Winners and Losers from the College Basketball Offseason so Far
The first few months of college basketball's offseason have become like the NBA's free agent season. Recruiting, movement and money are all in play.
In addition to the never-ending transfers and players leaving early for the pros, it has become a trend for some of the top high school prospects to wait as long as possible to announce their college choice—see Andrew Wiggins. Many teams are also filling their holes with those transfers.
It can be hard to keep up with all the movement. Luckily, we're here to help. These are the biggest winners and losers from the offseason thus far.
Winner: Michigan State Spartans
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Since this NBA draft class is considered a weak one, some players who shouldn't have even thought about declaring decided to leave school. Somehow Tom Izzo convinced his three players who considered leaving—Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling—to all stay in school.
Izzo has never gone four straight seasons without making a Final Four as the head coach at Michigan State, and missing next year would end that streak. Only Louisville has the combination of both experience and talent that will compare to Michigan State's. With four starters returning, Izzo has a team that certainly has the look of a Final Four squad. He usually comes through in these situations.
Loser: Indiana Hoosiers
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No program was hit harder by players leaving early than Indiana. Sure, the Hoosiers had to expect that Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo would jet, but the way the season ended—a disappointing Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse—had to give IU fans some hope that Zeller and Oladipo might be motivated to return for
some unfinished business.
Tom Crean not only lost those two to the NBA, but reserve guards Remy Abell and Mo Creek also decided to transfer. Crean landed a good recruiting class and also added Arizona State transfer Evan Gordon, but it would have been nice to have Abell around as a third guy who had played quality minutes last season in addition to Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey. Abell, who shot 48.5 percent from three as a sophomore, was one of the more promising players in the program.
Winner: Kansas Jayhawks
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Bill Self had a good May. He landed Andrew Wiggins, an addition by itself that made Kansas and Self the biggest winner of the offseason. Wiggins pushed Kansas into most preseason top 10s (mine included). And that was before Self added another key piece in Memphis transfer Tarik Black. Black adds depth and some much-needed experience to KU's frontcourt.
No coach has won more games since Self took over at Kansas, and it's years like this when he can reload—after losing five starters!—that help Self keep piling up the wins.
Loser: Florida State Seminoles
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Wiggins did a good job of keeping to himself during his recruitment. That made it tough to predict where he would end up. But most of the experts were predicting Florida State because of the chance for Wiggins to be the face of the program and make his parents happy.
Landing Wiggins would have made the Seminoles a top-25 team and helped build their brand for recruiting down the road. Leonard Hamilton is a good coach and has built a solid program already, but he had more to gain than any of the other programs in Wiggins' final four. Wiggins was a loss that had to hurt.
Winner: Memphis Transfers
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Antonio Barton and Tarik Black had both seen their roles decrease at Memphis, and there's a decent chance they would have had unspectacular senior seasons had they stayed put.
Both graduated and took advantage of the transfer rule that allows players who have graduated to play right away.
Black landed at Kansas, where Self has a great track record of developing big men. Worst-case scenario for Black is that he'll be a role player on a good team. Best-case scenario is he finally lives up to his potential, puts up good numbers at Kansas and ends up getting drafted next June.
Barton landed at Tennessee, a team that is loaded with experience and needed a guard after Trae Golden transferred. With a lineup that will include Jordan McRae, Jarnell Stokes, Jeronne Maymon and Barton, the Vols have the talent to be a surprise Top 10 team.
Loser: UCLA Bruins and Steve Alford
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First, UCLA missed on Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens. Steve Alford looked to be a decent backup plan, but he's now beginning his tenure with many already questioning him.
There's the stuff with Alford fighting with New Mexico about how much of his buyout he should have to pay—it was settled at $625,000 (via the Albuquerque Journal)—but the worst of it has been Alford's ugly past at Iowa resurfacing. Alford will forever be haunted for sticking by Pierre Pierce. This Los Angeles Times feature by Chris Foster does a nice job recapping the rocky start.
It also has to irk UCLA that USC and Andy Enfield have produced nothing but positive headlines since the coach was hired.
Winner: USC Trojans
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We'll have to wait a couple years to see which new coaching hire was the best of this offseason. As for who won the press conference and his first month as coach, Andy Enfield is clearly out front. Enfield hired two assistants, Tony Bland and Jason Hart, who were considered home run hires and should be key for recruiting the West Coast.
Loser: Kansas State Wildcats
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Bruce Weber proved once again that he does really well with someone else's players. Remember, Weber took Self's players to a national championship game in Year Two at Illinois, and Year One was a huge success at K-State. The Wildcats shared the Big 12 title with Kansas, and even with an early NCAA exit, Weber seemed to win over K-State fans, a group who loved previous coach Frank Martin.
That first season created expectations, and it's going to be hard for Weber to maintain his first-year success after losing point guard Angel Rodriguez, who transferred to Miami.
Transfers happen in today's game, but no one expected that one. Rodriguez would have been K-State's go-to scorer. A player who had been in such good standing with that kind of role going forward is not one you expect to lose.
Winner: Oklahoma State Cowboys
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It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Marcus Smart would head to the NBA. Smart was considered a top-five pick, and top-five picks don't come back to school.
Smart went against the grain, and the Cowboys will have their best team since 2004, when they made the Final Four.
Until Kansas landed Wiggins, the Cowboys were thought to be the team that would finally be able to end KU's Big 12 title streak, which is currently at nine. With Smart and Wiggins around, the Big 12
race should be a fun one.
Loser: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
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From a PR standpoint, Rutgers can do nothing right this offseason. The basketball program got off to a decent start by hiring Eddie Jordan, but then Deadspin's report came out that Jordan never graduated from Rutgers.
Rutgers also lost five transfers, including leading scorer Eli Carter. The rest of the bad PR, most notably new AD Julie Hermann's, is out of Jordan's control. Still, everything that has happened with the basketball program is looped in, and the best thing for Rutgers will be to just get the season started.
Winner: Michigan Wolverines
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The emergence of Mitch McGary in the NCAA tournament helped Michigan make it all the way to the national championship game. It also made the possibility of McGary leaving for the NBA a real one, which wasn't even a thought before the tourney. The fact that McGary and Glenn Robinson III stayed in school was a win for Michigan.
John Beilein definitely has some rebuilding to do after losing Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., but that will be made a lot easier with McGary and Robinson still around.
Loser: Texas Longhorns
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No program has taken a dive more in the last year than Texas. Rick Barnes has always had great talent. Typically, that talent has left quickly to the NBA, and he's always been able to replace talent with talent.
Well, since the end of the season, Barnes has lost his three leading scorers and a fourth role player; however, only one of those players, Myck Kabongo, is leaving for the NBA. The other three are transferring.
Barnes also had one of his worst recruiting years with the 2013 class. Last season was the first in which Barnes missed the NCAA tournament while at Texas, and next season is not looking promising.