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Jeff Eisenberg

Holiday gifts for every BCS-conference basketball team

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Since this weekend marks the peak of the pre-Christmas shopping rush, many of us will be braving the holiday traffic to hunt for iPads and big-screen TVs or LEGO sets and Buzz Lightyear action figures.

Unfortunately, what college basketball players and coaches often want for the holidays isn't always found at a mall. Here's a look at what we'd put under the tree for each BCS-conference basketball program:

ACC

Boston College: A city that cares more about college basketball. Even with the Eagles at 8-2 and emerging as the ACC's surprise team, they're still well behind the Red Sox's hot-stove maneuvers and the surging Celtics and Patriots in the Boston news cycle.

Clemson: Some guard depth. The transfer of shooting guard Noel Johnson and a knee injury suffered by leading scorer Demontez Stitt leaves the Tigers perilously thin in the backcourt.

Duke: A favorable prognosis on point guard Kyrie Irving's toe injury. With him, the Blue Devils are a clear favorite to win the national title. Without him, they're just one of many contenders.

Florida State: An offensive coordinator. Under Leonard Hamilton, the Noles have traditionally been a great defensive team, but the offense never seems to reach its potential.

Georgia Tech: A booster wealthy enough to pay coach Paul Hewitt's reported $7 million buyout. There's a good chance the underachieving Yellowjackets might have made a coaching change last year were it not for Hewitt's buyout being so large.

Maryland: A free throw shooting coach. The Terps are an infuriating 63.4 percent at the foul line, a problem underscored by star Jordan Williams' 54.3 percent output.

North Carolina: A new starting point guard. Larry Drew II has looked slightly better since the victory over Kentucky, but the Tar Heels better hope Kendall Marshall is the longterm answer.

NC State: A healthy Tracy Smith. Others have stepped up in the absence of the senior center, but the freshman-heavy Wolfpack still lack back-to-the-basket scoring and leadership without him.

Miami: 5,000 extra season-ticket holders. The Hurricanes averaged just 4,713 fans per game last season, least among BCS-conference teams.

Virginia: Some post moves for junior center Assane Sene to go with his improved interior defense. Sene is a key for Virginia until Will Sherrill returns from the injury he suffered against Minnesota.

Virginia Tech: A variety pack of herbal teas for coach Seth Greenberg. He'll need them to soothe his nerves on Selection Sunday when the Hokies are back on the bubble for the fourth straight season.

Wake Forest: An open bar at The Joel. No way season-ticket holders should be expected to watch the woeful Demon Deacons week after week without a stiff drink or four.

BIG TEN

Illinois: A group of players as passionate as Illini fans. This year's team looks far hungrier than last year's underachieving bunch, but their focus, defensive intensity and killer instinct still wanes every once in a while.

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Indiana: A relationship counselor to mend the rift between Bob Knight and the school he led to three championships. The General should swallow his pride and visit Bloomington again to receive the ovation he deserves.

Iowa: A celebrity fan who won't get the program in trouble. The NCAA apparently already has Ashton Kutcher in its crosshairs.

Michigan: A victory over in-state rival Michigan State. Michigan has lost 11 straight games in East Lansing and 18 of 21 games in the series overall.

Michigan State: Another nonconference patsy or two on the schedule. Love that the Spartans will play anybody, anywhere, but this year's schedule has been especially challenging even by Tom Izzo's standards.

Minnesota: A clean bill of health for point guard Al Nolen, who is currently sidelined with a mysterious foot injury. That's the type of injury that often lingers, which is something the Gophers can't afford.

Northwestern: A more favorable Big Ten schedule. Starting at Purdue, vs. Michigan State and at Illinois is not a recipe for launching the program's first-ever NCAA tournament run.

Ohio State: A deeper rotation. Either Thad Matta is adverse to playing more than six or seven players, or for the second straight year, the Buckeyes don't have more than one or two bench guys Matta deems worthy of playing time.

Penn State: More help for guard Talor Battle. He's averaged 20.1 points per game so far this season, yet the Nittany Lions are unlikely to improve all that much on a 3-15 Big Ten record from a year ago.

Purdue: A time machine. That way someone can go back in time and warn Robbie Hummel, so the senior forward doesn't push to return from his torn ACL by the start of the new season.

Wisconsin: A pair of scissors for big man Mike Brusewitz. That ginger 'fro really needs to be trimmed.

BIG 12

Baylor: An upgraded nonconference schedule. Aside from a neutral-court game against struggling Gonzaga and an appearance in the Diamondhead Classic, the Bears are still scheduling like bottom feeders instead of contenders.

Colorado: Another year of Alec Burks. The Buffs will practically be starting from scratch next season if Cory Higgins and Levi Knutson graduate and Burks turns pro.

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Iowa State: More good fortune like Iowa State had against Creighton when referees counted a buzzer beater that should have been waived off. The Cyclones will need all the good luck they can get.

Kansas: Some much-needed perspective on the arrival of Josh Selby. If he doesn't emerge as an instant star or if the Jayhawks have some initial trouble developing on-court chemistry with him, that doesn't mean it's time to panic.

Kansas State: Better off-court judgment for Jacob Pullen. No matter what someone writes about you on a message board, your star senior cannot call your fans "fake" and ask them not to watch you.

Missouri: Peace of mind for guard Marcus Denmon, who's still reeling after his beloved cousin was shot and killed last week. Denmon and Marion Denmon grew up in the same house in Kansas City.

Nebraska: An upset victory over Texas on Feb. 19 in Lincoln. The Huskers squandered their final shot at the hated Longhorns in football, so this would be a nice consolation prize.

Oklahoma: A more manageable schedule next season. Instead of putting together a cupcake-heavy nonconference slate that would allow their young players to grow, the Sooners have scheduled as though Blake Griffin were still on the roster.

Oklahoma State: A marquee win before Big 12 play. The Cowboys are 9-1, but the competition is very suspect, with the best victory coming against Missouri State and the lone loss to a Virginia Tech team that has struggled.

Texas: That the Longhorns' brutal loss to USC earlier this month turns out to be a fluke rather than the start of a trend. Shades of last season in Texas' poor shot selection, transition defense that night.

Texas A&M: A new basketball floor. From the odd checkerboard parquet, to the T-star logo at mid-court, to the outline of the state of Texas that's practically life-size, the current one needs a massive overhaul.

Texas Tech: For Pat Knight to be able to retract his preseason statement that "this is either a get an extension or a get fired type of year." With the Red Raiders at 5-5, it's no secret which direction he's headed.

BIG EAST:

Cincinnati: A strong season from Dayton. For the Bearcats to get credit from the NCAA tournament selection committee for their 68-34 shellacking of Dayton, the Flyers must rebound and finish near the top of the Atlantic 10.

Connecticut: A trophy case for Kemba Walker. The way the Huskies point guard is playing so far, he's going to need one by the end of the year.

DePaul: A return to Conference USA. Perhaps Oliver Purnell will prove this wrong someday, but right now the woeful Blue Demons are simply in over their head in the rugged Big East.

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Georgetown: A nickname for guards Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark. A backcourt trio this good deserves one.

Louisville: A new name for the KFC Yum! Center. The Taj Mahal of new college hoops arenas deserves a less tacky title.

Marquette: A pledge from Nike that they'll never alter Marquette's jerseys, which are neck and neck with North Carolina for the best in college basketball.

Notre Dame: That Tim Abromaitis regains last year's shooting stroke. His 33.3 percent 3-point shooting is down from last season's 42.9 percent.

Pittsburgh: A better publicist for shooting guard Ashton Gibbs. Every time someone says Pittsburgh wins without any stars, it sells short Gibbs, who is averaging 17.2 points, 3.0 assists and 45.6 percent 3-point shooting.

Providence: A sixth foul for each of the Providence big men. The Friars have gotten off to an encouraging start against lesser competition, but they can ill afford foul trouble in Big East play given how thin in the frontcourt they are.

Rutgers: A revitalized student section at the RAC. One of the Big East's loudest venues not so long ago, the RAC currently lacks any semblance of intimidation factor because student turnout has declined along with the program itself.

Seton Hall: A conscience for Jeremy Hazell. The Pirates desperately need Hazell to return soon from his wrist injury, but they'd like it even better if he improved his shot selection instead of chucking up shots the first chance he gets.

South Florida: Resolution to the Augustus Gilchrist fiasco. Gilchrist, a starting forward and USF's leading returning scorer, left the team abruptly on Friday and doesn't appear likely to come back.

St. John's: A do-over against Fordham. Hey, it was OK on the elementary school playground, right?

Syracuse: Another year of eligibility for Andy Rautins. How scary would his jump shot make this team?

Villanova: For Corey Fisher to find his jump shot before Big East play begins. Fisher was considered a Big East Player of the Year candidate, but the senior is shooting a mere 32.1 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range.

West Virginia: An improved relationship between Casey Mitchell and Bob Huggins. Mitchell has bounced back from a rocky first season in Morgantown to lead West Virginia in scoring this year, but a sharp downturn in his playing time the past two games suggests he's back in Huggins' dog house.

PAC-10

Arizona: The swagger of past Wildcats teams. Coach Sean Miller attributed Arizona's 87-65 loss to BYU on Saturday to the Wildcats being "frightened" of the big stage, not good news for a team that's trying to start a new NCAA tournament streak this year.

Arizona State: Dance lessons for coach Herb Sendek. This "Dougie" made Lions quarterback Drew Stanton look like he's ready for Soul Train.

Cal: A book of matches. The Bears should burn every tape they have of that dreadful five-point half against Notre Dame at the Old Spice Classic.

Oregon: More production from guard Malcolm Armstead, Oregon's leading returning scorer from last season. Armstead's points-per-game average is down and his turnovers are up so far this year.

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Oregon State: More games in front of President Obama. The Beavers have been woeful out of conference the past few years, but they've defeated George Washington and Howard in front of coach Craig Robinson's brother-in-law.

Stanford: An improved outside shot for Jarrett Mann. There can't be another starting point guard in the nation who has yet to attempt a 3-pointer and is shooting 28.6 percent from the foul line in 28 attempts.

UCLA: A basket in Saturday's Wooden Classic matchup against BYU for UCLA walk-on Tyler Trapani, John Wooden's great grandson. Trapani has played in garbage time each of the past two seasons, but he's 0-for-2 from the floor.

USC: For Fordham transfer Jio Fontan to be as good as USC coach Kevin O'Neill has promised he'll be. O'Neill has said Fontan is Trojans' best player, even suggesting that USC would be 9-1 or 8-2 had he been eligible from the start of the season.

Washington: Another crack at a Sweet 16 game. The Huskes are 0 for 4 in the Sweet 16 in program history, falling to UConn twice, to Louisville and last season to West Virginia.

Washington State: Good health entering the Diamond Head Classic. If the Cougars are at full strength, they're capable of playing with the likes of Baylor, Butler and Mississippi State and strengthening their nonconference resume.

SEC EAST

Georgia: A blowout win to soothe coach Mark Fox's nerves. Five of Georgia's six wins have come by three points or less and all eight of the Bulldogs' games have been decided by single digits.

Florida: A breakout game from slumping Kenny Boynton. The sophomore guard is 11 of 41 from the field in his past four games and he's shooting a woeful 13 of 49 on the season from behind the 3-point arc.

Kentucky: A reversal on the NCAA's decision to declare Enes Kanter permanently ineligible. The Wildcats suddenly become title contenders if the Turkish freshman provides rebounding, interior defense and back-to-the-basket scoring.

South Carolina: A division switch. The Gamecocks are likely to finish sixth in the loaded SEC East, but they'd likely challenge Mississippi State for first in the West.

Tennessee: More consistency from Scotty Hopson. When he was at his best, the Vols beat Pittsburgh in a virtual road game. When he disappears for long stretches, they got beat at home by Oakland.

Vanderbilt: A gift certificate to a T-shirt printing shop so that some enterprising fan can emblazon this "Pearlnochio" graphic onto 10,000 giveaway T-shirts. Best use of photoshop we've seen in a while.

SEC WEST

Alabama: Lots of home games in the soon-to-be expanded SEC-Big East Challenge. A loss to Providence last week dropped Alabama to 0-11 all-time in road games at a Big East opponent.

Arkansas: At least one more year on the job for coach John Pelphrey. The Hogs may struggle to finish above .500 in league again this season, but Pelphrey deserves the chance to coach the elite recruiting class he landed in 2011.

Auburn: A do-over for coach Tony Barbie. He should have stuck it out for one more season at UTEP and waited for a better opportunity to come along because Auburn is the ultimate dead-end job in basketball.

LSU: Additional charisma for coach Trent Johnson. Presumably he's more interesting behind the scenes, but Johnson is so dry with the media he makes Bill Belichick look like Rex Ryan.

Mississippi: A more favorable start to SEC play. Arguably six of Mississippi's seven toughest conference games come in the first seven games of the league schedule.

Mississippi State: An enthusiastic, fit Renardo Sidney who's intent on scoring from the low block instead of the perimeter. And since that sounds pretty unrealistic given Sidney's lackluster debut, let's also throw in a winning lottery ticket for coach Rick Stansbury.

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