It's that time of the year again. No, not just the holidays. It's also right before college basketball kicks off its conference schedule, meaning teams in the Big Ten are about to find out are good they are truly are. But it's still a time for holiday celebrations and gifts, and you can be sure that coaches in the Big Ten all have wish lists for the things they hope go right for their teams the rest of the way.
Here's a look at each team's wish list.
- Illinois Fighting Illini
Health for all its players. The Fighting Illini got off to a terrible 3-5 start, but have looked good recently during a four-game winning streak. Getting Kendrick Nunn back from a thumb injury has certainly helped, but Illinois is still without point guard Tracy Abrams, who is missing his second straight season. With a number of other players (Jaylon Tate, Leron Black, Jalen Coleman-Lands) banged up early in the season, the Illini are crossing their fingers that more injuries don't pop up.
- Indiana Hoosiers
An improved defense. The Hoosiers came into the season with big expectations, but three losses in their non-conference schedule has some worried. The biggest concern is Indiana's defense, which was shredded by both Wake Forrest and Duke. The Hoosiers have a very good offense, but they can't afford to give up 80 or 90 points every night.
- Iowa Hawkeyes
A do-over against Iowa State. The Hawkeyes are a good team and will probably have a solid season, but their late collapse against rival Iowa State is going to haunt them for a long time. Yes, the Cyclones are a great team, but blowing a 20-point second half lead isn't acceptable against anyone, especially an in-state rival. Iowa would love to play that second half again.
- Maryland Terrapins
A signature win. The Terrapins entered the season as Final Four contenders, and while they're 10-1, they haven't really beaten anyone good yet. They'll get plenty of chances for one of course, but until the Terps beat another top team people are going to call them overrated. Increased production from freshman center Diamond Stone would also be a plus.
- Michigan Wolverines
A miraculous recovery for Spike Albrecht. What, too soon? I guess we'll go instead with some more quality size. The only true big man starting for the Wolverines is Ricky Doyle, who is playing 17 minutes a game and averaging 5.3 points and 3.3 rebounds. The Wolverines will face some talented centers and forwards in the Big Ten and they'll need more production from theirs.
- Michigan State Spartans
Denzel Valentine to get healthy fast. This is an easy one. The Spartans have looked terrific during their 13-0 start, but we're about to see how deep they are now that their best player could miss two to three weeks with a knee injury. Hopefully Valentine comes back strong for all of college basketball's sake. He's one of the best players in the country and is averaging 18.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers
More improvement from freshmen guards. The Gophers came into the season looking to break both Kevin Dorsey and Dupree McBrayer into their lineup. Neither have been bad, both playing around 18 minutes a game. But this season is all about rebuilding for Minnesota so they faster they develop, the better for Richard Pitino.
- Nebraska Cornhuskers
A boost from their frontcourt. The Cornhuskers currently don't have a single true big playing more than 20 minutes a night. That's partly because of their style of play, but their young group of forwards that includes Ed Morrow, Michael Jacobson and Jake Hammond hasn't done much yet. None of them are playing more than 14 minutes per game.
- Northwestern Wildcats
The thing that the Wildcats really want is a healthy Vic Law, who's out for the season with a torn labrum. Besides that, things have gone fantastically for 11-1 Wildcats. The best present for them will be some quality wins over conference opponents that lead to the school's first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
- Ohio State Buckeyes
The ability to go back in time and convince D'Angelo Russell to stay in school. Unlikely? Perhaps, but this season is already looking like a downer for the 7-5 Buckeyes. With Russell long gone, Ohio State will gladly accept a big second half of the season surge from freshmen guard JaQuan Lyle.
- Penn State Nittany Lions
Freshmen Mike Watkins to become eligible. Watkins will likely redshirt, and it's a shame the Nittany Lions won't be able to get him on the court this season to get him experience along with fellow newcomer Josh Reaves. But if they can't have that, the Nittany Lions will gladly take consistent 3-point shooting, better post-scoring or an extra year of D.J. Newbill in their stockings.
- Purdue Boilermakers
An extra ball for their frontcourt to share. Kidding of course, but it'll be interesting to see how Purdue continues to mix and match its big men to try and get them all minutes and shots as the season goes on. Caleb Swanigan has lived up to expectations but needs to prove his worth in the Big Ten, and A.J. Hammons has been a monster despite NOT STARTING A GAME! With the way Isaac Haas has played so far though, it hasn't been a problem. We'll see how it all shakes out against conference opponents soon enough.
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The ability to fast-forward to next season. It's been a rough start to the season for the 4-7 Scarlet Knights and it's probably going to get even rougher. There's too many things that Rutgers needs to become competitive this season, but the strong play of freshman Corey Sanders is a glimmer of hope.
- Wisconsin Badgers
A smooth transition to the (potential) Greg Gard era. It's going to be a tough season for Gard, who's tasked with filling in for the greatest coach in school history following a historic season for the Badgers. Hopefully he can do enough to convince Barry Alvarez to give him the full-time gig. The Badgers aren't getting back to the title game, but maybe Gard will get the team's freshmen on the court more and help them grow.