Christmas Wish List: Holiday Presents for College Hoops Loyalists
Holiday festivities can go awry between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Just ask top-ranked Virginia, which lost at tiny Chaminade in 1982, and NCAA champion-to-be Michigan, which bowed to Alaska-Anchorage on a neutral court in 1988.
Amid the celebrations, a Christmas holiday week absolutely can not go by without the time-honored tradition of making a list and checking it twice. The wish list, focusing on the good and naughty, doesn't change much from the previous month at Thanksgiving but does have a little different perspective. Following is a healthy serving of food-for-thought wishes presented to hoop observers:
Wish that a striking number of mid-major players earn deserved All-American acclaim this season.
Wish Indiana's Cody Zeller and Duke's Seth Curry join their brothers as the 10th and 11th set of All-American siblings.
Wish Missouri's Flip Pressey joins his father (Paul) as the ninth set of father-son All-Americans.
Wish ex-college hoopster Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta Falcons tight end) wins his first NFL playoff game.
Wish the Pac-12 Conference undergoes a prompt renaissance after struggling just a year ago.
Wish Colorado State's Larry Eustachy, who overcame personal problems, becomes the first coach in history to win at least 24 games in a single season with five different DI schools.
Wish special seasons for standout seniors because they didn't abandon college hoops early and give the sport at least some modicum of veteran leadership.
Wish the best for the Ivy League and Patriot League, which seem like the last bastions replete with textbook student-athletes. Five Ivy League institutions - Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale - can still hold their heads high despite each of them posting all-time losing records. The Ivy League deserves extra kudos for not conducting the money-grubbing gimmick otherwise known as a postseason conference tournament.
Wish proper acclaim for pristine playmakers who show again and again that "pass" is not a dirty four-letter word amid the obsession with individualistic one-on-one moves by self-absorbed one-and-done scholars.
Wish Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who has assembled a "mid-major" powerhouse, reaches his first Final Four.
Wish many highlights for entertaining little big men (players 5-10 or shorter) who inspire us with their self-confidence and mental toughness in the Land of the Giants.
Wish junior college players and foreigners could overcome perceptions in some misguided quarters that they are the rogues of recruiting.
Wish a 100% recovery for Rashawn King, a freshman who overcame cancer to secure clearance to play for North Carolina Central.
Wish patience for the numerous promising first-year coaches assuming control of programs this season. They need to remember the fortitude exhibited by many of the biggest names in coaching who rebounded from embarrassing defeats in their first season as a head coach. An active luminary who lost multiple games to non-Division I colleges in his initial campaign before ascending to stardom as the all-time winningest coach is Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (lost to SUNY-Buffalo, Scranton and King's College in 1975-76 while coaching Army).
Wish Division I schools will soon find their bearings amid the chaotic restructuring of conferences forsaking tradition although the quest for megaleagues could be delusional because they're vying for television revenue that might not exist as network sports divisions operate at ample deficits.
Wish more accuracy for recruiting services incapable of discerning that Creighton's Doug McDermott should have been a Top 100 recruit coming out of high school in 2010. Ditto to announcers who infect the sport by spreading this virus without ever seeing any of the players enough to properly evaluate them.
Wish marquee coaches wouldn't serve up assistants as sacrificial lambs when the heat of an investigation of their program intensifies.
Wish wisdom for anyone who incessantly castigates the majority of undergraduates declaring early for the NBA draft. Before accepting the party line that many of the players are making monumental mistakes by forgoing their remaining college eligibility, remember that more than half of the NBA's All-Pro selections in the last quarter century or so left college early or never attended a university.
Wish a heart for any school not promptly granting a recruit seeking to enroll elsewhere a release from its letter-of-intent when he wants to attend another institution for legitimate reasons.
Wish jaws wired shut for "Me Generation" showmen who've failed to comprehend that their respective teams don't benefit on the court from a trash-talking Harlem Globetrotter routine.
Wish self-absorbed players will finally see the light and spend less time getting tattoos and practicing macho dunks and more on team beneficial free throws. It all hinges on dedication. There is a reason they're supposed to be "free" throws instead of Shaq-like "foul" shots.
Wish high-profile coaches would show more allegiance rather than taking off for greener pastures despite having multiple years remaining on their contract.
Wish network analysts would refrain from serving as apologists for the coaching community. When their familiar spiels echo throughout hoopdom, they become nothing more than the big mouths that bore.
Wish marquee schools will vow to stop forsaking entertaining non-conference games with natural rivals while scheduling a half-dozen or more meaningless "rout-a-matics" at home. Two or three gimmes are enough.
Wish a generous dose of ethics to defrauding coaches who manipulate junior colleges and high schools into giving phony grades. Ditto coaches who steer prize high school prospects to third parties toying with standardized test results.
Wish authenticity for those "fatherly-advice" coaches who don't mandate that any player with pro potential take multiple financial literacy courses. Did they notice in recent years that products from Alabama, Georgia Tech, Georgetown, Kentucky and Syracuse filed for bankruptcy after combining for more than half a billion dollars in salaries over their NBA careers? What kind of classes are taken in college anyway if a staggering 60% of NBA players file for bankruptcy five years after retirement?
Wish overzealous fans will stop flogging freshmen for not living up to their high school press clippings right away. The impatient onlookers need to get a grip on themselves.
Wish many of the excessive number of small schools thinking they can compete at the Division I level would return to DII or DIII. There are far too many examples of dreamy-eyed small schools that believe competing with the big boys will get them national recognition, make big bucks from the NCAA Tournament and put the institutions on the map. They don't know how unrealistic that goal is until most of the hyphenated and directional schools barnstorm the country during their non-conference schedules in college basketball versions of Bataan Death Marches.
Wish ESPN would cease giving forums to individuals who either lie to NCAA investigators as a coach or practice reprehensible race-baiting with the intellectually-bankrupt "Uncle Tom" bomb.