Christmas wish list

Is now the time for a new NCAA hoops video game franchise?

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College hoops fans have always been sort of the unwanted step-children of the video game world. Fantastic franchises like Madden Football and NBA2K keep pro sports fans happy year-in and year out, and college football fans are well-served as well. But college basketball has never had a truly top-notch franchise, and no company has produced a game for college basketball fans since Electronic Arts made NCAA Basketball 10 in 2009.

A reporter from KXTV asked EA designers about their future plans for college hoops, and they were cagey at best.

Ben Haumiller, the series producer for EA Sports’ NCAA Football franchise, sees a market for it, though he can’t comment definitively on the subject.

“We’re in the college football business – we’ve been in the college basketball business in the past – who knows,” he commented.  “I mean, at this point, though, it’s kind of hard to say.”

Heck, that could be the actual motto of the NCAA itself eleven months out of the year. College football drives the bus, as we all know. As a fan of the game, however, I have to say I’ve never really loved any college hoops game I’ve played. Everything from recruiting to gameplay – not to mention the inability to really emulate the atmosphere of the games – fell short, in my opinion.

Emulating and likeness are big issues in the college hoops world right now, too. With Ed O’Bannon’s case growing more teeth by the week, I wouldn’t blame anyone for shying away from adding to their potential liability if O’Bannon is successful in gaining retroactive compensation for athlete likenesses used for profit.

In all honesty, I’ve only ever wanted an NCAA video game to use as a kind of methadone to calm the shakes when real hoops are on hiatus. During the season, there’s nothing like the real thing. If the games come back, hopefully they’ll be higher quality. If not, there’s always the superior gameplay and actual, compensated use of real names and faces of the NBA franchises.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Christmas Wish Lists: Forward’s free throws, 3’s and a third threat

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Free throw shooting from the forwards

The guards and wings seem to have no problem knocking down the freebies – Peyton Siva hits 87.5-percent from the line, along with Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear all hitting 70-plus-percent. But as a team, Louisville is only hitting 68-percent from the charity stripe, and it starts in the post. Chane Behanan, a guy who lives in the paint and takes more contact than anyone on the roster, is shooting an embarrassing 45.5-percent from the line. The problem extends further, with Gorgui Dieng (before injury, obviously) and Montrezl Harrell, shooting sub-65-percent on free throws as well.

Stocking Stuffer: Three-point shooting

I tried to think of something else to not copy Dauster this afternoon, but this is a need. This is something that has been on the Cardinals Christmas list since last season. Louisville is shooting 31.4-percent from deep, with not a single player hitting better than a 38.5-percent clip (that’s Russ Smith, obviously). Peyton Siva’s 33.3-percent, Wayne Blackshear’s 30.2-percent and Luke Hancock’s 25-percent aren’t awful numbers, but in Rick Pitino’s system, there needs to be better production on the perimeter. I’m sure Pitino would like to see the rest of his shooters hit the three’s on-par with Russdiculous.

Planning on re-gifting: The search for a third scoring threat

When two players carry the scoring load for a team, some ask ‘where’s the rest of the production coming from?’ This has been a phrase uttered by a few pundits and fans on social media about Louisville. In this case, who cares? Russ FREAKING (as Dauster has to include) Smith is clocking in 20.3 points per game and Siva is chipping in 10.9 per game. But after that, three Cardinals, Blackshear, Dieng and Behanan average eight-plus points per. After them? Hancock and Harrell average six-plus points. With balance like that Pitino doesn’t need a third major threat. So go ahead and let someone else have that gripe.

David Harten is a sportswriter and college basketball blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Christmas wish list: What does Indiana want and need?

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From now until Christmas, Beyond the Arc will detail what some teams need. Hey, we’re in a giving mood.

Christian Watford gave Indiana a pretty sweet Christmas gift two weeks ago when he nailed a game-winning 3-pointer against Kentucky. But there’s still more Tom Crean’s team needs.

What other teams have Christmas wish lists? Click here

Must have: An NCAA tournament berth. That’s non-negotiable.

The Hoosiers are 12-0, ranked 17th in the Top 25 and have perhaps the nation’s best freshman in center Cody Zeller. You start like that and somehow miss the NCAA tournament, well, the state might implode out of sheer frustration.

And rightly so. Indiana will push Ohio State for the Big Ten title and should vie with Wisconsin, Michigan State and Purdue for a top three finish. I don’t expect Crean’s team or the fans to be satisfied with only an NCAA tourney berth — a couple wins are probably in the cards – but it’s the bottom line this season.

Stocking stuffer: Watching Jordan Hulls shoot free throws.

The junior guard exemplifies the term “automatic” when he’s at the stripe. Until he missed a shot in Thursday’s win against UMBC, he’d made 56 straight, dating back to last season (the 10th longest streak in NCAA history). In fact, he was irate about his first miss of the season.

So when will he miss next? I’m going with Feb. 15. (Just picked it randomly. Turns out that’s a home game against Northwestern.)

Planning to re-gift: Its Big Ten schedule. The start, I mean.

The Hoosiers open at Michigan State, play host to Ohio State and Michigan, then get slight reprieves with Penn State and Minnesota before heading to Columbus. That’s a brutal stretch that could leave them 3-3 in conference play before January’s half over.

That happens, who knows what becomes of Indiana’s confidence?

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Christmas wish list: What does UNLV want and need?

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From now until Christmas, Beyond the Arc will detail what some teams need. Hey, we’re in a giving mood.

Why would UNLV need anything this holiday season? The Rebels have knocked off a No. 1 team (North Carolina) handed an unbeaten Big Ten school its first loss (Illinois) and whipped Cal by 17 points on Friday.

Does Dave Rice’s team really need anything else? Well, yeah.

What other teams have Christmas wish lists? Click here

Must have: A fast pace.

When Dave Rice took over for Lon Kurger, he promised the Rebels would run and score. He’s proven to be a man of his word, too. UNLV runs (it gets about two more possessions a game than the average D-I team, and that’s after playing the likes of USC, Wisconsin and Louisiana Monroe, three of the pokiest teams around) and scores (78 points a game, or the 18th most efficient team). At 13-2, it’s clearly paying off.

Yet those two losses came in games where … the … pace … crawled. Wichita State went slow (not its style this season, oddly enough) and seemingly hit every possible shot in an 89-70 win. Wisconsin did the same two weeks ago, though that was expected. With athletic wings and fleet guards, Rice is playing to UNLV’s strengths. The Rebs have fared OK in some half-court settings this season, but the faster, the better.

Stocking stuffer: Getting Anthony Marshall to control the game.

If UNLV’s junior guard struggles, it’s not a huge issue. Senior Oscar Bellfield can run the offense, or junior Justin Hawkins can step in. But Marshall presents the most upside, both for his defense and quickly improving offensive game. He struggled with his shot until breaking out for 22 against Cal.

His assist-to-turnover ratio needs work (it’s essentially 2-1), but there’s lots to like about his game. Especially when he’s hitting.

Planning to re-gift: That perimeter defense. It’s the chink in UNLV’s armor.

Entering the Cal game, teams were hitting 35 percent of their 3s against the Rebels, slightly above the D-I average. Rice says the team doesn’t do as much trapping around the arc as UNLV did last season, which has made it a little tough for the players to adjust.

Cal was a bright spot, though. The Bears entered the game hitting 44 percent from deep and they finished just 5 of 15.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Christmas wish list: What does NC State want and need?

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For the next five days, Beyond the Arc will detail what some teams need. Hey, we’re in a giving mood.

Under first-year head coach Mark Gottfried, the Wolfpack are surprising some people, out of the gate. What does North Carolina’s “third team” have to do to get back to national prominence?

Maybe a Christmas-time boost would help. Let’s take a look at the list.

What other teams have Christmas wish lists? Click here

Must Have: A view of the future

NC State is in a good spot right now. Picked to finish 8th in the ACC, they may have four losses, but those defeats have come at the hands of quality opponents: Indiana, Vanderbilt, Syracuse, and Stanford.

CJ Leslie is continuing to emerge as the team’s leading scorer, showing how his athleticism can impact the game at both ends of the floor. If he sticks around and doesn’t enter the NBA Draft, he would be the anchor to the star-studded recruiting class Gottfried is bringing in 2012.

Speaking of that recruiting class, it is one of the best in the country, featuring elite passer Tyler Lewis, high-level swingman TJ Warren, and blue-chipper Rodney Purvis.

Gottfried is building his team on athleticism, and Lewis is a great choice to lead the attack. Working in combination with athletes like Purvis, Warren, and Leslie, if he stays, the Wolfpack are building a solid foundation for a run in the ACC.

Stocking Stuffer: A commitment from Amile Jefferson

Just as Kentucky wants to score a late commitment from Shabazz Muhammad, NC State would love the same from the Philadelphia-born forward, Jefferson.

Jefferson is a crafty, intelligent, lanky forward from Friend’s Central (Pa.) who has the Wolfpack in his final list, along with Villanova, Ohio State, Stanford, Temple, Kentucky, and Connecticut.

He would fit well into the up-and-down, fastbreak style the Gottfried favors and is one of the smartest ballplayers in his class, when it comes to operating in the half court. He may not be a freak athlete, but his basketball IQ makes him a top 30 prospect.

Planning to re-gift: The success of in-state rivals

NC State has been the third wheel in the state of North Carolina for a long time. With the Tar Heels and the Dukies in the same market, that can happen.

With both teams in the top 10 this year, Gottfried & Co. will have to weather the storm and continue to build, before they make their breakthrough.

Purvis, Warren, and Lewis were all huge pick-ups, with all three being from the Tar Heel State. Building a foundation like that so quickly will bend the success curve favorably for the Wolfpack.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Christmas Wish List: What does Duke want and need?

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For the next five days, Beyond the Arc will detail what some teams need. Hey, we’re in a giving mood.

Mike Krzyzewski already gotten his 903rd win. He’s got another Maui Invitational trophy sitting on his mantle. And while his Blue Devils got waxed by Ohio State, they are sitting pretty at 10-1 with a stable of quality wins this season.

So what do you get the coach that’s already gotten his gifts?:

Must have: The continued growth of Austin Rivers

There has not been a more polarizing player in the country in this young season than Austin Rivers. Coming into Duke, his cockiness might have been the only thing that outweighed his hype, and through 11 games he’s been good. Really good, in fact. But he hasn’t been great, even by freshman standards, which has drawn out the critics. And, frankly, many of those critiques are 100% accurate. Rivers doesn’t have the greatest shot selection. He does force the action too much. He does commit some silly turnovers and miss an open man. In other words, he makes freshman mistakes.

But he is, in fact, a freshman, and freshman are supposed to make freshman mistakes. What’s more important is that, in just 11 games, Rivers has already shown improvement in a number of those areas. He’s gotten better as the season as progressed, and that continued growth is going to be a determining factor in Duke’s season. Rivers is the only player on the Duke roster that is capable of putting the ball on the floor and creating off the dribble. He’s going to be the guy that, when defenses get better late in the season, is turned to as Duke’s go-to player. If he is making good decisions without losing his aggressiveness in March, the Blue Devils will be a better team for it.

Stocking stuffer: A session with Dave Hopla for Mason Plumlee

Dave Hopla is a legendary shooting instructor, a guy that has made a name for himself with his ability to hit an absurdly high-percentage of free throws. Mason Plumlee, right now, is known as the guy that cannot make a free throw. We are now 11 games into the season, and Plumlee — who has taken the most free throws on the Duke team — is shooting a paltry 38% from the free throw stripe. From the three-point line, 38% is a solid number. From the free throw line, however, 38% is somewhere between atrocious and pitiful.

What those missed free throws have done is hide just how good of a year he is having. The middle Plumlee is averaging a double-double — 12.9 ppg and 10.0 rpg — despite missing 44 free throws and having countless post-up opportunities taken away by defenses forcing him to head to the line. That number has to improve, but it doesn’t take away from the effort Mason has put in to becoming a presence in the paint on the defensive end. He’s blocking shots, he’s grabbing boards and he’s making himself a factor, something that you haven’t always been able to say about him. He’s needs to start making his free throws, but don’t let that poor percentage take away from how good he’s been in other areas.

Planning to re-gift: Jump shooters that can’t defend

The defensive end of the floor is where the biggest concerns for the Blue Devils lie. Look at their best offensive lineup — Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, Andre Dawkins, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee. Plumlee is the only one that can really be considered an above-average defender. The other four? They create some matchup problems and plenty of space offensively, but what happens when they have to play North Carolina? Or, for that matter, what happens when they try to defend a back court like, say, Miami?

What other teams have Christmas wish lists? Click here.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.