Road to March Madness: College basketball offseason already proving unpredictable

Junior forward Max Agbonkpolo announced his transfer to Wyoming April 9. He averaged 7.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game this season for USC. (Simon Park | Daily Trojan)

After a tumultuous postseason, college basketball teams are evaluating where they stand and what they hope to gain from the transfer portal. This offseason has already proven unpredictable for many teams around the nation. Here are some of the biggest moves and trends so far.

USC will have roster turnover

USC has a particularly important offseason, as it will lose junior Isaiah Mobley, redshirt senior Chevez Goodwin and, possibly, senior Drew Peterson to the NBA Draft. However, the Trojans should expect some firepower coming, as their 2022 recruiting class is ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 and No. 6 in the nation. If the Trojans can secure a few skilled transfers with experience to pair with the incoming freshman talent, they could be primed for a tournament run next season.

Despite having a few pieces to build around, there’s a level of doubt around where USC goes from here. Extremely young teams have had success in the past, such as the 2018-2019 Duke team led by a freshman Zion Williamson. However, these teams still usually have growing pains in the beginning of the season until someone steps up as a clear leader on the team. For the Trojans to make a run in the tournament next year, incoming freshman center Vince Iwuchukwu will have to step up as a leader as Evan Mobley did last season.

Wyoming robs Los Angeles

Wyoming was a fan favorite this season, winning 25 games in entertaining fashion and making the NCAA Tournament. They are now loading up with talent to make another run. Despite their impressive season, they were not at the top of my list to take some of USC’s most talented role players. Surprisingly, juniors forward Max Agbonkpolo and guard Ethan Anderson are transferring to the Cowboys. Further, junior forward Jake Kyman is transferring from UCLA. Agbonkpolo and Anderson are huge losses from USC, especially as the Trojans try to maintain some upperclassmen talent on the roster. Wyoming will be a force to be reckoned with next season based on their success in the transfer portal and the return of star Cowboys guard Hunter Maldonado.

Arkansas appears at the top of rankings for next season

Are there any transfers that Arkansas doesn’t get? Only the ones that go to Wyoming, apparently. The Razorbacks have the No. 2 overall recruiting class and the No. 1 overall transfer class. Notably, five-star guard Anthony Black committed to the Razorbacks. Also, Arkansas secured former Missouri forward Trevon Brazile. For a team that made it to the Elite Eight for the second straight season, Arkansas continues to stack up for the coming season.

Duke has some work to do

For those that were hoping the Blue Devils would finally fade into irrelevance after the retirement of Coach K, you might have to wait a few more years. New Head Coach Jon Scheyer will have a dominant roster next season, even after six current Duke players commit to the NBA draft. After having the No. 1 recruiting class in 2022, the Blue Devils have the top class in 2023 as well. Duke’s most impressive recruit is Mackenzie Mgbako, a 6-foot-7 small forward from New Jersey that will add valuable size to their squad. Most way-too-early rankings have the Blue Devils ranked as the fourth to eighth best team, which is very high praise. Oftentimes, programs such as Michigan, USC and Texas are overrated in preseason rankings because of the prestige of their sports programs, only for them to underperform. Duke could suffer a similar fate next season, as I believe they would be ranked in the eighth through 12th range if they were not named Duke. Armed with a lot of young talent, but little experience, we will see if John Scheyer can prove critics wrong.

St. Peters in rebuild mode

St. Peters made a historic run to the Elite Eight as a No. 15 seed, becoming one of the most memorable Cinderella stories in NCAA Tournament history. Since then, a mass exodus has ensued. Head Coach Shaheen Holloway left for Seton Hall, news which was made official before the end of the tournament. However, there was hope that the rest of the team would stay together, but that did not materialize. After St. Peters decided to look elsewhere for a new head coach instead of promoting assistant Ryan Whalen, most of their talent headed for the door. Notably, star guard Doug Edert transferred to Bryant University. Further, juniors guards Daryl Banks III and Matthew Lee and forwards Hassan and Fousseyni Drame are in the NCAA transfer portal.

I had hoped this team would stay together, but usually, these Cinderella teams do not have a fairytale ending. It is a natural instinct for a star on one of these teams to search for a better situation after gaining national exposure from the tournament. The tragedy here is that, if they had promoted Whalen to the head coach role, they could have built around their current team and aimed to make another run next year. Instead, St. Peter’s had a beautiful, but very brief, moment to shine.

Leave a Comment