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 Syracuse to Xavier.

Let’s get into it.

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

SYRACUSE: Shooting

There is just one player on the Syracuse roster that shoots it better than 30 percent from three: Tyus Battle. Battle has his own shortcomings as a player – namely, he doesn’t do much beyond score – but his ability to make shots is critical for a team that doesn’t really have anyone else that can do that. The Orange, right now, are a team that is surviving based on their ability to get to the offensive glass. Will that last against bigger, better teams in the ACC? (Rob Dauster)

TCU: More of the same?

Jamie Dixon has to just be asking for more of the same. The Horned Frogs are 11-0 and have one of the country’s most efficient offenses, thanks largely to some serious bucket-getting. TCU just has to hope that Old St. Nick – along with Jaylen Fischer, Vlad Brodniansky, Desmond Bane and Kenrich Williams – can keep them delivering against the Big 12 rather than the relatively, compared to their league, weak competition they’ve played. (Travis Hines)

TENNESSEE: A box out

I am somewhat worried about Tennessee’s like of bucket-getters offensively. Outside of Grant Williams, there isn’t really anyone on that roster that would scare me as an opposing coach. But the bigger concern for Tennessee is that they just do not rebound the ball on the defensive end. The Vols currently ranked 316th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. That’s not good, and something that needs to be improved if Rick Barnes’ wants to get his team a win or two in the Big Dance. (RD)

Grant Williams (Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

TEXAS: A healthy Andrew Jones

Texas already ranks as one of the worst offensive teams among the crop of potential NCAA tournament invitees, and that was before they lost their leading scorer and the only guy on the roster that shoots better than 30.8 percent from three to a wrist injury. Think about it like this: Texas ranks 337th in three-point shooting on the season, and that includes the 43.2 percent that Jones shoots. With him out, they mustered 52 points at home in a loss to Michigan and 47 points at home in a win over a mediocre Tennessee State team. (RD)

TEXAS A&M: A healthy Admon Gilder

Things are going swimmingly for Billy Kennedy’s team, so the status quo seems to be plenty good for them. To keep things going, though, Kennedy has to be wishing for a speedy recovering for Admon Gilder, who is expected to miss a few weeks due to a knee injury. The Aggies’ SEC schedule is pretty front-loaded, so getting Gilder back quickly could be huge. (TH)

TEXAS TECH: Someone to make a perimeter shot

Chris Beard is looking for some shooting under the tree this holiday season. The Red Raiders have been awesome defensively – blocking shots, getting steals and keeping scores low – but their 3-point percentages could really use a boost. Only two players – Jarrett Culver and Davide Moretti – are shooting better than 35 percent on at least 30 attempts this season. Texas Tech will be happy to grind games out in the Big 12, but at some point they’ll need to space the floor. (TH)

Keenan Evans (John Weast/Getty Images)

UCLA: Jalen Hill and Cody Riley doing what needs to be done in order to return

Given the indefinite suspensions of Hill, Riley and the departed LiAngelo Ball, the UCLA rotation is stretched thin. The Bruins could really use Hill and Riley, two talented 6-foot-10 forwards who before the season began were thought to be capable of at the very least being supplementary options in the front court. While Gyorgy Goloman and Alex Olesinski have earned their keep so to speak, with Thomas Welsh leading the way, UCLA really doesn’t have anywhere else to turn outside of those three. In theory Hill and Riley would be able to help out whenever they’re allowed to play, but we really don’t know since they aren’t allowed to work out with the team. Hopefully they’ve done everything possible to make Steve Alford and the administration consider allowing them to play, because having two more bodies wouldn’t be a bad thing for UCLA at this point. (RJ)

UCONN: A new shoulder for Alterique Gilbert

The Huskies have major issues all over the floor – and, frankly, the bench – right now, and they aren’t necessarily solvable in the short-term. That said, I do think that things would be helped immensely if a healthy Alterique Gilbert can come back. I don’t know that he’ll ever be healthy, as he’s dealing with an injury to the same shoulder he dealt with last season, but if he does come back, they’ll get the point of their defense back as well as another guy that can create a shot for himself. (RD)

USC: DeAnthony Melton on the court

This one’s simple. While the Trojans are a talented group, they sorely miss a player in Melton who can tie it all together on both ends of the floor. Not sure when (or if) USC will allow Melton to play, but he needs to be on the court and the Trojans need him out there are well. Here’s to Melton getting back on the court before the start of conference play. (RJ)

VILLANOVA: Continued health

For my money, Villanova is the best team in college basketball and I’m not quite sure that there is all that much that they can do to be better beyond, say, getting Eric Paschall to actually make some threes; he’s 1-for-20 on the season. For my money, Villanova is just about perfect as they are, but there isn’t all that much depth on the roster should someone get injured. They don’t really have a backup for Omari Spellman. They don’t really have a replacement for Jalen Brunson, especially now that Collin Gillispie is missing some time. So let’s just keep the kids healthy, shall we? (RD)

VIRGINIA: A slasher

Virginia more or less are who they are, right? You know they’re going to play slow. You know they’re going to play the Pack-Line. You know the actions that they are going to run, and who the sets are going to be run for. What they’re missing is someone that can create if things get bogged down, a guy that doesn’t need an action run for him to create a shot or get to the foul line. As a team, they are 285th in free throw rate. As good as Kyle Guy has been, if he’s not running off screens and getting catch-and-shoot looks, he’s not all that effective. (RD)

Kyle Guy (Chet Strange/Getty Images)

VIRGINIA TECH: Depth

Wishing they could grow another serviceable big man for its rotation quicker than a Chia Pet, Virginia Tech will have to settle for developing more help on a short bench. The Hokies have a deep team if they’re playing the mediocre competition on their non-conference schedule. Against a juggernaut like Kentucky, however, it only looked like Virginia Tech had six players capable of logging major minutes. Once the ACC begins, expect a shortened rotation from Buzz Williams, but he could certainly use some of his bench guys stepping up in the next few months and earning more PT. (Scott Phillips)

WEST VIRGINIA: Esa Ahmad, and better offense

The knock nearly every year of the Press Virginia era has been the Mountaineers’ lack of scoring in the halfcourt when its defense isn’t turning to offense. West Virginia has been pretty good in the halfcourt this season, though, ranking in the 81st percentile nationally in points-per-possession, according to Synergy Sports. Still, Bob Huggins has to be looking to squeeze a little more out of the offense once conference play starts and the turnovers are harder to generate. Esa Ahmad’s return from academic suspension should help. (TH)

WICHITA STATE: The AAC to be better

Before submitting his letter to Santa, Gregg Marshall undoubtedly checked to make sure Trae Young wasn’t on the schedule again this year or avoiding the Sooners freshman would have topped the Shockers’ list. As it stands, Marshall has to be asking for the AAC – namely Cincinnati, SMU, Houston and Temple – keep high computer numbers to help Wichita State to nab that high seed that’s eluded them since that 2014 undefeated season. (TH)

XAVIER: A third scorer

A consistent third scoring option is something Xavier is wishing for. Although the Musketeers have a really deep team full of potential third options if Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura have off nights, they still don’t have a third go-to player to get them a bucket. Some nights it might be Kaiser Gates. Others, it might be the rotation of big men that includes Tyrique Jones, Kerem Kanter and Sean O’Mara. Or maybe it’s a young perimeter options like Naji Marshall or Quentin Goodin. Either way, at some point this season, Xavier is going to need someone other than Bluiett and Macura to get a big bucket and a consistent third scoring option would not hurt. (SP)

Flagler, No. 6 Baylor rally late, top No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63

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USA Today
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In a rematch of the 2021 national championship game, Adam Flagler hit a pair of 3s as No. 6 Baylor scored the final eight points to rally past No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63 Friday night.

Gonzaga’s Rasir Bolton missed a wild, driving layup try at the buzzer.

Two seasons ago, Baylor beat the then-undefeated Zags 86-70 to win its first title. This time, the Bears didn’t take the lead for good until Jalen Bridges made two free throws with 16 seconds left.

“Adam is a great leader, but no one knew he wasn’t feeling well today,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “To be honest, some players wouldn’t have played. He played through the pain and left it all out on the court. As a coach, I appreciate that.”

The Bears (6-2) trailed 63-56 before Flagler hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left. Flagler’s 3 with just over a minute to play cut Baylor’s deficit to 63-62.

After a Gonzaga shot clock violation, Flagler’s 3-point attempt for the lead was off the mark, but Bridges was fouled by Drew Timme on the rebound attempt. Bridges hit two foul shots to put Baylor ahead.

The Zags (5-3) had a final chance when Bolton caught an inbounds pass near his own foul line with 4.6 seconds remaining. He drove the lane, but his off-balance shot went high off the glass and missed as the buzzer sounded.

“We took two balls down hill and tried to make plays at the rim. At that point in the game, those are tough,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “It’s very disappointing. They made plays, man.”

Freshman Keyonte George had 18 points and seven rebounds for Baylor. Flagler had 11 points and Langston Love added 10.

“I trust my work. I was able to knock them down,” George said. “My teammates believe in me each and every day. They give me that confidence in a big game to make big shots like that.”

Malchi Smith scored 16 points for Gonzaga. Anton Watson added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Timme had nine points.

Baylor led by as many as 12 in the first half before Gonzaga closed to five at the break.

Watson’s basket put Gonzaga ahead 41-40. From there, the teams swapped leads over the next 13 minutes as the second half featured two ties and 14 lead changes.

A thunderous dunk from Smith gave Gonzaga its seven-point lead with under two minutes to go.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The win was a big rebound for Baylor after its 26-point loss to Marquette earlier in the week. The loss was the Bears’ most lopsided since they fell to Kansas 82-56 in 2007

Gonzaga: After opening the season ranked No. 2 in the AP preseason poll, the Zags have now lost two of three.

STAR WATCH

Timme began the night leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 20 points per game. He was hampered by foul trouble against Baylor and got his first field goal with six minutes remaining. He fouled out with 16 seconds to play.

REMATCH PLAYERS

Four players on the floor Friday night had significant minutes in the championship game two years ago including Flagler, Timme and Watson, along with Baylor’s Flo Thamba.

UP NEXT

Baylor: The Bears return home to host Tarleton on Tuesday before playing Washington State on Sunday in Dallas for the Pac 12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to Spokane for three straight beginning Monday when they face Kent State for the first time in school history.

Carr scores 19, No. 2 Texas beats No. 7 Creighton 72-67

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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas had pressured Creighton’s shooters into a miserable night, only to watch a late flurry of 3-pointers start swishing.

An 11-point Longhorns lead was down to three.

That hardly rattled Marcus Carr and the second-ranked Longhorns, who stepped up with big late shots of their own and steady free-throw shooting to secure another impressive early-season victory, 72-67 over the seventh-ranked Bluejays on Thursday night.

Carr scored 19 points and made two free throws with 10 seconds left as Texas held off Creighton’s furious late-game rally.

Creighton struggled through a wretched 3-point shooting night, but pulled within 62-59 thanks in part to five points in a row by Baylor Scheierman. Carr’s baseline jumper and an easy layup by Tyrese Hunter when Creighton lost him on an inbound pass with 46 seconds left stretched the Longhorns’ lead again.

That didn’t quite close the door on Creighton, which got two more 3-pointers from Scheierman, who had missed his first nine attempts. That forced Texas to finish it from the free-throw line behind Carr and Brock Cunningham. Cunningham’s two free throws with 4 seconds left were his only points of the game.

“There’s going to be a bunch of times one of us has to go down there and knock down a bunch of free throws,” Carr said. “We talk about it all the time.”

The matchup was part of the Big 12-Big East Battle and Texas earned its second win over a top-10 opponent in its new arena. The Longhorns (6-0) beat then-No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 16 and have their highest ranking since they were No. 1 during the 2009-2010 season.

“I don’t think we’ve proven anything,” Texas coach Chris Beard said. “We’re just a team that’s trying to get better.”

Hunter scored 15 points for Texas.

Ryan Kalkbrenner had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Creighton (6-2), and Ryan Nembhard scored 17 points. The Bluejays were 4 of 27 on 3-pointers.

Scheierman, a 44% shooter from beyond the arc this season, made three 3s in a row late. His off-balance shot from the right corner over a defender pulled the Bluejays within 68-65 with 11.4 seconds left.

Scheierman finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“The reality is you are gonna have nights,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It just happens. We don’t ever want him to stop shooting.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Kalkbrenner was all but unstoppable on a 9-of-10 shooting night for the Bluejays, who kept launching from long range instead of looking for their 7-foot-1 center.

Texas: The Longhorns couldn’t force their usual numbers of turnovers and fast-break points, but were exceptionally clean with the ball on offense. Texas had just three turnovers that Creighton turned into three points.

FORMER TEAMMATES

Texas senior forward Christian Bishop played three seasons at Creighton before transferring prior to last season. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.

“We understood what this game was, not just for our team but for Christian,” Carr said.

TIRED TEAM

McDermott suggested his team maybe just wore out. The Bluejays went 2-1 in the Maui Invitational last week and then played their first game of the season on an opponent’s home court.

“Three games in three days against ranked teams (in Hawaii) and then to come in here,” McDermott said. “That’s a lot to ask of my team.”

UP NEXT

Creighton hosts in-state rival Nebraska on Sunday.

Texas plays No. 16 Illinois in New York City on Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Classic.

No. 20 Maryland upsets No. 7 Notre Dame at the buzzer, 74-72

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Diamond Miller scored 31 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer, to lead No. 20 Maryland to a 74-72 victory over seventh-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Irish guard Sonia Cintron’s layup had tied the game with 15 seconds left off before Maryland held for the last shot. Miller hit a contested mid-range jumper just before time expired to give the Terrapins a victory over a top-10 opponent. It was the 15th lead change of the game.

Miller also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with five assists. Shyanne Sellers added 17 points.

Maryland (7-2) picked up its first win over Notre Dame (6-1) since 2007.

Cintron’s double-double led the Irish with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Notre Dame’s leading scorer Olivia Miles got off to a slow start on Thursday due to foul trouble. She scored 12 of her 14 points in the final 15 minutes of the game to go along with seven assists and two steals.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terrapins picked up their second top-20 win of the season ahead of the upcoming Big Ten opener.

Notre Dame: The Irish have had issues with foul trouble this season, a problem that persisted on Thursday. Miles played just 25 minutes, including the majority of the fourth quarter, due to picking up her fourth foul late in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Returns to College Park for the program’s Big Ten opener Sunday against Nebraska.

Notre Dame: Stays home to host No. 3 UConn Sunday.

Virginia’s depth helping its rapid climb in the AP Top 25

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The starting five is the same, but that is where comparisons between the Virginia team that has climbed to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and last year’s NIT quarterfinalists ends.

Yes, one more year together and a trip to Italy has made the first five significantly better, but part of the credit for that surely goes to another group: the reinforcements. They’ve helped the Cavaliers (6-0) already knock off No. 6 Baylor, No. 16 Illinois and Michigan.

Virginia has scored 70 points or more in its first six game for the first time since the 2003-04 season, and coach Tony Bennett said it was the offense – and not UVA’s signature relentless defense – that saved them in a 70-68 victory this week at Michigan in the ACC/Bg Ten Challenge.

“Our offense kind of kept us in it in the first half,” Bennett said, before the team put it all together, erasing an 11-point halftime deficit to disappoint a raucous Wolverines crowd.

Reece Beekman was the offensive catalyst, scoring 15 of his 18 points before halftime, but four others joined him in double figures, including Jayden Gardner. His foul-line jumper with 39.9 seconds left provided the last of his 11 points, and the winning margin.

Gardner, who led Virginia in scoring last season (15.3 ppg), is averaging 11.5 this year.

“We’ve got a lot of capable scorers and we’re just gonna keep playing together. And we’re playing very unselfish basketball right now,” Gardner said after scoring 24 against Maryland Eastern Shore. He went into the game with 31 points through four games.

“He’s not the most jumping type of guy, but he’s got so much power,” Hawks coach Jason Crafton said of Gardner, an East Carolina transfer with 2,068 career points. “That low center of gravity and the flexibility that he has to be able to get under people and hold his position is elite. When he wants the ball at a certain spot, he can get it there.”

The leader remains guard Kihei Clark, who already has a place in Virginia history, having retrieved a loose ball and fed Mamadi Diakite for a jumper that sent the Cavs’ Elite Eight game against Purdue into overtime on the way to winning the 2019 national championship.

Newcomers Ben Vander Plas, a transfer from Ohio, and freshman Isaac McKneely have given Bennett more options, and more scoring power than a year ago.

As a junior, Vander Plas had 17 points for No. 13 seed Ohio when the Bobcats upset Virginia 62-58 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

He scored seven straight in the second half against the Wolverines, twice scoring inside and then swishing a 3-pointer while trying to slow down bruising big man Hunter Dickinson.

“Ben, yeah. Just his poise and composure in the post, took advantage of some mismatches and he really gave us a great lift,” Bennett said. Vander Plas is the son of a teammate of Bennett’s at Green Bay, and his first name is a tribute to Bennett’s father, Dick.

McKneely scored 15 and made 4 of 6 3-point tries in an 89-42 victory against Monmouth

“He was standing in front of our bench. I’m like, `Listen, we’re not helping off him,”‘ Monmouth coach King Rice said he told his team, pointing at McKneely, a two-time player of the year in West Virginia. “And he kind of looked at me and I said, `Yeah, you, because you make all of them,’ and he started laughing.”

Ryan Dunn also made quite the impression on Rice in his first collegiate appearance, scoring 13 points with six rebounds and three blocks in almost 27 minutes.

“I was in the building when De’Andre Hunter came off the bench and had a breakout game,” Rice said of Hunter, now with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “Dunn reminds me a lot of Hunter, and you can tell he’s young. But when he grows into that body with that skill set, he’ll be giving people problems for a long, long time.”

The Cavaliers open Atlantic Coast Conference play against Florida State, then host top-ranked Houston, which beat them 67-47 last season, a week later.

“A good schedule for sure and it tests you, it kind of shows you, win or lose, you see where you’ve got some holes,” Bennett said.

So far, the Cavaliers have been able to fill them all.

No. 4 Arizona turning heads early in the season

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd knew there was talent on his roster. He wasn’t exactly sure how good the team would be.

The former longtime Gonzaga assistant had a similar view of last year’s team and that one turned out to be pretty good, running all the way to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

This year’s team could end up being even better.

Buoyed by transfers and improved returning players, Arizona has rolled through the early part of its schedule, climbing to No. 4 in this week’s AP Top 25 after winning the Maui Invitational.

“I learned that we’re good,” Lloyd said. “We’re tough. We’re gritty. I think there’s going to be some great things for us to really double down on and some things to show our guys where we went the wrong way.”

Lloyd had a superb first season in the desert, earning coach of the year honors last season with a team that lost three players to the NBA.

The Wildcats (6-0) had to replace three NBA players again this season. Again, they made a seamless transition.

Improvement on the part of the returning players has been a big part of it.

Oumar Ballo, considered a project as a freshman at Gonzaga, has transformed into one of the nation’s best big men. The 7-foot, 260-pound center from Mali has vastly improved his footwork and developed patience in the post, setting himself up for good shots instead of trying to bull his way to the basket.

Ballo is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 76.7% from the field, fourth-best nationally. He was named Maui Invitational MVP after finishing with 30 points and 13 rebounds against No. 7 Creighton in the title game.

Not bad for a player who averaged 2.5 points and 6.3 minutes per game two years ago at Gonzaga.

“When he struggled, I still believed in him,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t need for him to be instantly successful for me to reaffirm my belief in him. When he struggled, we continued to love him and work with him and then he continued to hang in there and I think it is a great story.”

Fellow big man Azuolas Tubelis has made a few strides of his own, adding strength and toughness to his athletic, fluid game. The 6-10 forward leads Arizona with 19.3 points per game while grabbing 8.0 rebounds.

Fiery point guard Kerr Kriisa has rounded into a reliable floor leader, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 51% from the 3-point arc.

“I don’t pay attention to the antics because they don’t mean anything to me,” Lloyd said. “I know maybe that draws attention to him from other people but when it comes to just pure basketball, I mean he is doing a good job and I think he is really showing something.”

So is Courtney Ramey.

The Texas transfer has given the Wildcats a huge boost in his first season in Tucson, providing hounding defense, leadership and another scoring option. He’s averaging 16 points per game and has hit 10 of 16 from 3-point range so far this season.

Campbell transfer Cedric Henderson Jr. has provided an athletic lift off the bench and 7-foot Estonian Henri Veesaar has given Arizona solid minutes.

The mix of new and old has helped Arizona lead the nation with 97.5 points a game and rank second with 21.8 assists per game. The Wildcats climbed 10 spots in this week’s poll after wins over Cincinnati, No. 24 San Diego State and Creighton.

Arizona opens Pac-12 play Thursday at Utah.

“It was good to get the recognition, but we’re not satisfied,” Ramey said. “Our ultimate goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the season and be the final two teams playing, so I think the regular season matters but it’s not the ultimate goal for us.”

The Wildcats are certainly off to a good start.