Livescore Thursday, April 25
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On March 28, Mark Madsen was coaching Utah Valley in the NIT semifinals as the young program made its deepest-ever surge into the postseason. A few days later, he was introduced at Cal, and shortly after that, his wife gave birth to their fourth child. It’s been a wild season of life for the Madsen family, but the reasons to celebrate keep piling up. Less than two months after his introductory press conference at Cal, the Bears have emerged as one of the top benefactors of college basketball’s 2023 transfer cycle.

When Jaylon Tyson announced his commitment to Cal earlier this week, it cemented Cal’s transfer class as one of the best in the country and signaled to the rest of the Pac-12 that the Bears are no longer going to be the league’s doormat. After going 22-92 in league play over the last six seasons, Cal suddenly has a roster nucleus that suggests serious progression is in store following a 3-29 (2-18 Pac-12) ending to Mark Fox’s woeful four-year tenure.

But for every winner on the transfer market, there is a loser on the opposite end of the spectrum, such as Vanderbilt. After an impressive late-season surge that saw the Commodores make deep runs in the SEC Tournament and NIT, the program dealt with a mass exodus leading up to Thursday’s deadline for players to enter the portal.

Though players in the portal still have plenty of time to choose their destination and graduate transfers can still enter, the May 11 deadline is a line in the sand for college basketball’s offseason. In light of the recently passed benchmark here are how things stand in terms of winners and losers from portal season.

Winner: Cal picks up solid pieces 

Tyson is No. 9 in the CBS Sports Transfer Rankings after averaging 10.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 40.2% from 3-point range for Texas Tech this past season. The 6-foot-7 wing is the type of versatile who could help the Bears tripling last season’s win total by Christmas in Madsen’s first season. He is the headliner, but he’s not the only coveted transfer who is headed to Cal. 

Former Utah Valley and Texas Tech big man Fardaws Aimaq quickly signed up to reunite with Madsen and could compete for all-conference honors if he can regain the form he enjoyed at UVU. In his lone season at Texas Tech, Aimaq was limited to 11 games due to injury but still averaged 11.1 points and 7.9 rebounds. 

In addition to Tyson and Aimaq, Cal’s backcourt is getting a high-end makeover as well. Northern Arizona transfer Jalen Cone is coming after shooting 40% on 7.3 attempts from 3-point range last season. The 5-10 scoring guard began his career at Virginia Tech and was also productive there, which suggests his game will translate to the Pac-12. Fellow guards Michael Meadows (Eastern Washington and Portland) and Keonte Kennedy (Xavier, UTEP and Memphis) are also set to play their final college seasons for the Bears after productive careers in other places. 

Not only will all three collectively upgrade Cal’s talent, but they will bring veteran savvy to a roster that ranked 234th in Division I experience last season, per KenPom. With former Kentucky and Texas guard Devin Askew also on pace to return after averaging a team-best 15.5 points in 13 games last season, the Bears are for a significant all-around talent upgrade because of Madsen’s rockstar start on the job.

Loser: Vanderbilt starters bolt

Vanderbilt appeared to turn a corner late in Jerry Stackhouse’s fourth season as coach. The Commodores rallied from a 10-12 start to win eight of their final nine regular season games. Then, they made a run to the SEC Tournament semifinals highlighted by a quarterfinal win over Kentucky. That victory put them on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Though the ‘Dores missed out on the Big Dance, they stayed hot with two wins in the NIT before bowing out in the quarterfinals with a final record of 22-15.

But much of the program’s positive momentum has evaporated into the portal as five players who were at least part-time starters for the Commodores have elected to transfer. In total, eight Vanderbilt players are headed out while just one transfer has committed to play for the program next season. Among the most impactful losses are No. 2 scorer Tyrin Lawrence, No. 3 scorer Jordan Wright and top 3-point shooter Myles Stute.

The wave of departures leave 5-foot-11 guard Ezra Manjon as the only player who averaged more than five points per game last season. A trio of three-star freshmen have signed, and two more three-star freshmen are committed along with Lehigh transfer guard Evan Taylor. But the Commodores face an uphill battle to reclaiming the trajectory they appeared to enjoy just two months ago.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins put a lot in jeopardy with his derogatory radio rant this week, but he and WVU have reached an agreement that will allow the 69-year-old Hall of Fame to continue as coach. The fiasco made for an ugly, self-induced distraction from what has otherwise been an excellent start to the program’s offseason. With a pair of the nation’s top-10 transfers incoming in Kerr Kriisa from Arizona and Jesse Edwards from Syracuse, the Mountaineers have the early makings of a Big 12 title contender.

Also arriving is Raequan Battle, who averaged 17.7 points per game for Montana State in the 2022-23 season after playing the first two years of his career at Washington. The incoming trio of experienced and productive players will pair with key returners such as Joe Toussaint and Tre Mitchell to give WVU an excellent nucleus. Former Manhattan guard Jose Perez could be a nice role player after sitting out the 2022-23 season following his transfer to WVU in October.

Loser: Texas Tech starts slow under McCasland

In the era of mass transfers and immediate eligibility, the first few weeks on the job have become paramount for first-year coaches hoping to immediately field winning teams. For Madsen at Cal, those first few weeks went almost perfectly. For Grant McCasland at Texas Tech, they have been a struggle.

Following the March 8 resignation of Mark Adams, McCasland entered fresh off an NIT title with North Texas later in the month. The delayed timing didn’t help McCastland, and neither did the exits of Aimaq and Tyson for Cal. The departures of role players Daniel Batcho (Louisiana Tech), Elijah Fisher (DePaul) and KJ Allen (Portland State) have further depleted Texas Tech’s depth.

While the expected return of freshman phenom Pop Isaacs gives McCastland something to build around, work remains to be done. Three-star prospects Drew Steffe and Jason Jackson are arriving, as are serviceable transfers Darrion Williams (Nevada), KyeRon Lindsay (Georgia) and Chance McMillan (Grand Canyon). Had North Texas transfers Tylor Perry (Kansas State) or About Ousmane (Xavier) chosen to follow McCastland, the Red Raiders may have avoided the “losers” designation. But those players chose other power conference options. As things stand in mid-May, the Red Raiders have some ground to make up if they wish to be competitive in the Big 12 next season.

Winner: Wake Forest addresses needs 

Wake Forest went 41-74 (17-57 ACC) in the four seasons before Steve Forbes’ arrival. In his two seasons as coach, the Demon Deacons are 44-24 (23-17). They haven’t been to the Big Dance yet, but don’t be surprised if they make their way into the field next season after supplementing a solid returning core with some nice transfer pieces.

Former five-star guard Hunter Sallis is on the way after playing 15.3 minutes per game off the bench for Gonzaga the past two seasons. Former highly touted LSU and Gonzaga center Efton Reid is also making the cross-country trek after showing promise as a freshman at LSU but struggling to find a role for the Bulldogs last season. Central Michigan transfer guard Kevin Miller looks like a nice addition, too, after averaging 18.5 points on 51.9% shooting last season. Those three incoming players will combine with returning double-digit scorers Damari Monsanto, Cameron Hildreth and Andrew Carr to give Forbes a formidable nucleus for the 2023-24 season. 

Losing key players prematurely either to the portal or professional options has become a rite of passage for Washington State, which has still managed to finish above .500 in Pac-12 play the past two seasons, despite heavy roster churn. After the 2019-20 season, which was coach Kyle Smith’s first, star wing CJ Elleby decided to turn pro. He is already out of the NBA. Then, after the 2020-21 season, leading scorer Isaac Bonton chose not to use the extra season of eligibility afforded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he embarked on an overseas career.

After last season, three starters with remaining eligibility opted to either transfer or turn pro. Now, after a 17-17 (11-9 Pac-12) campaign, the Cougars are losing leading scorer TJ Bamba to Villanova and starting forward DJ Rodman to USC. The addition of former Kansas and Drake guard Joseph Yesufu looks like a solid pickup. But unless the Cougars add some more firepower, Smith will be doing well to finish above .500 in the league for a third straight year as he embarks on his fifth season at WSU.

Winner: FAU keeps Final Four core

Remember all that chatter during the NCAA Tournament about the imminent raid of FAU’s once roster once the Owls were finally bounced from the Big Dance? It never happened. The Owls will likely be the favorites to win the revamped AAC next season after keeping their core group out of the transfer portal. Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin are going through the NBA’s pre-draft, but they have kept the door open for a return to FAU. That’s a huge win for the Owls and the little guys everywhere around college basketball.

Oklahoma State ranked No. 78 in Division I experience this past season and No. 59 in bench minutes, per KenPom.com. The Cowboys were experienced and deep, though that desirable combination yielded only an NIT bid. But with six scholarship players hitting the portal, the calculus is shifting toward youth next season. A five-man freshman class ranked No. 14 in the 247Sports Team Rankings is entering along with East Carolina Transfer Javon Small and Jacksonville transfer Mike Marsh. In this era, it’s hard to have faith in a youth movement when none of the freshmen are ranked inside the top 30 of their class.

Winner: Kansas lands Dickinson

Kansas played most of last season without a traditional big in the lineup. It will play next season with one of the best bigs in college basketball after prized Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson chose the Jayhawks over a long list of the sport’s top programs. Dickinson is a three-time All-Big Ten performer who can protect the rim, shoot 3-pointers and bruise in the post with his 7-1 frame. KU also added former five-star prospect Arterio Morris from Texas through the portal and picked up veteran 3-point shooter Nicolas Timberlake from Towson to bolster a roster that is again shaping up to be one of the best in college basketball.



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