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Who won, and lost, in college basketball’s transfer portal?

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Happy to share this as it feels good to get some Billiken recognition. Sorry to see our friend Porter Moser on the list you don't want to be on.

The Athletic - article link

Who won, and lost, in college basketball’s transfer portal? Kansas, Indiana and more

By CJ Moore, The Athletic
May 23, 2024

Portal season has become the most important roster-building time on the college basketball calendar. It’s not just who you add but who you retain. The last six national title winners have all had at least one transfer in their rotation. UConn just won with two transfers in its starting lineup, both of whom were utilizing their extra COVID-19 year — which ends after this season.

With so much movement happening across the sports, let’s look at the winners, five transfers who I think will perform better than consensus and the teams hardest hit by the portal.

Portal winners


Portal additions: Rylan Griffen (Alabama), Zeke Mayo (South Dakota State), AJ Storr (Wisconsin), Noah Shelby (Rice)

Kansas needed shooting and a dynamic guard who can go get a bucket when the offense breaks down. In Mayo and Griffen, Bill Self landed two of the best shooters in the portal, who combined to make 166 3-pointers last season. Storr led Wisconsin in scoring last season and is a proven bucket-getter. And while Storr wasn’t very efficient, that’s an area where Self can probably help him based on his track record with big wings. The presence of Griffen, Mayo and Storr should help an offense that had some prolonged droughts and also make Hunter Dickinson look better. Storr and Griffen — both are 6-6 — also give Self some lineup flexibility he didn’t have last season. KU will be able to play some huge lineups and also go small, with one of those wings at the four, optimizing the floor spacing that was often lacking last year.


Portal additions: Oumar Ballo (Arizona), Myles Rice (Washington State), Canaan Carlyle (Stanford), Luke Goode (Illinois), Langdon Hatton (Bellarmine)

The way to boot a coach out of town these days is for donors to withhold NIL funds. The good news for Mike Woodson is the IU money folks obviously aren’t there yet, because Woodson retained four starters while landing what had to be one of the pricier portal hauls. Woodson obviously prefers a big frontline, and the Hoosiers stay huge with Ballo (7-0), Malik Reneau (6-9) and Mackenzie Mgbako (6-8). That should be one of the most talented frontcourt combos in the country. The key to it working is the added shooting and shot creation coming through. Woodson got a shooter in Goode and then shot creators in Rice and Carlyle, two young guards out of the Pac-12 with some upside. Both struggled shooting the 3, which is concerning, but there’s reason to hope that will improve with age. We’ll see how it all works, but Woodson has one of the deeper rosters in the country, and he’s at least addressed some deficiencies.


Portal additions: Vladislav Goldin (Florida Atlantic), Danny Wolf (Yale), Roddy Gayle Jr. (Ohio State), Sam Walters (Alabama), Tre Donaldson (Auburn), Rubin Jones (North Texas)

Dusty May is going with a twin towers approach, landing two 7-footers in Goldin and Wolf. They ranked as two of the top five centers in our portal rankings, so Michigan is stacked at that position. Wolf is at least a good enough shooter to play the four, so theoretically on paper, the pairing works. May won at FAU with smaller teams that could spread the floor and shoot a lot of 3s. He seems to be targeting positional size at Michigan.

I like the upside on the wing of this class. Gayle has the potential to be an alpha scorer and turn into May’s next Johnell Davis. Walters was one of the best shooters in the portal. As a freshman at Alabama, he shot 39.4 percent from 3 and made 3.4 3s per 40 minutes — and he’s 6-10. The question is whether there’s enough playmaking on the perimeter. Both Jones and Donaldson are solid defenders who should be able to make an open shot, but this team is probably missing a dynamic setup man. Still, this is one of the best collective portal classes of the cycle.


Portal additions: Jeremy Roach (Duke), Norchad Omier (Miami), Jalen Celestine (California)

We don’t know NIL numbers because we won’t live in a transparent college basketball world until the NCAA truly adopts a professional model, but it’s likely that Baylor is as heavily invested in its starting lineup as anyone. Scott Drew’s budget benefitted from Louisville and Kentucky’s pursuit of the veteran coach. After landing a high school class that included five-star wing VJ Edgecombe, Baylor needed a veteran floor general to replace RayJ Dennis and a frontcourt starter to replace Yves Missi. Drew landed two of the top talents at those positions in Roach and Omier. Baylor also needed a shooter with some size and grabbed Celestine late. Celestine, who is 6-6, shot 44 percent from 3 this past season. The Bears are usually heavy in pick-and-roll usage, so Roach and Omier will be integral to their offense. The roster was also pretty young without them, so their experience — both have played in a Final Four — is another bonus.


Portal additions: Terrence Edwards Jr. (James Madison), Chucky Hepburn (Wisconsin), Noah Waterman (BYU), Aly Khalifa (BYU), Kasean Pryor (South Florida), J’Vonne Hadley (Colorado),

Building an 11-man portal class seems impossible, but Pat Kelsey somehow pulled it off without the feeling that he made any big reaches. He also wisely landed one player who will sit out next year in Aly Khalifa so that not all 11 are expecting to be in the rotation. While Louisville’s top-end talent might not compare with the other blue bloods, it found some solid players who come from winning programs. Edwards, the Sun Belt Player of the Year, was the highest-ranked portal addition and could be Louisville’s star, but I’m most interested to see how Kelsey uses Pryor. He averaged only 13 points for South Florida, but he’s the type of playmaking big man who makes it possible to run five-out offense and play fast. Kelsey has a nice mix of skill and size and a roster that should be in consideration of the preseason Top 25, which is noteworthy considering how far Louisville had fallen.


Portal additions: Clifford Omoruyi (Rutgers), Chris Youngblood (South Florida), Aden Holloway (Auburn), Houston Mallette (Pepperdine)

Nate Oats has one of the best-returning rosters, and he made it even better through the portal. Alabama’s biggest weakness last season was defense, so Oats landed arguably the best defensive center in the portal in Omoruyi, a two-time Big Ten all-defense honoree. Then Oats added shot-making guards who fit exactly how he wants to play. Youngblood is a plug-and-play starter who will replace Aaron Estrada, and then Holloway was insurance in case Mark Sears stays in the draft. If Sears returns, Holloway could be one of the most talented guards off the bench in the country and set up to be a star in 2025-26, when it’ll be time for him and former KU commit Labaron Philon to run the show. Mallette is the one wildcard. Alabama has so much talent on the perimeter that he could be a miss and it wouldn’t matter much, but it’s not bad when that player averaged 14.7 points and shot 41.5 percent from deep in the WCC.


Portal additions: Aidan Mahaney (Saint Mary’s), Tarris Reed Jr. (Michigan)

We’re basically operating under the premise that whatever Danny Hurley touches right now turns to gold. Hurley needed a scoring guard who can shoot and landed one in Mahaney who has produced in a winning program. It feels like his best ball is still in front of him. Hurley has had so much success with two centers splitting minutes that he’s running that back with Reed and Samson Johnson. The last two years, UConn’s centers have had different strengths, and the Huskies are almost like two different teams depending on which center is on the floor. That should continue with Reed, more of a back-to-the-basket scorer, playing the yang to Johnson’s rim-rolling yin. UConn also landed McDonald’s All-American Liam McNeely during the spring. Sometimes portal season turns into programs just grabbing whatever talent they can grab and hoping to figure it out later. Hurley seems to always have a distinct plan.

Iowa State

Portal additions: Joshua Jefferson (Saint Mary’s), Dishon Jackson (Charlotte), Nate Heise (Northern Iowa), Brandton Chatfield (Seattle)

T.J. Otzelberger also seems to be very intentional in the portal. The Cyclones work fast, adding guys early in the cycle before the bidding wars start. They got Jackson right away, giving them a good candidate to start at the five. Then late they grabbed a potential starting power forward in Jefferson, who gives them some low-post scoring they lacked and who is a terrific defender, which is a necessity to play for the Cyclones. More importantly than anything else, Otzelberger didn’t lose any of his rotational players to the portal and returns his four leading scorers. While Otzelberger has been active in the portal every year, his model is closer to the next group of teams than those that seem like they’re going on shopping sprees every spring.


Only Houston added a transfer out of this group of teams, with the Cougars adding Oklahoma guard Milos Uzan to replace Jamal Shead. The reason these schools are on the list is they are proving that if you either stay out of the portal or just dabble, retention is possible. They have NIL budgets, but most of the money is going toward returners rather than trying to lure the free agents in the portal. All three will be preseason top 25 teams and have won consistently by purposely focusing on high school recruiting and retention rather than turning their rosters over each season. It’s an old-school approach, and it’s working.

West Virginia

Portal additions: Tucker DeVries (Drake), Javon Small (Oklahoma State), Amani Hansberry (Illinois), Sincere Harris (Illinois), Joseph Yesufu (Washington State), Toby Okani (UIC), Eduardo Andre (Fresno State)

New coach Darian DeVries had a major advantage in that arguably the best player in the portal was his son, Tucker, but DeVries also made some smart additions outside of just his family. I loved Hansberry on the Nike EYBL circuit, and while he struggled to crack the Illini rotation, he could turn into a really solid college big man. He’s super skilled and has great feel. He is undersized, but former Illinois assistant Chester Frazier (now at WVU) is a believer. Frazier also brought Harris from Illinois. The other big addition here was Small, one of the most athletic guards in the portal. The hope for the Mountaineers is they can replicate what Kansas State did in the first year under Jerome Tang, leaning heavily on two players (DeVries and Small) and then piecing it together with role players around them.

Saint Louis

Portal additions: Robbie Avila (Indiana State), Isaiah Swope (Indiana State), Kobe Johnson (West Virginia), Josiah Dotzler (Creighton), Kalu Anya (Brown), A.J. Casey (Miami)

The Billikens should be a preseason top-25 team with the roster that new coach Josh Schertz has put together. Schertz got off to a great start by convincing sharpshooting Gibson Jimerson to withdraw from the portal and stay at SLU. He then got both Avila and Swope to follow him from Indiana State when both could have gone the high-major route. Dotzler was a player Schertz recruited and really liked when Dotzler was in high school; that’s the same career arc Ryan Conwell had — recruited by Schertz, went elsewhere (South Florida for a year) and then transferred to play for Schertz. Conwell was one of the best and most efficient mid-major guards in the country last year. Johnson has the potential to be SLU’s version of Julian Larry, playing stopper for the Billikens. Then both Anya and Casey are the types of athletic fours you need next to Avila.

St. John’s

Portal additions: Kadary Richmond (Seton Hall), Deivon Smith (Utah), Vincent Iwuchukwu (USC), Aaron Scott (North Texas)

I’m not sure how the Richmond and Smith backcourt will work because both are ball-dominant guards, but usually it’s smart to bet on Rick Pitino. Floor spacing could be a concern. Richmond and Smith are elite at getting into the paint, but shooting has never been a strength for either. Smith just shot a career-best 40.8 percent from deep, but the attempts (71) were low. Pitino is going with a game plan of accumulating talent and figuring it out from there. Iwuchukwu was a top-30 recruit out of high school, but heart issues delayed the start of his career. He’s an upside flier who could really hit. Then Pitino got a solid wing in Scott who played for a winning program at North Texas. This is a team I want to get eyes on early to see how Pitino uses Smith and Richmond.

McNeese State

Portal additions: Sincere Parker (Saint Louis), Brandon Murray (Ole Miss), Quadir Copeland (Syracuse), Joe Charles (Louisiana), Jerome Brewer Jr. (Texas A&M-Commerce)

Will Wade brought in a haul that would have been solid for a high-major, and just like last season, it’s going to be very difficult for anyone in the Southland to compete with the talent he’s putting on the floor.  Parker was the leading scorer at Saint Louis; Copeland just averaged 9.6 points at Syracuse; Murray struggled at Ole Miss but was a double-digit scorer at LSU (for Wade) and Georgetown, and both Charles and Brewer were double-digit scorers at their previous schools.

Four transfers I’m betting on

Ryan Conwell, Xavier (from Indiana State): Conwell is the Sycamore whose game best translates to the high-major level. The lefty is an elite shooter (40.7 from 3) and can create his shot off the bounce. Xavier lost what would have been its leading returning scorer in Desmond Claude, who transferred to USC, but I see Conwell as an upgrade.

Deivon Smith, St. John’s (from Utah): Smith’s speed and ability to deliver pinpoint passes on the move with either hand is special. He’s a guy not a lot of people have heard of who could make St. John’s a must-watch team.

R.J. Godfrey, Georgia: He’s built like a defensive end and has some game too. He was behind P.J. Hall and Ian Schiefffelin at Clemson. Given a chance to play starter minutes, Godfrey could be a breakout star. His per-40 averages — 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks — support this argument.

Dain Dainja, Illinois: Brad Underwood decided to embrace a more modern, five-out style at Illinois, and Dainja didn’t fit. But he produced when he was on the floor. His per-40 averages for his career: 20.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting 64.8 percent from the field. Not many bigs possess his combination of touch, hands and footwork. If given touches and minutes, he could put up big numbers.

The portal was unkind to …

Low- and mid-majors: There were 53 players who entered the transfer portal after earning first-team all-conference honors from leagues outside the Power 6. Of those, only 35 returned to their team.

Wisconsin: The Badgers would be a preseason top-25 team if they could have retained everyone with eligibility. But they lost Storr, Hepburn and key reserve Connor Essegian, who bizarrely went from averaging 11.7 points in 27.4 minutes per game as a freshman to 3.2 points in 7.3 minutes per game as a sophomore. The Essegian departure wasn’t surprising, but losing Storr and Hepburn had to be frustrating for Greg Gard.

Saint Mary’s: Mahaney grew up going to Saint Mary’s games and played youth ball with Randy Bennett’s son. Jefferson was a top-150 recruit who developed into one of the best forwards in the WCC. These are the kind of guys a winning program retained pre-NIL. Now, both will play next season for high-majors.

Washington State: You could take your pick of schools that lost their head coach and were depleted by the portal, but I’m going with the Cougars as the hardest hit. Wazzu, which hadn’t to the NCAA Tournament since 2008, advanced to the second round in March before Kyle Smith left for Stanford. The program is now moving to the WCC — and must replace 12 of the 13 players who saw the floor last season.

Oklahoma: The Sooners climbed to No. 7 nationally in mid-December and were one of the darlings of the nonconference season behind strong guard play from Javian McCollum, Otega Oweh and Uzan. An injury-riddled Big 12 season saw them just miss the NCAA Tournament, but at least the core would be returning. Unfortunately, it didn’t. McCollum transferred to Georgia Tech, Oweh to Kentucky and Uzan to Houston. OU also lost backup big man John Hugley IV to Xavier, and freshman Kaden Cooper also hit the portal.

Seton Hall: Richmond and Dre Davis started their careers in the ACC. They transferred to Seton Hall before Shaheen Holloway showed up, but he helped turn them into stars. Now he has to coach against Richmond, who transferred in league to St. John’s while Davis left for Ole Miss. The Pirates may have been a top-25 team had everyone returned to go along with their portal additions. Instead, sixth man Isaiah Coleman is the only returner from the NIT champs.

Minnesota: Minnesota climbed out of the Big Ten cellar for the first time in Ben Johnson’s tenure and had a core returning that would have given the Gophers a good shot at making the NCAA Tournament. Then three of the starters —Elijah Hawkins, Pharrell Payne and Cam Christie — all hit the portal.

Harvard: The Crimson have had a rough stretch post-COVID, but Tommy Amaker had one of the youngest teams in college basketball this season and there was hope with freshman star Malik Mack (the league’s rookie of the year) and sophomore forward Chisom Okpara. Turns out an Ivy League education is not enough to stiff arm the portal, as both left.


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