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Up-Transfers Draining the Life Blood of Mid-Major Hoops

Luke Hancock will be wearing a Louisville uniform this season, just one of a series of up-transfers that seem to be draining the top players out of mid-major basketball.
Luke Hancock will be wearing a Louisville uniform this season, just one of a series of up-transfers that seem to be draining the top players out of mid-major basketball.

Here you are thinking that you were going to have a quiet Wednesday afternoon, and then SI's Luke Winn goes and drops some knowledge on you.

Today's topic is transfers. Not all transfers are bad things. There are a million reasons why a school might not end up being the right fit for someone, and not all of them have to do with basketball.

There could be issues at home, there could be academic reasons. The list is long and varied, and transfers are in no way as shady as some of the recruiting commitments and decommitments that players pull off when they are still in high school (Link is to another Winn classic).

But they still have impacts on teams at the mid-major level, especially the trend that Winn followed tracking Up-Transfers: those players moving to a more high profile program after one, two, or even three years in the mid-major or lower high-major ranks.

No sooner had Winn posted his piece than CBS's CJ Moore tweeted back with a link to an article that passed around during March.

After Ohio's D.J. Cooper led the Bobcats to the Sweet Sixteen, USA Today summarized a story that looked at bigger school's attempts to pry Cooper from John Groce's hands after his freshman year.

Cooper stayed, and should be poised to lead the Bobcats back to the NCAA Tournament this season.

But the article helped to shed light on the shadier side of "second-chance recruiting".

Not all of the Up-transfers that Winn identified would fall in this category. Trey Zeigler didn't leave Central Michigan because someone convinced him he would be better playing elsewhere. His dad got fired by the Chippewas, and it would have been awkward for him to stick around.

But for every Zeigler on the board, there is another transfer that doesn't look so tidy. And that is killing the mid-major teams losing these players.

Think of George Mason for a moment. Luke Hancock elected to leave after Jim Larranaga moved on to Miami. He will be eligible to play for Louisville this coming season.

With the newly depleted Colonial ripe for the taking, wouldn't the Patriots be better off with Hancock still running the offense?

Or even closer to Chicago, Rayvonte Rice had a strong season helping to lead a Drake team that finished tied for third in the Missouri Valley Conference at 9-9, and 18-16 overall. Rice will be departing for Illinois (speaking of John Groce) and will be eligible to play in 2013-14.

Now Rice is from Champaign, yet he didn't mention going home as being a factor in his decision. And it isn't like he was in California playing and moving to be with his family. He was just a short drive to Iowa.

Think the Bulldogs won't be missing Rice the next two seasons? He led the team in scoring and steals last year, and was second in rebounds and assists per game.

Poach job? You can be the judge of that.

Winn seemed most concerned by the number of graduation transfers that seem to be exploding.

While pursuing graduate degrees, players get one more shot at basketball with another school of their choosing. In almost all cases, these players are spending that one year somewhere with a shot of making the NCAA Tournament (the exception appearing to be UConn by way of Holy Cross guard R.J. Evans, who is headed to the Huskies despite their postseason ban).

That NCAA Tournament appearance can mean a lot to a player, as we saw with the case of Kyle O'Quinn and a couple of other players who will likely be high on draft boards after this year (see Cooper, Lehigh's C.J. McCollum). But it isn't the only thing.

Turn in great performances no matter where you are and you will be rewarded (see Weber State's Damian Lillard).

It is just too bad that this drains some of the top talent out of the mid-major ranks, stunting the growth of programs just trying to break through to that next level.

And in some cases, like it appears with Evans, the grass most definitely is not greener.