Top Ten 2009 College Basketball Team Wishes
While millions of children turned out their stockings and unwrapped their presents on Christmas morning, there were several college basketball teams that were also anxiously searching for their much-needed presents from Santa.
In increasing order to finish with the most needed present, here are the top ten gift requests heading into the New Year.
10. Kentucky Wildcats
After another embarrassing opening loss this season, Kentucky has quietly put together an impressive streak of performances to end the year. The Wildcats should have an easier time of making the NCAA tournament this year, but if they want to advance they will need to find a third competent body on offense.
Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson have averaged a combined 44 points per game at this point in the season, but a solid defense will force the Cats to get buckets from other sources.
9. Davidson Wildcats
Stephen Curry has rarely failed to impress this season (averaging 30 points per game) as his publicity has carried over from last year's NCAA tournament. Even in a zero-point effort against Loyola (MD) Curry got positive publicity since he drew a double-team from the opposing team at all points on the floor.
Curry had his first major dose of reality in his team's recent loss to Purdue, where Curry only tallied a mere 13 points on five-26 shooting against a stingy Purdue defense.
Davidson's wish for this year will be for a road through the NCAA Tournament consisting of opponents with weaker defenses that won't concentrate on Curry. Their long-term wish should also be to get Stephen's little brother Seth to transfer from Liberty, where he is averaging over 20 points per game.
8. Arizona Wildcats
After 24 full seasons with Lute Olsen as head coach, Arizona is playing under new interim coach Russ Pennell. The Arizona program has reached 24-consecutive NCAA tournaments, all coming under Olsen.
Arizona's wish is for some beginner's luck for Pennell as he looks to continue the streak for the Wildcats. The quest of continuing the streak is off to a good start with impressive wins over Gonzaga and Kansas, but Pennell will have to work to keep a team that has been characterized by star individuals and undisciplined defense in recent years focused through the rest of the season.
7. Memphis Tigers
Memphis is a young team with talent looking to get a second run at a championship after last season's debacle. The one thing Memphis has to deal with that none of the power conference teams do is a weak conference schedule.
Conference USA hasn't provided any competition for the Tigers ever since the Big East poached most of the top programs. The Tigers will need an elite Conference USA team to emerge in conference play both for experience against competition and an opportunity to improve their seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
6. Duke Blue Devils
Still bitter after recent abrupt tournament exits, Duke fans are desperate for a deep tournament run from this year's team. To gain a favorable seed and put themselves in better position to do so, Duke will need solid performances in their two (or three) games against UNC.
UNC will, barring unforeseeable surprise, be a No. 1 seed in the tournament and it will be very difficult to justify the Blue Devils as a top seed if they get beaten badly by the Tar Heels. Their success against UNC will also be a good barometer for their potential success against good teams in March.
5. Dayton, Xavier, Temple, UMass, Rhode Island, St. Joseph's, Richmond
The Atlantic 10 Conference has been one of the most surprising conferences in the early part of the season, with numerous impressive performances against top teams. The biggest obstacle facing teams coming out of the Atlantic 10 for making the NCAA tournament will be each other.
Since it appears as if several of these teams are very good, the conference losses will pile up for some of these teams that possibly deserve tourney bids. All of these teams should be hoping for a favorable conference rating for the Atlantic 10 come Selection Sunday, so spectacular records aren't necessary for an at-large bid.
4. Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies have the simplest wish of any team, and it is for some good luck. Seth Greenberg's squad has dealt with many buzzer beaters over the past few seasons, and their prevalence has increased already this season.
Virginia Tech's first loss of the season came when Xavier banked a half-courter buzzer beater with the Hokies leading by one. The Hokies also lost a heartbreaker in their Big Ten/ACC Challenge game at home against Wisconsin. The Hokies had a furious comeback to tie the game at the end of regulation only to see Wisconsin race down the floor to make an off-balanced floater for the victory.
Tech's most recent loss came at Georgia, where the Bulldogs made a basket with 28 seconds left to ruin the Hokies one-point lead and win the game. Especially for a team that has found themselves near the tournament bubble several times in the last few seasons, it is important to come out on top in some of these close games.
3. Mississippi Rebels
Ole Miss has been hit hard by the injury bug, most recently with losing speedy point guard Chris Warren to an ACL injury for the season. To their credit though, the Rebels have held strong and played solid basketball this season.
In a weak SEC, Ole Miss will still have opportunities to be in position to make the NCAA Tournament. To do that, they will need their coach, who is fighting assault charges against a cab driver. The Rebels wish for Andy Kennedy's legal trouble to end as quickly as possible, and in a favorable outcome for him to continue coaching the team.
2. Syracuse Orange
When you're only loss against a tough non-conference schedule came off of a 60-foot buzzer beater, it doesn't appear you should be too worried about qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
But Syracuse plays in the toughest conference in the country and has infamously found ways in the past couple of seasons to falter down the stretch and miss the Big Dance. While the 'Cuse have a good core of players, they will need their currently suspended leader at his best to continue their success this season.
The Orange hope for Eric Devendorf to complete his community service, stay in top basketball shape, get reinstated to the University, and continue his production on the court in his return.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels should be hoping for a loss in ACC conference play prior to the NCAA Tournament. The 2008-09 UNC squad is already drawing comparisons to the best college basketball teams of all-time, but if winning a championship is a priority then so should be avoiding drama and extra attention.
Just ask the New England Patriots how hard it is to focus on finishing a regular season undefeated and then refocus to winning in the postseason. The Patriots couldn't even win three games in their playoffs; UNC would have to win six in the NCAA tournament to claim the title.
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