The Daily Gamecock

Column: Men's college basketball programs must adapt to transfer trend to remain competitive

The South Carolina men's basketball team gathers during a timeout in a November game against Liberty. The team is now facing their third COVID-19-related pause of activities this season.
The South Carolina men's basketball team gathers during a timeout in a November game against Liberty. The team is now facing their third COVID-19-related pause of activities this season.

Due in part to an increase in players entering the transfer portal, men's college basketball is changing and teams who wish to be successful for years to come must adapt to this change. 

NCAA rules are expected to change this season and will grant first-time transfers immediate eligibility. This, plus the extra year of eligibility granted to the athletes because of the pandemic, has led to the largest number of players entering the transfer portal in men's college basketball history. There are over 1,350 players in the portal to date.

This marks a huge shift in college basketball — one that will change the entire landscape of the game.

“I want to get one thing straight here. I have zero [problems] with players transferring in many cases it ... is beneficial. However allowing players to transfer w/o sitting out has totally changed the entire landscape of college hoops. It has created chaos,” sportscaster Dick Vitale said in a tweet on the issue.  

Vitale is right — 1,350 players in the portal is chaos. Over 25% of the players in college basketball have entered the portal and are looking at new schools. 

Is this chaos bad for college basketball, though? I don’t think so. 

Teams have started to realize that in order to reach a championship game or Final Four, it takes experienced players who have experience in close and meaningful college games.

In this year’s Final Four, eight starting players were transfer students. For Houston and UCLA, their leading scorers were transfer students. Compare this to the five transfer students who started in Final Fours from 2006 to 2015, and you can see how quickly and effectively this trend took over. 

Many coaches were not ready for this, making it hard for so many of them to accept this is the way the game is trending. 

“Insane,” Bowling Green coach Michael Huger said to The Blade. “It is completely insane. But that’s what happens when you don’t have rules and regulations.”

Some believe this trend was appalling to some coaches and that it made former North Carolina coach Roy Willams retire.

“There has been speculation that Roy Williams was going to retire in the last couple weeks. He’s 70 years old, and has been frustrated with the direction that college basketball is headed, per sources. One of those areas was the rash of transfers of late,” analyst Jeff Goodman tweeted

A few coaches, though, accept the rule-change. 

“I don’t think it’s good for college basketball, but it’s good for the student-athletes, and that’s what we’re all here for,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We’ll all adjust.”

Adjusting to this change will be key for the competitiveness of college basketball programs. The entire recruiting process of college basketball is about change. Teams have 13 scholarships they can offer. Some of these scholarships go to their returning players, and normally the rest goes to a new class of players, but now the remaining scholarships will be split between incoming freshmen and transfers. 

As we already saw in this year’s Final Four, the teams who found ways to balance recruiting transfers and high schoolers have been the most successful at the highest levels. Now it is up to other coaches to play catch up. 

For South Carolina, guards Trae Hannibal and T.J. Moss and forwards Trey Anderson, Jalyn McCreary and Justin Minaya have all entered the transfer portal, which are huge blows for the Gamecocks. 

However, head men's basketball coach Frank Martin and his staff were able to recruit three of their own transfers so far: Guard Erik Stevenson is leaving Washington, forward A.J. Wilson is leaving George Mason, guard James Reese is leaving North Texas and guard Chico Carter Jr. is leaving Murray State to play in Columbia next season.

These acquisitions will attempt to fill the holes the players leaving creates. Some of the players made remarks that they were excited to get on the hardwood and wear garnet and black.

“City on my back, no place I’d rather be,” Carter Jr. tweeted.

Fans also quickly welcomed these players to the team, showing them their full support, according to Wilson.

“South Carolina’s fan base is AMAZING and I haven’t even stepped foot on campus yet,” Wilson tweeted.

The whole transfer process is new to many people, but it will be essential for the success of teams that they learn to play by the new rules. 


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