The college basketball offseason is near its halfway point, but the vast majority of rosters are now set. After months of movement because of coaching changes, transfers and pro decisions, the chaos has mostly stopped, with the exception of a few late reclassification decisions for rising high school seniors. That makes it a good time to look at the winners and losers of the men’s offseason. Which teams cemented themselves as elite? Which coaches made the moves we’ll look back and applaud many months from now? And which programs haven’t seen things go their way this spring and summer?
Sports Illustrated gives you the best and worst of an offseason full of changes.
There was little belief in college basketball circles throughout last season that North Carolina would be able to run it back with its current core in 2022–23, but the heartbreak of coming up short in the national title game combined with name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities have brought Armando Bacot, RJ Davis, Caleb Love and Leaky Black back for another year. In that group is one of the top preseason candidates for National Player of the Year (Bacot), an elite point guard (Davis), one of the more gifted scorers in the sport (Love) and an ace defender and glue guy (Black). That nucleus alone is enough to make the Heels a title contender again in 2022–23, but coach Hubert Davis struck late in the transfer portal with Northwestern transfer Pete Nance to fill the void left by Brady Manek.
Overall, it’s hard to imagine a much better offseason for Davis and the Tar Heels. It’s not easy to replicate a special run in March like UNC put together earlier this year, but this team is built to win it all. With experience, talent and depth, the Heels are a worthy No. 1 team in the polls.
Kentucky is the first team since North Carolina in 2008–09 to bring back the men’s National Player of the Year for another season of college hoops. Oscar Tshiebwe’s decision to go back to Lexington sent shockwaves through college basketball, even though the decision makes sense considering Tshiebwe’s status as a fringe draft prospect and the immense NIL opportunities he’ll have as the sport’s biggest star. Tshiebwe put together one of the more impressive statistical seasons in recent memory in 2021–22, and he’ll be the centerpiece of a Wildcats team in need of NCAA tournament success after the disastrous loss to Saint Peter’s in this past year’s Big Dance. Add in the return of Jacob Toppin and some scoring pop from Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves, and it has been a productive offseason for John Calipari and staff despite losing top 2022 recruit Shaedon Sharpe to the draft.
Mark Few got Rasir Bolton to return for his extra year of eligibility, coaxed Drew Timme and Julian Strawther back to Spokane for one more go-round and pulled Chattanooga’s Malachi Smith and LSU’s Efton Reid from the transfer portal … all while not having a single unexpected departure. That’s a win of an offseason if I’ve ever seen one.
Questions will be asked of the Zags until they finally win it all, but this group has the potential to do just that. Timme shot the ball well from beyond the arc at the NBA draft combine, which would be an intriguing added facet to his game should it translate back to college. And with the combination of Smith and former elite recruit Nolan Hickman at point guard, the Zags have one of the better backcourt situations in the sport.
It had been evident as the 2021–22 season wore on that this would be an offseason of change in Champaign, but Brad Underwood and staff stuck the landing about as well as possible. Kofi Cockburn had already come back once unexpectedly, and it was time for him to move on. Meanwhile, once-touted point guard Andre Curbelo departed for St. John’s after a disastrous second season, giving the Illini essentially a clean state to refresh the roster.
The reloaded group takes on a very different feel than the Cockburn-centric ones the Illini have trotted out in recent years. Expect “positionless” to be the word of the fall when describing this new-look team, with transfers Matthew Mayer (Baylor) and Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech) joining versatile returners RJ Melendez and Coleman Hawkins to form a far more adaptable unit than the Illini have had lately. Add in the late signing of highly-touted freshman point guard Skyy Clark to join an already-impressive 2022 recruiting class, and Underwood successfully cemented the Illini as a Big Ten title contender next season.
The Hurricanes capitalized on their first Elite Eight run with a big spring and summer. The Canes produced perhaps the most impactful moment of the offseason when billionaire booster John Ruiz announced an NIL deal with Kansas State transfer Nijel Pack worth $800,000 over two years. That move set the market for the remainder of the offseason and also created some drama with returning Canes star Isaiah Wong, whose agent floated Wong entering the transfer portal if he was not compensated more. But Miami was able to retain Wong and pair him with an all-conference performer in Pack, who can play either guard spot and is an elite shooter. Up front, Miami added elite rebounder Norchad Omier from Arkansas State and brought back skilled forward Jordan Miller for his extra year of eligibility.
After a 2021 offseason marked by roster turnover, St. John’s didn’t have a single scholarship player transfer out in ‘22 and made two splashy additions to its roster in Andre Curbelo (Illinois) and David Jones (DePaul). As uneven as Curbelo’s sophomore season was at Illinois, he’s a good buy-low addition with major upside thanks to his ability to play in ball screens, and Mike Anderson’s offense gives considerable freedom to its guards to make plays. Meanwhile, Jones at times played like one of the best players in the Big East in his first full season at DePaul, and should provide versatility and scoring prowess for the Red Storm. This roster doesn’t fit together perfectly given the shooting woes of both Curbelo and returning point guard Posh Alexander, but it’s hard to argue the Johnnies did well this spring.
San Diego State
The Aztecs had the nation’s second-best defense in 2021–22 per KenPom, and made moves this offseason that could help the offense catch up. The headliner was the early signing of Seattle U transfer point guard Darrion Trammell, a diminutive floor general who led the Redhawks to the WAC regular season title last season. He provides a scoring punch the Aztecs lacked last winter to pair with bruising wing scorer Matt Bradley, who averaged nearly 17 points per game and is back for his extra year of eligibility. Plus, any question about SDSU’s defense falling off was answered when center Nathan Mensah announced he’d use his extra year too, as Mensah is arguably the most impactful individual defender in men’s college basketball.
For better or worse, Tom Izzo essentially punted on this offseason from a roster-building standpoint. The Spartans added developmental freshman big man Carson Cooper, who’s expected to redshirt, but otherwise stood pat while Gabe Brown, Marcus Bingham, Max Christie and Julius Marble all departed. Christie and Marble certainly had uneven seasons, but losing four rotation players and not hitting the portal to fill holes is certainly an old-school approach from Izzo (who has been critical of the portal in the past).
Izzo has won more than 650 games in his career for a reason, and he’s clearly betting on internal development from the likes of Jaden Akins and Pierre Brooks as well as immediate production from freshman center Jaxon Kohler. Izzo may end up being right in these bets, but I’d feel better about this group with an experienced center and another wing … particularly since Michigan State will go into the season with three scholarships left open.
Chris Collins could have used a big offseason after athletic director Derrick Gragg indicated changes were necessary inside the program. Instead, the ‘Cats lost their top two big men in Pete Nance and Ryan Young to the transfer portal as well as former highly-touted wing Casey Simmons, without any major splash additions to replace them. Nance had blossomed into one of the best players in the Big Ten as a senior, and Collins ran much of the Northwestern offense through him. Meanwhile, Young was productive in more limited minutes as an energy big man with the ability to score on the block, and Simmons showed flashes as a rotation player on the wing thanks to his length and athleticism.
The only spring additions made by Collins were UTEP transfer big man Tydus Verhoeven and freshman forward Luke Martinelli, who decommitted from Elon after a coaching change. Northwestern seems likely to finish under .500 for the sixth straight season since going to the men’s NCAA tournament for the first time in 2017.
Wake exceeded all expectations in Steve Forbes’s second year at the helm, but an ACC tournament loss to Boston College sent the Demon Deacons to the NIT rather than the NCAAs. Then, to make matters worse, star forward Jake LaRavia became one of the biggest stock-risers of the NBA predraft process and departed with eligibility remaining. All of a sudden, Wake almost feels back to square one with LaRavia and Alondes Williams gone and no NCAA tournament berth to show for it. Forbes is known for his ability to find under-the-radar gems in the portal, and perhaps additions like Jao Ituka (Marist) and Andrew Carr (Delaware) can exceed expectations.
The Razorbacks did a lot right this spring: I’m particularly excited about Missouri transfer Trevon Brazile, who brings NBA-level athleticism to the frontcourt. But it’s hard not to wonder what could have been if Jaylin Williams had returned for one more year in Fayetteville. Williams, who went No. 34 overall to the Thunder, would have been one of the SEC’s best players and a perfect fit to complement this star-studded Arkansas freshman class thanks to his high basketball IQ and skill level. So while you can still pencil the Hogs in as a top-10 team in the preseason (SI’s summer rankings have Arkansas at No. 5), this could have been the best team in the sport if Williams returned.
Brad Brownell’s seat is heating up at Clemson, and this offseason hasn’t done his job security many favors. The Tigers lost their two best ballhandlers to the transfer portal in Al-Amir Dawes (Seton Hall) and Nick Honor (Missouri) and did little to soften that blow in the portal themselves, adding only Brevin Galloway (Boston College). To make matters worse, star big man PJ Hall went down earlier this month with a subluxed patella that will require surgery. While Hall’s return timetable is unknown at this point, it’s a serious injury that will at minimum eat away most of his offseason and could impact his availability during the season. None of that bodes well for the Tigers to compete for an NCAA tournament bid in 2022–23.
This was always going to be a turnover-filled offseason for the Bonnies after starting five seniors, but there was some hope at least a few of the team’s core contributors would take advantage of their extra year and stick around. Instead, a mass exodus sent point guard Kyle Lofton to Florida, Jaren Holmes and Osun Osunniyi to Iowa State and Dominick Welch to Alabama, while fifth starter Jalen Adaway turned pro. Several bench players also departed, leaving the Bonnies with just four total points scored returning from last season.
Mark Schmidt has rebuilt before, and there’s some promise in this incoming transfer class. But St. Bonaventure could finish under .500 for the first time in a decade if those newcomers don’t exceed expectations.
It will certainly help the Rams program long-term to produce a first-round NBA pick in David Roddy, but there’s little a school at Colorado State’s level can do to prepare for losing a talent like Roddy a year earlier than expected. The Mountain West Player of the Year would have been a preseason All-American for the Rams, who were in SI’s way-too-early top 25 back in April but fell out once Roddy decided to turn pro ahead of the June 1 deadline.
Niko Medved’s staff did well to add Division II star Patrick Cartier and Illinois State transfer Josiah Strong this spring, and they’ll still be among the better teams in the Mountain West thanks to the presence of elite point guard Isaiah Stevens. Still, it’s hard not to wonder how good this team could have been with one more year of Roddy in Fort Collins.
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