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College hoops Dean's List: The gift of giving

College hoops Dean's List: The gift of giving

The Dean's List: The gift of giving

For the first time since before puberty, I'm excited for Christmas.

Not that the holidays don't put a little extra nog in my jog, but it usually doesn't happen until around December 20.

This year, I'm frothing at the mouth with premature Christmas cheer. I was walking into Toys R Us sporting shorts and flip-flops to buy a remote-controlled dinosaur in August, humming Jingle Bells and laughing all the way.

College basketball is also in the giving mood. It's handed bettors a few early gifts that are still concealed in non-conference wrapping paper. Like that tantalizing big box tucked underneath the tree, these teams could be something really good. Or they could be a horrific mistake of a sweater.

Just like any 29-year-old kid, I like to shake and prod and speculate what my gifts might be. So let's give some college hoops programs a rattle and see if they'll measure up to that E.T. Big Wheel of Xmas '84.

Michigan Wolverines = Easy Bake Oven

Michigan broke necks with its win over UCLA at the 2K Sports Classic in New York early in the year. And it served up another warm and tasty win over Duke last weekend. But much like a light-bulb heated appliance, the Wolverines will burn you. They're one of those teams that play down to or up to the opposition's level.

Syracuse Orange = Guitar Hero World Tour

Cuse is awesome. Guitar Hero awesome. The Orange rocked out with wins over Florida, Kansas and Virginia in the run of four days. However, like Guitar Hero, Syracuse will be under every bettor's tree. Already a public fave, Cuse has had its value stolen like Cindy Lou Who's Christmas and it might not return until Big East play begins.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons = AirZooka

If you haven't played with one of these amazing, inexpensive, air-firing marvels of modern science - you need to. It is the unique gift no one gets and everyone is amazed by. Wake Forest is just that. The Demon Deacs picked up wins over Baylor, Indiana and a tested Cal St. Fullerton program. They will continue to fly under the radar in the New Year with UNC, Duke and Miami getting all the love in the ACC.

Dayton Flyers = Chia Pet

The Flyers are a ceramic sheep with nasty green goo spread over it. Dayton doesn't look like much at first, but with some time it sprouts into a non-conference dynamo with wins over Marquette and Auburn. But beware - Chia Puppies turn into Chia Dogs. The Flyers started with the same vigor last season, then mutated into a moldy nightmare once the A-10 schedule started.

Mystery Men

Davidson's Stephen Curry became college basketball's Harry Potter after the fresh-faced guard magically pushed the Wildcats to the brink of the Final Four last March. The country fell in love with the little fella, who built on his popularity by dropping 44 points on state rival North Carolina State Saturday.

Before last year's tournament run, people outside the NCAA bubble didn't even know Davidson was a school, let alone that Curry was one of the best scorers in college history. He's paved the way for mid-major magicians like the ones listed below:

David Holston (Chicago State Cougars)

Holston is second behind Curry in scoring with over 28 points per game in the first seven tilts. The senior guard isn't just a 5-foot-8 bucket factory, he's the Cougars' emotional leader. Chicago State is off to a horrible start, but got 33 points from Holston when it put a scare in Marquette last month. The nation will get a better look at him when the Cougars visit Illinois Wednesday.

Josh Akognon (Cal State Fullerton Titans)

The Titans are always a threat to the spread as long as Akognon is spotting up behind the arc. The senior guard is averaging 24.6 points per night, firing up over 100 3-point attempts in just nine games. He's connected on 36 of those shots and has come up big against teams like Wake Forest, St. Mary's and LSU. Cal State Fullerton will turn to Akognon's scoring even more now that defensive stopper Gerard Anderson is nursing an ankle injury.

Lester Hudson (Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks)

If you are one of the rare hoop heads that play NCAA fantasy basketball, you know who Lester Hudson is after he recorded a quadruple-double last November. The Skyhawks senior finished fourth in scoring in 2007-08 and is averaging almost 24 points per game this season. He is hauling in almost seven rebounds, dishing for nearly four assists and swiping three steals per game. However, Hudson had his two worst games of the year against Tennessee and USC – scoring just 20 points in each.

Joes vs. Pros

While watching North Carolina's walk-ons smack around MSU in the final minutes of a 98-63 beating last Wednesday, ESPN's announcers began filling the void with jokes about how the Heels could give the NBA's worst teams a run for their money.

It got me thinking. Then it got me emailing.

I sent the question to oddsmaker Michael Perry, asking what would be the fictional lines for UNC vs. Oklahoma City and UNC vs. the Clippers on a neutral site with NBA rules. Here's what came back.

UNC vs. OKC (-16)

UNC vs. LA Clippers (-20)

Perry's reasoning behind the numbers is that the pro squads are far better conditioned playing a 48-minute game and would eventually wear down the college kids with pure skill and athleticism.

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