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Nonconference play is winding down in college basketball, and the heart of league play is just around the corner as Christmas approaches with narratives starting to form around the sport. A handful of teams appear to have everything they need to compete for the national title, but plenty more have some holes to fill if they are going to reach their ultimate aspirations.

Unlike in professional sports, you can't sign a free agent or make a mid-season trade to bolster your roster in college basketball. In the spirit of Christmas, however, we can wish for certain things to magically arrive under the tree for certain programs.

Last year, we gifted an effective offense to Tennessee, a change in fortune for Cal, a true big man for Kansas and better 3-point shooting for Auburn. It didn't all work right away — none of the teams we tried to help made it past the Sweet 16 — but it was worth a shot to try and address some glaring issues with teams in need.

For this year's holiday-themed Dribble Handoff, our writers are playing the role of Santa Claus again and giving away some much-needed gifts throughout college basketball. Let's check what's under the tree.

Some real NIL funds for UCLA

UCLA coach Mick Cronin made headlines late Tuesday -- first by losing 76-72 to Cal State Northridge to drop to 5-5 on the season, then by explaining in plain terms why his roster is filled with seven freshmen and lacking the experienced and battle-tested veterans other big programs got from the transfer portal. Asked by the Los Angeles Times Ben Bolch if a loss like this makes him question his roster construction, Cronin responded: "We did what we could do. Is your question, 'Did we try to get older transfers?' Absolutely. So did the Reds, but the Dodgers get them."

Translation: "Yes, I would've loved to have taken quality fifth-year seniors out of the transfer portal and not be so reliant on freshmen, but that costs A LOT OF MONEY in the form of NIL promises, and at UCLA, right now, we simply do not have that kind of money to spend on players. Believe it or not, when it comes to NIL resources, we are more like the Cincinnati Reds than the Los Angeles Dodgers. That's why my roster looks the way it looks."

That's a message from Cronin to his administration, boosters, everybody -- one that simply illustrates how it's nearly impossible these days to run a successful high-major program without real NIL funds. And unless things get fixed at UCLA, either by Santa or a bunch of rich folks, this is precisely the type of thing that could make Cronin listen if, say, Louisville came calling in March. -- Gary Parrish

No more 2023 losses for the top of the A-10 

This basketball-first league deserves to have multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament conversation again. A year ago, the A-10 only sent VCU to the Dance ... where it was seeded 12th. The league hasn't been a three-bid conference since 2018. With Santa powers, I'd like to gift no losses to Dayton, St. Bonaventure, Duquesne and Saint Joseph's for the remainder of the nonconference schedule. The teams all have winnable games, and those four are a combined 32-9. They'll need to all avoid taking Quad 3/4 losses in league play, in addition to the games coming in the next 11 days. If that happens, the A-10 will return to its rightful place as a multi-bid league. Two seems possible, three is achievable if Santa's magic touch extends into 2024. -- Matt Norlander

A fresh slate at Louisville

We aren't in the business of rooting for anyone's downfall and demise and I'll be the first to acknowledge I have no business telling Louisville AD Josh Heird whether he should or should not move on from Kenny Payne. But let's level with one another: we all see where this thing is headed, right?

On the heels of a 4-28 inaugural campaign with the Cards, Louisville this season has been equally as listless and lethargic en route to a 5-6 start, with one embarrassing incident after another piling up and amounting to an abject disaster both on and off the court. The point of no return for Payne to regain confidence from the Louisville faithful was weeks, and even months ago. Once your seat warms up as hot and quickly as it has there is no cooling it back off at a place like Louisville.

From losing to a Division II team to admitting a fellow head coach "tricked" you with a zone defense you did not prepare for to declaring that Louisville -- which hired Payne in no small part because of his recruiting acumen -- would never be the most talented team ... it's clear the fit just has not worked. At all. A fresh slate is inevitable for both Payne and for Louisville, and the sooner everyone reaches that conclusion the sooner we can hit the reset on one of college basketball's proudest programs.  -- Kyle Boone

A bench for Gonzaga

Through Monday's action, Gonzaga ranked No. 340 nationally in bench minutes, per KenPom. The Zags have rarely gone deep into their bench over the past decade, but they are perilously thin this season. A season-ending preseason injury to Eastern Washington transfer Steele Venters is forcing Ryan Nembhard and Nolan Hickman to log unsustainable minutes in the back court. Nembhard has played all 40 minutes on four occasions while Hickman has played 40 minutes twice and 39 in two games. Even freshman wing Dusty Stromer logged 40 minutes in the Bulldogs' win over UCLA on Nov. 23.

What little depth Gonzaga does have is situated in the front court. Croatian freshman Luka Krajnovic is the lone non-starter on scholarship to be listed as a guard on the team's official roster, and he's struggled with turnovers while logging most of his action in blowout wins. Meanwhile, former Gonzaga guard Dominick Harris is thriving at 25.8 minutes per game during his first season at Loyola Marymount after he logged just 6.3 minutes per game in his two years with the Zags. Harris is averaging 15.1 points on 48% shooting from the floor and would be a much-needed part of this team's back court rotation if he'd stayed put. The fact that Gonzaga lost him to the portal will only be made more painful when they play Loyola Marymount twice during WCC play. -- David Cobb

A magical sendoff for the Pac-12

In the latest Bracketology by CBS Sports' Jerry Palm, he projects five teams to make the NCAA Tournament from the Pac-12. Arizona, in his projection, would be a No. 1 seed, Washington, Colorado and Utah would make the field and Oregon would be one of the Last four teams in the tournament. For a conference that's in their final days, they deserve a magical sendoff.

Just look at happened on the football side. Washington made the College Football Playoff. Oregon reached a New Year's Six Bowl. Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. were both Hesiman Trophy candidates. Deion Sanders was one of the most polarizing figures in the sport. USC quarterback Caleb Williams is more than likely going to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. It lived up to the hype and then some. 

So far on the basketball front ... it hasn't been the same.

For Christmas, the Pac-12 should be asking for some similar magic. Coming into the season, USC and UCLA were viewed as near locks to make the NCAA Tournament. USC started the season ranked in the Top 25 and the Bruins were just on the outside looking in on the initial rankings. Now, both are on the outside looking in for March Madness. This storied conference deserves more in March. It will be up to those five teams (and potentially UCLA and USC) to make some noise. -- Cameron Salerno