The Transfer Portal is Changing College Basketball

The Transfer Portal is Changing College Basketball

2023

The Transfer Portal is Changing College Basketball

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For what feels like every year, there’s always some team that the basketball world latches on to and rides alongside in the hopes of that team making a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

In the past, it’s been Loyola-Chicago. VCU. St. Peter’s.

And while the lower-seeded teams who shock the world by upsetting a higher-seeded team in the rounds of 64 or 32 take all of the headlines, teams who lean towards the middle of the seeding are the more realistic ones to keep an eye on when finding those who can upset their way to making a run for the national championship. And one interesting note about those teams is that this year, the teams who aren’t there often have all taken advantage of acquiring players from the transfer portal to propel themselves to the NCAA tournament.

College basketball is changing thanks to the transfer portal. Since its inception in late 2018, it has revolutionized the college sports world by expediting the process of a player leaving a school. Tens of thousands of college athletes over the last five years have all uprooted themselves and gone to other schools in the hopes of competing at a higher level, seeking more playing time, or acquiring a better degree from a more prestigious institution. 

One outcome of this has been that more parity and the wealth that blue-blooded schools have to recruit certain players would be evened out and distributed to programs that can’t traditionally keep up with them. And while the blue-blooded schools of Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, and Kansas will all still be around the college basketball world, rumblings are already occurring that signal the landscape is changing: for the second time in the last three tournaments, none of those teams have advanced to the Sweet 16. And before 2021, from 1980-2019, that had never happened before. 

So who’s taking those teams’ places? Higher-seeded non-traditional basketball schools, and programs where basketball is on the come-up. This year, it’s FAU, San Diego State, and Creighton. And what do those teams have in common? They all consist of transfer players on their rosters. Below is a breakdown:

Team Number of Transfers Transfers who start Transfers that play meaningful minutes*
San Diego State Five Two Two
Florida Atlantic Two None One
Creighton Two One One

*Meaningful minutes is deemed as a player who comes off the bench often in a game, and not logging minutes in games that coaches deem to rest the starters or put said players in in situations such as when they are up by a comfortable margin that they know their opponent won’t be able to come back by and vice versa.

San Diego State takes the cake with the most transfers on its roster and those who start. But besides FAU, every one of those teams has a transfer who is starting or plays meaningful minutes in games. 

Currently, there are 434 players in the transfer portal per on3. After the NCAA tournament concludes, and as time goes on, that number is certain to rise. And by this point, if programs aren’t looking into the transfer portal to shore up their rosters, they’d be missing out on potentially hitting gold and improving their rosters.

Only time will tell for FAU, San Diego State, and Creighton on whether or not they will make a deep run in this year’s NCAA tournament or they’ll falter in the Sweet 16. But one thing is for sure: while the usual blue bloods will almost always be around in March, slowly but surely, the rest of the college basketball world is getting better thanks to the transfer portal.

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