The most wonderful time of year? Hardly.
Welcome to one of the quietest weeks on the college basketball calendar, what with the whole holiday thing interfering with the natural rhythm and flow of the normal schedule. We’re kidding. Somewhat.
But yes, there are but 16 games between now and Sunday involving ACC teams – and some of them are real doozies. Like Florida State-Stetson in Tallahassee, Fla., on Monday night. Or Syracuse-Colgate. Or Virginia Tech-Virginia Military. The kind of games only James Naismith’s mama could love.
At least amid the relative abyss we’ll have time to finish – or start – our Christmas shopping. Which gets us to thinking: If the ACC’s 15 head coaches – as well as a couple of other league dignitaries – made public their letters to Santa, what would be on their wish lists? Might look a little something like this …
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Tony Bennett, Virginia: More 3-point attempts for Justin Anderson, a junior forward. Hey, if he’s going to shoot 61.5 percent from back there, then by all means. Also on the list: some more national recognition amid the first 11-0 start in 21 years.
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse: The book “Basketball Shooting,” by, according to Amazon.com, “professional shooting coach Dave Hopla.” Maybe it’ll help the Orange, which ranks 350th nationally in 3-point field-goal percentage (23.4 percent).
Mike Brey, Notre Dame: A Jerian Grant clone machine, made in the mold of the one Mike Krzyzewski used, and with success, to replicate the Plumlee brothers. The worst part about Grant, who’s averaging 18 points and shooting 54.6 percent? This is his final season in South Bend, Ind.
Brad Brownell, Clemson: K.J. McDaniels isn’t walking through that door, or sliding down that chimney, but the ultimate gift here might be a little something to take the edge off these close games, anyway. Six of the Tigers 10 games have been decided by five points or fewer – most in the ACC.
Jim Christian, Boston College: More grad students and an extension of the Canadian pipeline. Forget the one-and-done model. In Christian’s first season with the Eagles, two of his best players have been Aaron Brown and Dimitri Batten, a pair of grad students. Then there’s Olivier Hanlan, the ACC’s all-time leading scorer among players from Canada.
Jamie Dixon, Pitt: Good health and merriment for Cameron Wright, the Panthers’ leading returning scorer this season who made his first start Dec. 13 after missing the first seven games with a broken foot.
Mark Gottfried, N.C. State: Some more victories against local rivals would be nice, but let’s start with more forced turnovers. The Wolfpack has been one of the nation’s worst teams at generating turnovers – just 15.7 percent of their opponents’ possessions have ended in them, which ranks 340th nationally – though the rest of the defense has been solid.
Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech: Can you give the gift of patience? If Georgia Tech sticks with Gregory after what’s likely to be another subpar season, the answer is yes. He has yet to win more than 16 games with the Yellow Jackets, who have a bad loss already against USC Upstate.
Leonard Hamilton, Florida State: A nice, new case for his 2012 ACC tournament and coach of the year awards. We’re thinking something with some high-class, rich-textured wood here. High-quality glass. Hamilton might need to be reminded of what was while trying to salvage what is a difficult reality without Aaron Thomas, who’s ineligible the rest of the season.
Mike Krzyzewski, Duke: The potion, bottled up, that has led to the right chemistry on this team as opposed to others with prized freshmen and important – but less talented – veterans. The formula appears correct now, with Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, but something was amiss on other recent Duke teams. And also: 1,000 more victories. Or maybe a couple hundred?
Jim Larranaga, Miami: A strong pint of holiday eggnog. To help ease the pain – and the memory – of that loss against Eastern Kentucky, which was among the most confounding performances in the ACC during nonconference play.
Danny Manning, Wake Forest: Is it too mean here to say fumigator, which Manning could use to purge the program of what doomed it under Jeff Bdzelik? Maybe. Regardless of what’s on Manning’s wish list, there are no quick fixes in Winston-Salem. It will take a while to bring Wake Forest back to respectability.
Rick Pitino, Louisville: A new all-white suit and some better shooting (Cardinals rank 164th nationally in effective field-goal percentage) would make for some nice stocking stuffers. We all know what the top line on the wish list is, though: a victory against Kentucky on Saturday.
Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech: Some comedy show DVDs. Maybe some Louis C.K. Chris Rock. Sometimes the best medicine is laughter, especially when you feel like crying. It’ll be that kind of first season for Williams at Virginia Tech, where he inherited one of the worst rosters in recent ACC history.
Roy Williams, North Carolina: A thesaurus, so he can come up with different words to describe the same intangible his team keeps lacking. Last season the word was “urgency.” This season it’s “toughness.” Ol’ Roy has had to revert to Old Roy – the fiery coach he was at Kansas – to get his team playing harder.
And how we could forget …
John Swofford, ACC commissioner: A Final Four team, which would snap the league’s longest Final Four drought in more than 50 years. Among Duke, Louisville and Virginia, there’s no shortage of strong candidates to end the season in Indianapolis.