Between the transfer market, traditional high school recruiting, summer workouts, foreign tours and all the other commitments required of coaches, there isn't much of an offseason in modern college basketball. But with the dawn of a new academic year, the 2023 player movement cycle has nearly concluded, bringing the upcoming 2023-24 season into focus.
A few transfers, such as new Kansas State commitment Ques Glover, dragged their recruitments into mid-August. It's also a normal practice for international prospects such as recent UCLA commitment Aday Mara to sign in August as programs look to fill out some of their remaining scholarship slots.
For the most part, though, the offseason -- perhaps free agency is a more appropriate term in 2023 -- has concluded. It won't be long before official practices are fired up and preseason polls and predictions start rolling off the presses.
Before we get there, let's take a look back at the "offseason" and determine who the winners and losers have been in college basketball since UConn celebrated its national title in Houston on April 3.
Winner: Duke scores continuity
Continuity is a significant but increasingly rare trait in college basketball, and Duke ranked No. 337 in KenPom's continuity metric last season, as guard Jeremy Roach was the team's only returning rotation player. A great offseason ensured the Blue Devils will climb the continuity charts in coach Jon Scheyer's second season. Five members of the Blue Devils' No. 1 ranked 2022 recruiting class chose to return for their sophomore seasons. Three of them -- Kyle Filipowski, Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell -- likely would have been drafted. Their returns speak to the foundation established by Scheyer, who also landed the nation's No. 3 ranked recruiting class. Duke finished 27-9, won the ACC Tournament and earned a No. 5 seed for the NCAA Tournament last season in a transition year. After an excellent offseason of roster retention, the Blue Devils are poised to contend for the national title in 2023-24.
Loser: West Virginia's offseason goes from great to bleak
West Virginia went from an obvious winner to an obvious loser thanks to the stunning downfall of legendary coach Bob Huggins. First, he dropped a homophobic slur on live radio in May. He managed to stay employed amid that blunder. Then came a June DUI charge that resulted in the end of a head coaching career spanning more than four decades. Making matters all the more painful for WVU is that Huggins' collapse came at a time of high optimism for the program. The Mountaineers assembled what still ranks among the nation's best transfer classes. However, starting center Tre Matthews opted to transfer to Kentucky amid the mayhem with Huggins. Assistant Josh Eilert is serving as the interim coach and did a good job to retain big-time transfers such as Kerr Kris from Arizona, Jesse Edwards from Syracuse and RaeQuan Battle from Montana State. But the Huggins fiasco turned a celebratory offseason at WVU into a disaster and casts plenty of doubt over what the Mountaineers will be this season.
Winner: Purdue running it back
The Boilermakers bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in embarrassing fashion as just the second No. 1 seed to ever lose against a No. 16 seed. But a good offseason set Purdue up for a shot at redemption. When reigning National Player of the Year Zach Edey announced his return, the Boilermakers immediately became the top contender to repeat as Big Ten champions. In fact, four of the five players who started in the Boilermakers' stunning loss to Fairleigh Dickinson opted to return. The only other time a No. 1 seed lost to a No. 16 seed was Virginia in 2018. The Cavaliers proceeded to win the national title the following season. The early portions of a similar script were written this offseason at Purdue with so many key players -- none bigger than Edey -- choosing to return.
Winner: Rick Pitino makes a splash at St. John's
It didn't take long for Rick Pitino to start molding the St. John's roster to his liking. The 70-year-old coaching legend overhauled the Red Storm this offseason and turned it into a team capable of reaching the 2024 NCAA Tournament. Coveted former Ivy League stars Jordan Dingle (Penn) and Chris Ledlum (Harvard) stand out in the Red Storm's transfer haul, as does Daniss Jenkins, who led Pitinio's Iona team in assists while also averaging 15.6 points per game last season. Power conference transfers Nahiem Alleyne (UConn), Glenn Taylor Jr. (Oregon State) and Zuby Ejiofor (Kansas) are quality additions, and former North Carolina commit Simeon Wilcher is a freshman who could play early. The list of additions goes on for Pitino, who also got all-Big East performer Joel Soriano to stay after averaging 15.2 points and 11.9 rebounds last season. How long Pitino will continue to coach is anyone's guess, and he wasted no time getting his new program up and running.
Loser: Michigan's roster takes hits
Losing Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard was to be expected, and both wound up as top-15 NBA Draft picks. But the transfer of star center Hunter Dickinson to Kansas after three all-Big Ten campaigns struck a brutal blow to coach Juwan Howard's program. The offseason woes were compounded when North Carolina transfer Caleb Love had to back out of his commitment to the Wolverines because of a Michigan wound up with three transfers comprising the nation's No. 51 ranked transfer class. None of them bring anything close to what Dickinson and Love could provide offensively. All told, the offseason left Wolverines' 2023-24 roster looking significantly less talented than a 2022-23 roster that failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Winner: Big 12 keeps beefing up
Losing Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC is certainly not ideal, but they were always better known for their football anyway. While the replacement crew of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF was already established, this offseason brought news that even more quality basketball programs are on the way. In particular, the addition of Arizona (along with Arizona State, Colorado and Utah) for the 2024-25 season should solidify the Big 12 atop the conference hierarchy in college basketball. A league that features Arizona, Baylor, Houston, Kansas as its upper quadrant is absolutely stacked. Of the eight No. 1 seeds in the past two NCAA Tournaments, five came from that group. Realignment has shifted the balance of football power even more distinctly to the Big Ten and SEC. But the Big 12 remains king of the court until proven otherwise.
Loser: Pac-12 schools get left behind
There was ample reason for optimism at Cal amid the hiring of Mark Madsen and his subsequent recruitment of an excellent transfer class. While the 2023-24 season could still be a good one for the Bears, the long-term outlook for Cal, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State is suddenly bleak. With eight Pac-12 members leaving for the Big Ten or Big 12 after this season, those four have been left in limbo. None of them were thriving to begin with, and now their basketball outlook is even more uncertain. Recruiting figures to be a particularly difficult exercise for the staffs at those schools until their long-term conference affiliations are ironed out.
Loser: Colorado returning to tough territory
Before transitioning to the Pac-12 from the Big 12 for the 2011-12 season, Colorado went five straight seasons without a winning record in the Big 12. Upon joining the Pac-12, the Buffaloes promptly rattled off three straight winning seasons while making the NCAA Tournament each season. The Buffs have remained a consistent mid-tier Pac-12 program under coach Tad Boyle for 12 years, enjoying some of their better seasons of the past half-century while members of the league. Now, they are heading back to a Big 12 that is going to be particularly brutal in basketball. As an institution, CU was smart to get a head start on fleeing a crumbling Pac-12. But finding the upside on the hardwood is tough. Life will be similarly challenging in the Big 12 for schools like Arizona State and Utah. But the transition is particularly striking for Colorado because of how much the Buffs previously struggled in the Big 12.
Winner: FAU fends off the portal
It seemed likely that FAU's roster would be raided once the Owls' Cinderella NCAA Tournament run ended. The stars of the program's stunning Final Four run would parlay their newfound fame into NIL paydays with power conference programs and relegate little 'ol FAU to rebuilding status during its first season in the AAC. Not so fast. Coach Dusty May stayed put, and the roster followed suit. All five starters are returning, including NCAA Tournament stars Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin. Only one rotation player, Michael Forrest, is departing, and that's because he ran out of eligibility. The Owls are well-equipped to compete for the AAC title and return to the Big Dance. The feel good story is rolling on in Boca Raton.