC last season, and will try to climb out of its hole without one of its best players. Spencer was the team's second-leading scorer behind Tasmin Mitchell, who was a senior. After failing to meet academic requirements set by coach Trent Johnson, Spencer transferred to Nebraska, where he will be a walk-on.

Auburn G Frankie Sullivan
LAST SEASON'S KEY STATS: 12.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.9 spg, 37.1 3-pt FG%, 85.1 FT%
BUZZ: Sullivan, a junior, was to be Auburn's only returning starter and the focal point of the attack for new coach Tony Barbee. But Sullivan tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in late July and almost certainly will miss the season. Sullivan has said he would like to come back in January for the start of SEC play, but it seems unlikely he will be ready. Two of Auburn's key recruits didn't qualify academically, so it looks like a long first season on the Plains for Barbee, who had been coach at UTEP.

Virginia Tech F J.T. Thompson
LAST SEASON'S KEY STATS: 7.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg.
BUZZ: Thompson tore the ACL in his left knee in a pickup game last week and will miss the season. He was the Hokies' top frontcourt reserve last season; Thompson could play both forward positions and added toughness and a physical nature. Given that F Allan Chaney has a heart condition that could force him to miss the season, the Hokies now are dangerously thin up front and will continue to rely heavily on star G Malcolm Delaney.

Washington G Elston Turner
LAST SEASON'S KEY STATS: Three starts, 15.3 minutes per game, 5.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 20 steals
BUZZ: Turner was a key reserve for the Huskies last season, and but he obviously felt Isaiah Thomas, Abdul Gaddy, Venoy Overton and Justin Holiday were entrenched in their backcourt roles, leaving him as the odd man out. Turner is a 3-point specialist who transferred to Texas A&M.

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