It's officially Christmas Eve!
That means Santa Claus will be commanding his sleigh led by eight mystical reindeer all around the world. We got an exclusive look at what each Big East program is likely asking Saint Nick for this year.
Take a look.
Size: Most people would probably say defense, but that end of the floor usually tightens up more come conference play, so I'm going in a personnel direction. To Butler's credit, they've actually done a really great job of battling teams with legitimate size down low (look no further than last weekend's contest with Purdue for evidence of that), but they're still going into games with their tallest starter listed at 6'8". So far, it hasn't been an issue outside of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off game against Miami (FL), but for a team that doesn't have a ton of weaknesses right now, a true 7'0" and/or a lengthy guard that can make an impact right away would probably be right at the top of Chris Holtmann's wish list.
A quality win and more from James Milliken: At times, Creighton was pretty impressive during the nonconference season, but they failed to pick up a quality win. They had a few opportunities against Arizona State, Oklahoma and Indiana to do it, but came up short. A win against St. John's or Villanova would do wonders for this team's confidence as they head deep into the tough Big East schedule.
A bigger issue is the fact that senior guard James Milliken has been inconsistent for the Bluejays. In those opportunities for big wins this season, Milliken averaged seven points and did not do too much else. We saw great things from Milliken as a junior, including impressive performances in the conference tournament at MSG last season. Creighton needs more from him if they want to surprise the Big East this season. If you are the Bluejays, hope that Santa brings more Milliken this holiday season.
Consistent play: The Blue Demons would love if St. Nick could bring them the ability to play consistently. DePaul has taken losses to Penn State (119th in KenPom when they played), nearly beaten Northwestern (59th in KenPom), and blew out George Washington (42nd in KenPom) at the Rosemont Horizon earlier this week.
The Blue Demons are a team still searching for identity and consistency.
Start strong and finish games: If you had told me, or anyone else on staff, that Georgetown would be 7-5 heading into conference play with losses to Radford, Monmouth and UNC Asheville, the person you told would have replied with something like, "lay off the eggnog" or simply "no way!" However, you would have been right. We have heard plenty from the Hoya haters saying that Georgetown will be down this year and JTIII needs to coach better or his days will be numbered. Calm down, folks.
Georgetown has the talent to turn this season around and possibly make a run at the conference title. It comes down to that talent getting off to better starts and finishing games stronger. In the losses to Radford, UNC Asheville and Monmouth, the Hoyas were at home, but let the underdogs get confidence early in the game. Georgetown would turn it on late in those games, but it was not enough. In the losses to Maryland and Duke, Georgetown was the aggressor early, but they could not finish off their rivals and missed out on two quality wins. The Hoyas just need to put it all together and they have the talent to do it. If Santa reads this, a Christmas bow would be a good present for the Hoyas to symbolize tying all of their talent and experience together into a successful season.
Ball Security: Entering the season without a true and experienced point guard on their roster, Marquette was expected to hit some rough patches with regard to holding onto the ball. Now averaging 15 turnovers per game with a combined 4.8 from point guards Traci Carter and Duane Wilson, Marquette's achilles heel has proved to be their carelessness on the offensive end. Their 19.8% turnover percentage (per kenpom.com), is a measly 247th in the nation. The Golden Eagles will need to receive prudence on the offensive end from Santa this year if they wish to earn an NCAA tournament bid come March.
Size up front: There isn't much more Providence can ask for on the court after a 12-1 non-conference start and a top 10 ranking. The biggest present was given early when Kris Dunn opted to return to school for this season. Friar fans will be looking to Santa Cooley to provide some additional size up front in the form of a shiny new recruit, whether it be a midyear transfer like Goodluck Okonoboh, or a current member of the class of 2016. Some names on that front include Iran Bennett, Isaiah Whaley, Darius Hicks, Tauren Thompson and Jordy Tshimanga.
Consistent defense in Big East play: The Pirates find themselves at 10-2 headed into Big East play once again, with a tough conference schedule ahead. Seton Hall played well in nonconference play and got their revenge against Georgia and Wichita State, which should turn out to be quality wins. However, The Hall will now face a grueling schedule with so many talented teams that will be looking to bring the Pirates back down to earth once again. The key will be Seton Hall's ability to hinder guards in the paint and making life difficult on the Big East's best backcourt players. Angel Delgado, Michael Nzei and Ishmael Sanogo have done a great job with this so far. If they continue to do so, Seton Hall will be in good shape. When teams have struggled scoring on the Pirates, the offense seems to fall into place. It is like Coach Kevin Willard always tells the media, Seton Hall needs to let their defense dictate their offense and not the other way around. Isaiah Whitehead and Derrick Gordon have also played well defensively, which must continue into conference play as well. For it to be a Happy Hall-iday (see what I did there), the Pirates need to be solid on the defensive end consistently.
Consistency, a little bit of luck, and maybe surfboard to ride the waves: Chris Mullin could give his team a number of metaphorical gifts this Christmas, such as a surfboard to ride the waves of conference play, but what this team could most use on Christmas Morning is a mix of a little bit of luck, and a lot of consistency in their play. Nonconference play was a topsy-turvy experience for St. John's as they had consistent outings against the likes of Syracuse, St. Francis Brooklyn, and even in a loss to Indiana, but at the same time found themselves in some rather ugly moments such as barely winning over Niagara in a low scoring affair, holding off Chaminade in a fairly winnable game and closing out nonconference play by dropping their final three games to Incarnate Word, NJIT, and South Carolina. They can either be a team on the upswing, or their own worst enemy. Heading into conference play and getting back to a consistent basic style of play will work best with Federico Mussini anchoring the offense with his guard play outside the paint, Durand Johnson moving in and out of the paint, and finally working the ball underneath with either Christian Jones or Yankuba Sima, who has struggled at times, but the potential is there. With consistency will come the little bit of luck for the Johnnies, who could pull off an upset or two in Big East play and make riding the waves of the Big East a little more manageable. Then again, a surfboard is a pretty neat gift, metaphor or not.
A #BENYE win over Xavier: Conference play will kick off for Villanova against Xavier on New Year's Eve. Once upon a time Villanova was the clear cut favorite to win the Big East for this upcoming season. However, an undefeated Xavier squad, a powerhouse Butler team, and a Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil led Providence crew have quickly stolen that notion of Nova being the top dog in the Big East. Nova would love nothing more than to hold down The Pavilion and quiet the critics with a dominant "Don't forget about us" win over #6 Xavier.
A win over Villanova: It sounds straightforward enough as the Musketeers play Villanova in their next game, but, since joining the Big East two years ago, the Musketeers are 0-5 against the Wildcats including a couple of blowouts. While the world outside Xavier may now be confident that they are the team to beat this year, until Xavier takes down Villanova head-to-head both Xavier fans and the team still feel like there is a lot to prove.