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Control your own destiny by controlling the transfer portal

The transfer portal has turned NCAA rosters into a turnstile, but good programs keep their players. Weird how that works.

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

It’s another transfer portal post!

The transfer portal is a beacon for discussion, with some people hating it, some loving it... but really most people understanding that it is what it is and it’s not going anywhere.

Missouri has been heavily involved in the portal recently. For two straight seasons the Tigers have seen 70% of the roster turnover. Cuonzo Martin flipped 9 spots after 3 graduations, 2 grad transfers, and four regular transfers. This spring Dennis Gates has watched 8 transfers and 1 grad transfer enter the portal. There’s been a massive amount of turnover in Columbia now for two years in a row after some relative stability for a few years in the middle of Martin’s tenure.

But while Mizzou has been a virtual turnstile, other programs have been able to navigate the challenge of the transfer portal and not seen the exodus the Tigers have.

Each of the last two seasons I’ve kept an SEC transfer tracker. Keeping track of each move each program has made. Graduations, transfers, NBA declarations, freshman and JUCO signees. All of it, into one spreadsheet. The advantage is knowing where each program sits with it’s scholarship count (you all know I love my roster counts), but the disadvantage is IT’S A LOT OF WORK and a LOT of reading tweets from @VerbalCommits on twitter.

The work has allowed me to view the portal in a different way. It may seem an obvious point but the programs who don’t worry about the portal, but utilize it, are the programs with the most success. Every program saw at least one player enter the transfer portal. The average was 5. But from most to least:

  • Missouri 9
  • LSU 8
  • Georgia 8
  • Mississippi State 7
  • Ole Miss 6
  • South Carolina 6
  • Tennessee 5
  • Alabama 5
  • Vanderbilt 5
  • Florida 4
  • Arkansas 4
  • Texas A&M 3*
  • Kentucky 2
  • Auburn 1

I added an asterisk to Texas A&M because the Aggies are the only program who are currently over on scholarships right now. They’re +2 and have 15 players committed top lay next season. So clearly there needs to be some wiggle room for Buzz Williams and staff moving forward.

In large part, the programs who’ve been the most successful over recent years have held onto their players. The programs who have struggled, or have switched coaches (looking at you LSU), have seen more turnover.

Which what makes what Bruce Pearl has built at Auburn even more impressive. Auburn has seen virtually no transfer portal entries. They lost some players after a disappointing season a year ago but this season the only exit was Devan Cambridge, who transferred to play his last season with his brother. Pearl is losing multiple players to the NBA Draft, but he’s also added one of the top big men in the portal in Johni Broome. The portal hasn’t hurt them. Cambridge was an energy player off the bench, but his production is replaceable. Pearl has kept who he wanted, and added what he wanted.

Meanwhile, Kentucky is Kentucky. But Arkansas has pushed out who they needed to, and brought in every transfer Eric Musselman really wanted.

There’s legitimate reason to be excited for the programs in Auburn, Fayetteville, and Lexington. And as this is a Missouri blog, what does it take for Dennis Gates to get Missouri to the level where they are seeing the success of those other programs?

Florida State saw just two players enter the transfer portal this past season, and two the year before. Gates built continuity quickly at Cleveland State and saw just two players leave the offseason before last. So the track record seems to exist that this roster flip was intentional, and in general Gates keeps his guys.

This isn’t to say continuity is the end all. Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee, and Alabama have all had multiple players go into the NBA Draft. The path to more stability, and more pros, is to win more. More maybe you win more by building stability and recruiting and developing pros. Which is it? Lets hope Dennis Gates has the answer.