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Depleted Northridge starts basketball season against powerhouses

Northridge, which has suspended six basketball players, opens against No. 16 San Diego State and No. 2 Arizona

Cal State Northridge's basketball team finished one win shy of qualifying for the NCAA tournament last season, and the Matadors brought in a strong recruiting class to bolster another run. But Northridge opened its season Friday at No. 16 San Diego State with a depleted roster.

The school has suspended six players — five freshmen and a transfer student — pending the completion of a school investigation.

And it doesn't get easier soon for Northridge, which plays at No. 2 Arizona on Sunday.

Brandon Martin, Northridge's athletic director, said in a statement this month the school "has elected to sit several basketball players due to potential violations of team rules and university policies." In declining to identify the players, the school cited educational privacy laws — an indication the problem is an academic issue.

An athletic program spokesman said the suspended players would continue to practice and participate in team activities but would not travel or compete in games. The investigation is not expected to last more than 60 days.

The Matadors still have some firepower. Leading scorers Stephen Maxwell and Stephan Hicks are not among the suspended players. Maxwell, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, was a first-team All-Big West Conference choice last season when he averaged team highs of 17.5 points and 8.8 rebounds. Hicks, a 6-6 senior swingman, averaged 17.2 points and 6.8 rebounds.

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