Caleb Love, North Carolina transfer, Michigan Wolverines, Transfer Portal

Over two weeks since the UConn Huskies claimed their 5th National Championship, the focus is already on next season for all college basketball teams.

At times, the transfer portal seems like a revolving door. Despite an offseason created for roster moves, the transfer portal kind of makes up its own rules. With most transfer rules lifted and NIL serving as a huge reason as to why so many college basketball players are transferring, the offseason has become a hectic mess.

But there’s also a lot of beauty in that mess, especially when great players join your favorite team, providing instant hope for next season after (unless you’re a UConn fan) a disappointing end to the 2023 season.

Through over two weeks of the true offseason, these players are providing that hope.

20. Jordan Minor, Merrimack to Virginia

Going from a low mid-major to a power conference can be a tough adjustment, but at Minor’s size, it shouldn’t be a huge issue.

The 6-8, 220-pound forward also comes into a Cavaliers’ team that lost big men Kadin Shedrick and Isaac Traudt to the portal. Minor will likely be asked to step up right away and be a huge part of Virginia’s frontcourt. Think of him as the replacement for Jayden Gardner.

19. Skyy Clark, Illinois to Louisville

We know Louisville is going to get a player with loads of potential, but what are they really going to get in Skyy Clark?

The former top-40 recruit only spent 13 games with the Illinois Fighting Illini before deciding to enter his name in the transfer portal. He averaged 7.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists on a talented Illinois team crowded with talent.

While Clark’s college basketball sample size is small, a few games should be noted. He had a season-best 19 points against Lindenwood, 10 points and 5 rebounds in a win over UCLA, and an 11-point, 7-rebound game against Penn State.

Though inefficiency was the main hurdle in Clark’s first half-season of college basketball, his talent did seep through from time to time. Joining a Louisville team also in need of a fresh start could be the perfect pairing.

18. Payton Sparks, Ball State to Indiana

Before Oregon transfer Kel’el Ware chose Indiana, Payton Sparks looked like the potential “replacement” – if you will – to replace Trayce Jackson-Davis. Now, it looks as if Indiana might have the best big men in the country.

Sparks is a bruiser from Ball State – an inside force who I compared to former Hoosiers’ big man Thomas Bryant. He had two good seasons in the MAC,  averaging just under a double-double in both seasons.

The Big Ten is a different animal, but Sparks has so much control under his size, which will make him ready for the challenges of power conference basketball.

17. TJ Bamba, Washington State to Villanova

How will Bamba fare moving from the Pac-12 to the Big East? At 6-5, 208 pounds, he should have no issues being physical. Bamba will also be an immediate scoring threat to a Wildcats team that could use some more. He’s an above-average three-point shooter who also hits the rim hard on the drive.

It seemed as if Villanova lacked some talent and depth at times last year. The pickup of Bamba should help to solve some of those issues.

16. Jameer Nelson Jr, Delaware to TCU

Congrats to Jameer Nelson Jr., but not just because he’s a great basketball player, but also for making people like me, who grew up watching his father on the Orlando Magic, feel pretty old right about now.

After two successful seasons at George Washington, Nelson took over at Delaware, because a 20 PPG scorer last season. The 6-foot-1 guard does more than just score the basketball. He gets his hand in on rebounds, runs a good offense, and is one of the best defenders in the transfer portal.

Giving Jamie Dixon such a talented guard who plays both sides of the ball is a scary thing in the Big 12. Nelson will need to improve his 3-point shot, but given TCU’s style of play, it’s not surprising that Dixon wasn’t looking for a lethal weapon from outside.

15. Steven Ashworth, Utah State to Creighton

This could be one of the most slept-on transfer portal pickups in the country.

Ashworth, who shot 43.4% from downtown last season, should fit perfectly in a Bluejays system that values the three-pointer as much as it does.

Ashworth could also help mend the loss of Ryan Nembhard. He was an integral part of the Aggies’ offense in more than just scoring, leading the team with 4.5 assists per game. Watch for Ashworth to help keep Creighton as a top 25 team in the country throughout next season.

14. Khalif Battle, Temple to Arkansas

Battle is joining transfer portal haven at Arkansas, as Eric Musselman continues to use the portal to build the Razorbacks.

A former Butler Bulldog, Battle found his groove with the Owls. He averaged over 20 PPG last season, but an injury cut it short to 7 games. In a full season in 2022-23, Battle scored 17.9 PPG and shot 35% from three. He’s a huge scoring threat and should give Arkansas a chance to stay competitive at the very top of the SEC.

13. Caleb Mills, Florida State to Memphis

A former AAC All-Freshman team member with Houston, Mills took his game to the ACC, where his talent was overshadowed on a struggling Florida State Seminoles team.

However, Mills wasn’t the problem. He led the ‘Noles in scoring in 2021-22 and was one of three FSU players averaging between 13.0 and 14.0 points per game last season. He also wasn’t asked to be a volume scorer by Leonard Hamilton, only taking about 10 shots per game in two seasons in Tallahassee.

Mills will use his final year of eligibility to play for Penny Hardaway at Memphis. Right now, he looks at the apparent replacement for former Tigers scoring threat Kendric Davis.

Mills is back in the conference where he started it all and could be a force to be reckoned with if given the keys to start the engine.

12. Jalen Cook, Tulane to LSU

We don’t see this often, but Jalen Cook, who started his career at LSU in 2020, is returning to the Tigers in 2023.

He spent the last two seasons at Tulane, where he became one of the best scorers in the AAC. In fact, it didn’t take long at all. Cook only averaged 7.5 minutes per game during his freshman season at LSU. The next year with the Green Wave, Cook nearly tripled his minutes – in points per game, averaging 18.0.

Cook comes back to an LSU program in a whole new system. The former Will Wade product will play under Ryan McMahon, which should make a huge difference. Cook should come right in and be asked to take on a heavy load of the scoring duties. Considering he finished second in scoring in the AAC to Kendric Davis – with a teammate (Jaylen Forbes) who averaged 18.5 points per game, that shouldn’t be an issue.

11. Denver Jones, FIU to Auburn

Jones’ team was one vowel off from going to the Final Four, and now FIU loses its best player to the transfer portal.

After an impressive freshman season where Jones averaged 12.5 points per game with the Panthers, he decided to stay another year instead of leaving right away.

It clearly paid off, because Jones averaged 20.1 points per game as a sophomore, leading Conference USA in scoring. He’s as efficient as a player in the transfer portal, shooting 37.1% from three and 55.2% from two last season.

Jones joins an Auburn team with a diminished backcourt. Starting point guard Wendell Green Jr. is off to the NBA Draft – one of six departures that also includes former 4-star recruit, Chance Westry.

10. Fardaws Aimaq, Texas Tech to Cal

Aimaq is quite literally the epitome of the transfer portal. After a year at Mercer, he transferred to Utah Valley. That was BEFORE the current rules, so Aimaq had to sit out a year. He played two seasons with the Wolverines, before a breakout year of 18.9 PPG and 13.6 RPG got the notice of the college basketball world.

So, Aimaq took his talents to Texas Tech.

Unfortunately, that ended up being a nightmare, as an injury kept the big man out until Jan. 14. He proved his worth in a power conference, posting three double-doubles in the Big 12.

Now, Aimaq will play one final season back on the west coast, with the Cal Bears. The decision to seemingly go down a level after a fairly successful season (when he was on the court) is interesting, but no one can argue about Aimaq’s talent. He should elevate Cal’s play and maybe even get them to the NCAA Tournament to the first time since 2016.

9. Jamison Battle, Minnesota to Ohio State

Transferring within a conference is becoming more common, and Battle is a prime example, heading from Minnesota to Ohio State.

For Battle, it will all be about how his talents are used. At Minnesota, he’s been a go-to scorer, averaging a career-high 17.5 points per game as a junior. Last season, Battle’s production went way down, shooting a career-worst 37.1 FG%.

Ohio State is in a weird place, because the Buckeyes continue to bring in great recruiting classes, but didn’t see it pan out last season. They finished 16-19 with the 8th-best class according to 247Sports.

Whether or not Battle is asked to be a primary scorer or more of a veteran to offer his services, he clearly has the game to produce in the Big Ten. Over the past two seasons, the 6-foot-7 forward has scored 20+ points in 13 Big Ten games, including 39 against Maryland in 2022.

The inefficient Battle is a guessing game, but when he’s on, he can be one of the best scorers in the Big Ten.

8. Ace Baldwin, VCU to Penn State

Baldwin is a menace of a perimeter defender, averaging 2+ steals per game for the third straight season at VCU. Coming in with a limited offensive game, Baldwin turned into a scoring asset, leading the Rams in points per game on a team that went 27-8 and made the NCAA Tournament.

Baldwin will play for Penn State and new head coach Mike Rhoades. Of course, Rhoades was Baldwin’s coach at VCU, so other than potentially playing with and against some better Big Ten talent, the transition should be absolutely seamless. Expect Baldwin to blossom even more as a player, as he won’t have to worry about learning a brand-new system.

7. JJ Starling, Notre Dame to Syracuse

Could Adrian Autry be saving Syracuse as we know it? The Orange got a former 5-star recruit in JJ Starling, potentially pairing him with Judah Mintz if the fab freshman decides to return to the Hill.

Starling showed his worth, but on a Notre Dame team that only won 11 games. Luckily for him, Joe Girard III and Jesse Edwards are both leaving the program, so even if Mintz does come back, Starling looks to be the second option at worst.

He’s also the hometown kid, so while the pressure may seem high, it also should feel like a comfortable situation as he looks to live up to the potential placed upon him.

6. Kerr Kriisa, Arizona to West Virginia

Kriisa might not be the same type of player as Jevon Carter, but he might be the best point guard at West Virginia since Carter.

The former Arizona Wildcat may not be an offensive juggernaut, but he will get the offense moving in the right direction. Kriisa’s 5.2 assists per game in Pac-12 play led the conference.

With Kriisa, it’s about committing to the defensive end. That’s a must with West Virginia and Kriisa knows it.

“Now I need to start playing some defense,” said Kriisa in an interview with Sports Illustrated. A defensive-minded Kriisa could wreak havoc on the Big 12, but a defensive-less Kriisa won’t have fun playing for Bob Huggins. It’ll be interesting to watch his progression with his new team.

5. Kel’el Ware, Oregon to Indiana

A player with more potential than anyone in the entire portal, Ware was the 7th-ranked player by 247Sports coming out of high school in 2022. He committed to an Oregon team filled with big men, and played sparingly, averaging 6.6 PPG and 4.1 RPG in just over 15 minutes of action per contest.

Ware entered the portal and transferred to Indiana where he will join Payton Sparks in a talented frontcourt. Ware should be assumed the role of starting center. The 7-footer will have a long ways to go to match the accolades of Trayce Jackson-Davis, but he should be the man on campus on an Indiana team that had to re-load after a senior-heavy class led to a lot of turnover.

4. Jesse Edwards, Syracuse to West Virginia

Syracuse didn’t have the best season, but don’t let that distract you from how good of a player Jesse Edwards is. The 6-11 center averaged a double-double and nearly three blocks per game, proving his worth on both ends of the floor.

He’ll go from one Hall-of-Fame coach to another in Bob Huggins. Edwards will also team up with Arizona transfer Kerr Kriisa on what should be a much improved Mountaineers team. Playing with a talented pass-first point guard should also help Edwards expand his offensive game even more. While he’s a graduate senior, it still seems like there’s a level Edwards hasn’t even begun to hit yet.

3. Caleb Love, North Carolina to Michigan

An inconsistent shooter at worst, Love can be the best player on the floor at his best. While inefficiency has always been the problem (check the career FG% of .360), Love is still a potent scorer who requires an elite defender to stop him from putting up 20+ points on any given night.

Love’s stock did take a bit of a downfall, after a junior season that didn’t show much potential after a very promising sophomore campaign. But when you’re a guard at North Carolina, the spotlight will always be blasting.

Whether or not Love can fix his efficiency problem will be the number one thing to follow as he joins Michigan looking to revitalize his career for his senior year.

2. Tramon Mark, Houston to Arkansas

With Houston welcoming in a player yet to be named on this transfer rankings list, Tramon Mark decided he wanted out.

Mark will now play for Arkansas and Eric Musselman, who has been as busy as anyone this offseason. An elite defender, Mark can also be a key offensive piece on a Razorbacks team that should once again compete at the top of the SEC.

It will be interesting, however, to see how Arkansas uses Mark on offense. His career high is 10.1 points per game, but the potential is there for Mark to be a legitimate offensive weapon.

1. LJ Cryer, Baylor to Houston

One of the top players in the transfer portal, LJ Cryer will attempt to win a second National Championship with a different Texas school.

The decision comes as a bit of a surprise, as Cryer’s minutes and offensive usage both went up in year three with the Bears. He was thought of to be a go-to guy on what should be another preseason top 25 team in Waco. Instead, Cryer opted to take his talents to Houston, where he will join Kelvin Sampson. He should instantly become the star of the Cougars and could wind up on one of the national preseason teams next season.

You don’t often see players of Cryer’s caliber in the transfer portal.

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