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What College Teams Want for the Holidays

'Tis the season for holiday cheer and gift giving. What's at the top of your wish list? Probably, something material, like a new car, or season tickets, or ESPN Full Court TV coverage (sorry). But if college basketball programs had wish lists, they might have these items at the top:

- A healthy season. The Blue Devils are just an injury or two away from being knocked off the top spot in the polls. Should Jason Williams or Mike Dunleavy go down for any amount of time, they could lose a game or two. Actually, they might want to add "better rebounding" to their list since they still have trouble out-rebounding lesser teams.

- An easier non-conference schedule. With only nine scholarship players on the roster, Lute Olson's Wildcats have to trudge through one of the most difficult non-conference schedules ever assembled. With games against the likes of Maryland, Florida, Texas, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan State and UConn, Olson's young crew is being tested early. So far, they're matching up better than anyone could've imagined and there's no doubt this will be a dangerous team come March. By the way, the only "cupcakes" on their schedule are Purdue and Pepperdine.

Western Kentucky
- Respect. After beating Kentucky last month and climbing to #16 in the polls, the Hilltoppers have fallen off in popularity because of some tough losses to Creighton (in double overtime) and Vanderbilt. It's evident WKU needs 7-1 All-American candidate Chris Marcus (foot injury) back in the lineup, because they are running out of opportunities to prove that the Kentucky win wasn't a fluke and that they belong in the NCAA Tournament. The same lack of respect will be given to other teams like Butler, Ball State and pretty much every other team in the MAC.

- Another year out of DeJuan Wagner. With all the injuries, upsets and other unexpected happenings in college hoops so far this year, the only certain thing is that freshman DeJuan Wagner will score 20+ points a game. Without him, the Tigers would be just another Conference USA team. Scouts are already drooling over him and he's a definite top five lottery pick, so it's already a foregone conclusion that his first year in Memphis will be his last. But there's always a possibility that his dad Milt (now an assistant at under Calipari) will convince him to stay a little longer and enjoy some family time.

Texas Tech
- That Bobby Knight can keep his cool through the entire season. Thus far, Knight has given Tech fans exactly what they wanted: a basketball team worth watching. But some are wondering how long it will be before the ex-Indiana coach throws his first chair in Lubbock or chokes his first Tech player. It's going to happen sooner or later. Tech AD Gerald Myers hopes it's much, much later.

- A point guard. Ron Curry, whatever. Because of slack recruiting efforts on the part of former coach Bill Guthridge, the Tar Heels are without a proven floor general and that more than anything has been the reason for Carolina's great collapse. Sorry, Adam Boone, but you're just not the leader they need. If Curry can come back in January, the season may be salvaged. Otherwise, fans will have to sit back, suffer through the season and wait for Raymond Felton to come in next year.

- That they never have to play in the Richmond Coliseum again. The Cavaliers had a chance at a quality non-conference win against Michigan State in Richmond as part of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. But because of poor court conditions at the Coliseum, the game was cancelled five minutes into the second half and will not be made up. The Richmond Coliseum has had many problems over the years with the condensation on its floor and it is widely considered one of the most unsafe sports venues in the nation. How such an important game was scheduled there in the first place is beyond me.

- That NBA scouts will stay away from Dwyane Wade. Through the early part of the season, one of the big surprises has been the play of 6-4 redshirt freshman Wade, who has been averaging 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists per contest. But coach Tom Crean is weary of scouts who may be looking to pluck him from the roster and put him in an NBA uniform. Hey, it happened to Charlotte's Rodney White last year; it could happen again.

Georgia Tech - A shot-blocker. Believe it or not, Tech is missing the inside presence of Alvin Jones. More teams are finding it easier to score inside on the Jackets, especially since 7-0 freshman Luke Schenscher went out with a broken foot, and it's driving Paul Hewitt crazy. If there were only some way to get prized recruit Chris Bosh eligible this year?

Florida State - That Nigel Dixon can keep the weight off. Big Jelly has always come into the season weighing significantly less than he did the previous year. The problem is he always seems to put more on as the season progresses. If the Seminoles are going to make noise in the ACC this year, Dixon's going to have to find a way to stay trim throughout the season. Weight Watchers is not out of the question.

NC State - Consistency. After floundering against non-conference opponents like Ohio State and UMass, State pulled an about-face and turned in one of their best overall performances under Herb Sendek when they crushed Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. But can Sendek get his troops to play like that throughout the rest of the year? Well, it's not completely out of the realm of possibility. But if the win over Syracuse turns out to be a fluke and the Pack revert to their self-destructive ways, I suspect the one item Pack fans will put at the top of their wish list is a new coach.

by Chip Bremer