This past Monday the No. 1  ranked UConn Huskies became only the 8th program to win back-to-back NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions. Once again the Huskies cruised to a comfortable victory beating two-time Naismith Player of the Year Zach Edey and No. 1 Purdue 75-60 in Glendale, Arizona. 

 

UConn’s title repeat is the first since the University of Florida’s 2006-2007 run. Exemplifying just how dominant the Huskies have been during last year’s title run the Huskies won each game by an average of 20 points. More recently, during this year’s title journey, head coach Dan Hurley led his squad to win their six tournament games by an average of 23.33 per game. While to many UConn’s dominance was the story of the tournament, an additional prominent storyline was the diminishment of the one-and-done route and the contrasting rise of the transfer portal. Such was profoundly epitomized by the first-round exit of No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats. The Wildcats, full of future NBA talent including freshman Reed Sheppard, Rob Dillingham, and DJ Wagner, fell to No. 13 Oakland, led by senior Trey Townsend and graduate students Jack Gohkle and Blake Lampman. Although the Wildcats were loaded with NBA talent the majority of these future draft picks are freshman, exemplifying that their March Madness loss illustrated this lack of success for young teams.

 

Oakland’s monumental victory over Kentucky cemented a growing notion that has been cultivating in the collegiate basketball world for the last several years. Over the last decade, the one-and-done concept, where high-ranked recruits go to University (typically blue blood) with other high-ranked recruits for one season before transitioning to the NBA, has been a trend in NCAA men’s basketball. At the concept’s peak, it allowed powerhouse schools like Kansas, Duke, and Kentucky to acquire numerous top high school recruits for one season in hopes to cash in on a National Championship. A recent example is the Blue Devils of Duke. Back in 2018 they built one of the most loaded college rosters of all time consisting of mainly freshmen including Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett, and Tre Jones.

 

Despite the popularity of the one-and-done in the last 10-15 years, schools known to bring in a lot of one-and-done players have lacked success primarily because their starters are raw, inexperienced players who fall short in the tournament when put up against older and more experienced players. As a result, the recent trend has seen schools start to lean on college veterans and less on 5-star recruits who may only spend one year at their respective programs. Enter: The transfer portal.

 

With the emergence of NIL (name, image, and likeness) and extra years of eligibility due to COVID-19 granted to upperclassmen and graduate students, there has been an increase in older players who transfer to bigger schools to reap the benefits of NIL and additional playing time to showcase their talent. Furthermore, in the last couple of years, the NCAA has made changes to the transfer rules allowing first-time transfers to switch schools without having to sit out a season. This massive rule alteration combined with the potential for college athletes to make money, NCAA basketball programs are now able to bring players to their programs from all different levels of experience. Oftentimes, these transfers are talented players who were kept under the radar at smaller Division I schools. After showcasing their talent on a smaller stage they are now able to transfer to a larger program with more exposure, better facilities, and more money in NIL. The combination of extra years of eligibility and the rise of NIL has provided a positive benefit for both sides

 

The makeup of the rosters in this year’s final four is indicative of how the transfer portal has revolutionized college basketball. Of the four teams: Purdue, NC State, UConn, and Alabama there are a total of 19 transfers. A lot of these transfers are impact players including UConn guards and All-Tournament Team players, Cam Spencer and Tristian Newton. Additionally, among the starting lineups of the NCAA Elite Eight teams there are a total of 24 seniors, 18 transfers, and 16 fifth-year players. Of all the players in the Elite Eight 12 of the top 13 scorers are Seniors. The quantity of these transfers and veteran players as well as their corresponding success in the NCAA tournament highlights the paramount shift that college basketball is witnessing and progressing towards. The large volume of transfer players in the latter stages of the tournament combined with an increased usage of the transfer portal by schools highlights that a new recipe for success is being concocted.

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