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Holiday Wish Lists: What are the nation’s best teams in need of adding this holiday season?

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Over the course of the next three days, we at College Basketball Talk will be cruising through a list of college basketball’s best teams, attempting to figure out who or what they need to add.

Put another way, with the holidays right around the corner, if your favorite team was able to ask for one thing as a gift, what would it be?

Do they need to add a point guard?

Is there enough big man depth on the roster?

Can they shoot?

Can they guard?

Today, we’ll roll through everyone from Maryland to Seton Hall.

Let’s get into it.

MORE: Alabama-Louisville | Syracuse-Xavier
FUTURES: Alabama-Louisville | Maryland-Seton Hall | Syracuse-Xavier

MARYLAND: Fewer turnovers

Can’t suggest the use of Stickum on the level that NFL great Fred Biletnikoff reached during his playing days, but the Terps really have to get this turnover issue under control. The Terps are turning the ball over on nearly 24 percent of their possessions thus far, and while talented Maryland is not in a position where it can essentially throw away nearly a quarter of its possessions. Anthony Cowan Jr., Darryl Morsell and Kevin Huerter do the majority of the ball-handling, and Mark Turgeon needs all three to take a step forward when it comes to valuing the basketball. In a Big Ten that projects to be tight in the middle of the standings, that could be the difference between emerging from that group in good shape or being a bubble team. (Raphielle Johnson)

MIAMI: Someone that can make a free throw

Miami is 349th nationally if free throw percentage, which is a stat that shocked me when I saw it. The Hurricanes have talented guards up and down their roster, but their best free throw shoooter is starting center Dewan Huell at 67 percent? The Hurricanes are also 323rd in free throw rate, meaning that not only do they miss free throws when they actually get to the free throw line, but there aren’t 30 teams that get to the line less often than they do. There are only two teams that get a smaller percentage of their points from the free throw line than Miami does – Army and Kansas – but the Hurricanes don’t rely on the three-ball like those teams do. This is something to keep an eye on. (Rob Dauster)

Bruce Brown Jr. (Eric Espada/Getty Images)

MICHIGAN: Point guard clarity

Michigan currently has three point guards – sophomore Zavier Simpson, freshman Eli Brooks and grad transfers Jaaron Simmons – and none of them have been good enough to take over the role full time. That’s a major problem for the Wolverines considering how important the lead-guard spot is to Michigan’s offense under John Beilein. (RD)

MICHIGAN STATE: More three-point shooting

Tom Izzo and his Spartans are off to a great start but they wish for more three-point shooting help for Cassius Winston. The sophomore point guard has shot a ridiculous 57 percent from distance to start the season but Michigan State only sits at 39 percent as a team. Others like Josh Langford and Miles Bridges have been steady so far. Then there are others like Matt McQuaid and Jaren Jackson Jr. who need to pick it up when it comes to perimeter efficiency. (Scott Phillips)

MINNESOTA: Swag

Getting its swagger back is on top of the Minnesota holiday wish list. Since nearly blowing a game against Alabama when the Crimson Tide only had three players, the Golden Gophers have dropped three of their last five games, and one of those wins was only by one point against a mediocre Missouri Valley team in Drake. Minnesota went from looking like a Big Ten title contender to now being a major question in a down year for the league. Minnesota can regain confidence and be among the league’s best. But this recent slide has been troubling. (SP)

NEVADA: Improved communication

The Wolf Pack had two opportunities for quality wins slip from their grasp earlier this month, as an overtime loss at Texas Tech was followed by a loss to TCU in Los Angeles. Eric Musselman’s squad followed that up with a win over Radford, with the head coach noting afterward that his team needs to get better at communicating with each other. Given the number of new faces on the court one could argue that such an issue is to be expected, but that can lead to mistakes that can be avoided on both ends of the floor. If Nevada is to repeat in a Mountain West that appears to have improved at the top, they’ll need to address this in the games leading up to the start of conference play. (RJ)

NORTH CAROLINA: A freshman big to fast forward three seasons

I’m more bullish on North Carolina now than I ever thought I would be on them this season. Luke Maye has been nothing short of sensational, Kenny Williams has improved and Joel Berry II is Joel Berry II. But the thing this group is missing is a big, physical low-post presence. Roy Williams’ best teams completely dominate the glass on both ends of the floor and have a hoss on the block they can dump the ball down into. They have a couple of freshman this year that look like they could end up being that player is two or three years. So what Roy Williams needs is a time machine, something that can make Sterling Manley or Garrison Brooks a senior instead of a freshman. (RD)

Luke Maye (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

NORTHWESTERN: Their home

The Wildcats wish the Welsh-Ryan Arena renovations were already finished so they could return to playing home games on campus. Experiencing an early-season lull that includes losses to Creighton, Texas Tech, Georgia Tech and Purdue, the Wildcats could really use the pick-me-up of enthusiastic home crowds during Big Ten play. Instead, this team has to settle for playing near O’Hare at the old and dumpy Allstate Arena, where the crowds for Northwestern basketball haven’t translated from last season. (SP)

NOTRE DAME: Bonzie’s perimeter shooting

The return of Bonzie Colson’s perimeter jumper is something that Notre Dame has high atop its wishlist. The senior All-American candidate is once again throwing up unique double-doubles and wrecking opponents on most nights. But Colson’s versatility has also been hindered by a cold-shooting start to the season as he only sits at 29 percent from three-point range. Part of the drop in Colson’s three-point percentage can be equated to uptick in attempts, but Colson has to be able to knock more of them down to keep opposing defenders honest. If Colson finds his perimeter touch, Notre Dame’s offense can become really scary. (SP)

OKLAHOMA: Balance, balance, balance

Lon Kruger would really like more than one season with Trae Young, but not even Santa Claus could deliver that given how dominant the freshman point guard has been. Instead, Kruger is likely asking for consistency from his supporting cast. The Sooners are relying heavily on Young, and he’s awesome, but balance will help on the nights where he doesn’t have it. If that happens, something unexpectedly special could be going down in Norman. (Travis Hines)

OREGON: More trips to the foul line

For the number of offensive options that this team has, they’ve had a tough time getting to the foul line thus far. As a team Oregon has a free throw rate that ranked 228th in the country, which can happen when a team’s top two scorers — in this case Payton Pritchard and Elijah Brown — tend to do more of their scoring by way of the jump shot as opposed to attacking defenses off the dribble. Troy Brown can help in this area given his versatility, and his continued growth (and resulting assertiveness, hopefully) could help Oregon contend in the Pac-12. (RJ)

PURDUE: Michigan State to tank

Purdue is wishing for some Michigan State slip ups in Big Ten play. While the Spartans have been the clear class of the Big Ten early this season, Purdue can easily make the case for being second best in the conference after a seven-game winning streak. Armed with a favorable conference schedule, the Boilermakers only play the Spartans one time and they already earned a road win at Maryland. Purdue doesn’t have to play Northwestern again after already beating them. With that schedule, and an experienced roster, Purdue is hoping to stay involved in the conference title race. (SP)

RHODE ISLAND: Health

The win over the College of Charleston was a struggle for the Rams, but in addition to the win there was some other good news for Dan Hurley’s team: E.C. Matthews was back on the court. Out since the loss to Nevada with a broken wrist, the return of Matthews is a big deal for a team that’s struggled with injuries for much of non-conference play. Cyril Langevine was slowed by a sports hernia, but his play in that win bodes well for the Rams moving forward. So simply put, URI just needs to stay healthy moving forward. With all hands on deck, this is a group that at minimum should make a return trip to the NCAA tournament. (RJ)

Jared Terrell (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

SAINT MARY’S: Defense

The Gaels have been one of the best offensive teams in the country thus far, ranking third in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. With the likes of Jock Landale and Emmett Naar on the court, producing on that end of the floor won’t be an issue for Randy Bennett’s team. What has been an issue is the defense, with opponents boasting an effective field goal percentage of 52.6 percent. What would help Saint Mary’s would be an improvement in keeping teams out of the paint, with opponents attempting nearly 34 percent of their shots at the rim according to Hoop-Math. To make a run at Gonzaga in the WCC as many expected in the preseason, Saint Mary’s has to improve defensively. (RJ)

SETON HALL: A pure point guard

It doesn’t even have to be a good one. They just need someone on the roster who is at his best initiating offense, getting into the lane and making people around him better, because they loaded that Khadeen Carrington is being asked to carry does not allow him to be his best self. Last year, playing off the ball, Carrington averaged 17.1 points and shot 42.4 percent from the floor and 38.2 percent from three. This year, as a lead guard, he’s averaging 11.7 points and shooting 36.7 percent from the floor and 21.6 percent from three. Someone to take the pressure off him – or hell, maybe even someone to simply get him some open looks so he can snap out of this slump – would go a long way towards making the Pirates the top 15 team they should be. (RD)

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.