The speed of the transfer portal has changed everything in college basketball. More than one-time transfer rules where you can change schools and play right away. Oh, and then a free year for those affected by Kovid and the introduction of name, image and similarity deals where players can cash in on their brand has completely messed everything up.
Roster construction has never been more fluid. The coaches are open about the changes that are going to happen. Players are leaving and sometimes that makes perfect sense because talented prospects chase their stock for a better chance. At other times, the players’ mobility will leave the coach, assistant scratching their heads and forcing the fans to check the roster frequently so that they can see again who is on the team.
In a way, it’s like free agency, because teams feel the best possible fit on the waiver wires to fill their rotation.
The Big Ten is no different. Fred Hoiberg has leaned heavily on the transfer portal to fill the Nebraska roster. Mike Woodson completely revamped his Indiana backcourt before the first big year. Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland, Ohio State and Illinois took some big swings in the transfer portal. Oh, and Michigan had the No. 2 recruitment class in the 2021 class, while the states of Illinois, Nebraska and Michigan also put together the top-25 recruitment classes.
So the talent in the Big Ten is at an all-time high with all-American talents like EJ Liddell, Kofi Cockburn, Trace Jackson-Davis, Travian Williams and Hunter Dickinson, and a lot of fresh faces entering the league.
This exercise will go team-by-team in the Big Ten and take on the best newcomer. We will only focus on the potential impact of this new face for the 2021-22 season as it is just silly to look so far ahead in college basketball. We will consider their potential fitness, what their role might be, and what changes they might make to their respective program.
Illinois coach Brad Underwood wants to shoot a lot more 3-pointers in 2021-22, so he went to the transfer portal and found perhaps the best available shooter from Utah’s Alfonso Plummer. Ayo Dosunmu has left for the NBA, and his Chicago-based fantasy Adam Miller stunned Illinois staff when he transferred to play for Will Wade at LSU after starting each game as a new game. But Plummer can take the right step in the role of Miller. 6 ft-1 lefty is a certified bucket. He made at least one 3-pointer (38% from downtown) except for one of Utah’s 25 games last year. Rumors of Plummer’s exit from the champion on the first impression have hit Gagana. Underwood will have to hit three guards below 6-foot-1 (Andre Karbello, Trent Frazier and Plummer), but don’t be surprised if Plummer starts the season as Illini’s No. 1 scorer. If he competes defensively at a high level, Underwood won’t be afraid to play him during the crunch.
The Indiana backcourt has not been strong for a few years, but Pittsburgh transfer Xavier Johnson could probably replace it. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard is an absolute physical animal. Johnson can spend regular nights where he is the best player on the floor. It could affect the game at both ends and could be a big year for Mike Woodson and Indiana. In three years at Pittsburgh, he scored 1,152 points, 311 rebounds, 415 assists and 124 steals in 84 career games. He averaged 5.7 assists per game in 2021. Johnson isn’t a terrific shooter (33 percent from the 3-point range) but he can be a bit streaky and really hot for stretch. The most underlined part of Johnson’s game is that he could be the defensive insect that Indiana needs. Oh, and he comes to the free-throw line at will. The last few years have been moments of stupidity in the Hoosiers ’offense. Johnson should help turn it around. Trace Jackson-Davis is a man from Indiana, but there’s no reason Johnson can’t be No. 2.
North Dakota transfer Philip Rebraca will have to step into Luca Garza’s big shoes. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound big man averaged 16.8 points (50.6 percent off-field shooting and 36.6 percent 3-point range) and 7.6 rebounds per game for North Dakota in 2020-21. Rebraca is going to be a really good fit for the Iowa offense and he had a lot of success throughout his career when he faced high-level opponents. In 2021, he beat Minnesota for 23 points and six rebounds. In 2020, he made a 16-point, 13-rebound, double-double against Gonzaga. He had 15 points and 11 boards in the win against Nebraska. So in the Big Ten that transition shouldn’t be too difficult for the veteran. The Rebraca duo haven’t made a big splash in the college basketball world, but they’re going to help the Hockey a lot.