The landscape of college basketball is completely different from what it was just a few years ago, between the transfer portal, COVID years and NIL, the job description of working in college basketball in any capacity has seen several new wrinkles. For better or for worse, the offseason is a living monster that can cultivate both excitement and fear in fanbases.
With the window for entering the transfer portal having closed, it’s worth taking a look at a few mid-major teams who have had impressive offseasons so far in terms of retaining and bringing in talent.
The Cowboys knew exactly what they were getting into by hiring exiled LSU head coach Will Wade to lead their basketball program. They were getting a coach who was going to change the culture upside down, and bring in talent, but will always have his eyes on bigger jobs.
Regardless of motives and morals, McNeese had an excellent offseason. It started with retaining their star from last year, two-time All-Southland performer Christian Shumate. DJ Richards comes in from UTSA, where he averaged double-digit points as a freshman and posted two double-doubles. Cal State Bakersfield wing Antavion Collum is another double-digit scorer with good positional size that comes in for McNeese.
The Cowboys also brought in talent from high major leagues, Shahada Wells from TCU, Mike Saunders from Utah and CJ Felder from Florida. While none of those players had massive roles for their high-major teams last year, they were all parts of rotations of teams 200 spots higher in KenPom than even the good Southland teams.
McNeese hasn’t had a winning record since 2011-12, but the offseason has set expectations extremely high for next season in Lake Charles.
The Governors did not experience success in their first year in the ASUN, going 3-15 in the league and firing Nate James after just two seasons. New head coach Corey Gipson comes in from Northwestern State, and brings talent with him from a team that came just two possessions away from the NCAA Tournament last year.
The haul starts with reigning Southland Player of the Year Demarcus Sharp, who averaged nearly 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals for Gipson last year. Also joining his coach is fellow All-Southland performer Ja’Monta Black, who is one of the nation’s best volume 3-point shooters. Isaac Haney and Jalen Hampton also averaged double-digit points for the Demons last year and will suit up for the Governors in the upcoming season.
It’s not just the Northwestern State imports though, as All-MAAC guard Dezi Jones came in from Quinnipiac, along with 3-point specialist Anton Brookshire from Iona. Despite losing basically their entire team, the additions made by Austin Peay instantly make the Governors a threat in a much more open ASUN in the absence of Liberty.
The Bonnies had zero minutes of carryover from their NIT Final Four team in 2021-22 to last year’s team. As a result, they saw a major set back, going 8-10 in the A-10 and losing in the first round of the conference tournament.
Mark Schmidt could’ve sat on his roster and brought back what probably would’ve been a competitive A10 team, but instead, he went into the transfer portal and turned competitive into a legit contender.
Charles Pride was a 1500-point scorer at Bryant, and the Bonnies fought off high-major interest in order to land the Syracuse native. Another Syracuse native, Mika Adams-Woods, comes in after starting 104 games for Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference over the last four years.
The Bonnies also return all key contributors from last year’s team, including breakout big man Chad Venning. Yann Farell and Barry Evans are coming off promising freshmen campaigns.
The Bona backcourt will be as deep as it’s been in years, and the deployment of a deeper bench will be fascinating to watch as Schmidt famously doesn’t like to send his bench into the game. However, it will be crowded backcourt with Pride, Adams-Woods and returners such as Kyrell Luc, Daryl Banks and Moses Flowers.
The Lobos fell apart in Mountain West play last year under Richard Pitino. An 18-2 start was followed up by a 4-10 finish that included a blowout home loss to Utah Valley in the first round of the NIT.
Despite losing the starting frontcourt of Josiah Allick and Morris Udeze, the Lobos are in a good position for next season. An element that they didn’t have last year was a legit outside wing scoring threat, which is exactly what Dayton transfer Mustapha Amzil can be. Amzil is a 6-foot-9-inch swing forward that can shoot the three and score with strength on the inside. His skill set is a much-needed boost to a high-powered, yet predictable, offense with Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr.
Additionally, Pitino brought in one of his father’s stars at Iona, in center Nelly Junior Joseph, who can be a powerful post presence and a double-double machine. Additionally, Jemarl Baker Jr. is an experienced guard to the backcourt who can take the pressure off of House and Mashburn.
While sixth man KJ Jenkins went to UNC Wilmington, the backcourt depth is still strong. Donovan Dent will stepping up, and four-star recruit Tru Washington is coming into the mix.
Last year’s team laid the initial groundwork, and now a tournament appearance should be attainable this year for New Mexico.
The Gauchos won the Big West last year, and they’ll be the favorites to do so again. Simply retaining superstar Ajay Mitchell in this era of NBA Draft early entries and the transfer portal, is enough to win the offseason, but it wasn’t over there for head coach Joe Pasternack.
Zach Clemence was a rotation player for Bill Self at Kansas over the last two seasons, including winning a National Championship in 2022, and now makes his way to Santa Barbara. Joining him in the frontcourt is 2022 five-star recruit Yohan Traore, who struggled at Auburn but still possesses high-level upside and traits.
Ben Shlotzberg was a top-175 recruit for Creighton, and he matriculates out to UCSB, which also returns Josh Pierre-Louis and Cole Anderson from last year’s backcourt.
Despite losing several players to graduation, the Gauchos portal haul is incredibly talented compared to the rest of the Big West and should help them defend their crown.