Eight up-transfers who will impact the NCAA tournament

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Transferring has become so common place within Division I college basketball that distinctions have been formulated in recent years to categorize the transfers. Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn coined the term ‘up-transfers’ a few years ago, and how a player becomes an up-transfer is simple: either transfer from a low to a mid-major, a mid to a high-major, or a struggling high-major to a perennial contending high-major. If you take one step up the college basketball pecking order, you are now an up-transfer.

The up-transfer trend has distinctly risen in the past seven years. Combing through the NCAA’s official reports on DI transfer rates, which covered a period from 2007 to 2012, Winn discovered there were six up-transfers during that first offseason; during this past fall, though, Winn reported that more than 30 up transfers would be eligible to play in 2014, eight of which have significantly impacted their teams and will provide a boost in the coming NCAA tournament games:

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T.J. McConnell, Arizona-via-Duquesne

Arizona would not have attained the number one ranking this season or likely been a top seed in the tournament without McConnell. The ball-hawking guard has strengthened the Wildcats’ defense, and his ability to find through screens and recover quickly has made the perimeter defense of an already competent pack-line defense even stingier. On offense, McConnell’s presence moved Nick Johnson off the ball and allowed the junior to take advantage of his other-worldly athleticism and scoring ability, and the ex-Duke has been a perfect fit directing UA’s offense — McConnell’s assist rate is a robust 31.8 percent.

Lasan Kromah, Connecticut-via-George Washington

The former George Washington wing had a reputation as a three-point shooter when he arrived in Storrs, and though that recognition might have been a bit overstated — he is making one-third of his threes — Kromah is another perimeter option for a team that needs a Husky other than Ryan Boatright or Shabazz Napier to emerge.

Davon Usher, Delaware-via-Mississippi Valley State

No one knew what to expect from the wing when he arrived in Newark, but his reunion with Devon Saddler, his former AAU teammate, has bulked up Delaware’s already notorious backcourt scoring. Usher is making an impressive 54 percent of his twos and 36 percent of his threes, and when combined with Saddler and Jarvis Threatt, the UDee backcourt is responsible for more than 60 percent of the team’s point production.

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Rodney Hood, Duke-via-Mississippi State

When Hood announced he was transferring from Starkville to Durham, it was unknown how Hood would mesh with the Duke offense. After an efficient but underutilized freshman year, would he have much of an impact upon assuming a focal role in the Blue Devil offense? Hood can score from deep — 42 percent from three — and has the tools to compete in the middle of the defensive interior (50.4 percent), but the most impressive quality of Hood’s game is his knack for always being in the right spot (i.e. the Syracuse game).

Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida-via-Virginia Tech

Under Billy Donovan, Florida has always been known for their wing offense, forwards who operate from either wing on the court and can take the ball to the basket via pick and rolls, or extend the defense with their shooting. Finney-Smith is still working on his ability to be effective off the bounce, but his shooting fits seamlessly with the idea of a Florida wing: nearly 50 percent of his field goals are from beyond the arc, and he makes 32 percent (a somewhat low percentage, yes, but one that was dinged by a late season slump).

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State-via-Marshall

The ex-Thundering Herd guard needed a coach who would trust him, and coach Fred Hoiberg needed a guard whose desire to win would inspire and overtake his Cyclones. When Kane arrived in Ames, he reportedly told his teammates all he wanted to do for his final season was win, and Kane has ably directed this efficient offense (1.15 PPP), handing out an assist on 31 percent of his possessions and keeping defenses from sagging with his perimeter shooting (40 percent from three).

Jason Calliste and Joseph Young, Oregon-via-Detroit and Houston

Joseph Young is a scorer, and that was evident from the first moments he took the court for the Ducks, but the ultimate surprise of all these up-transfers is Calliste. The ex-Detroit guard was a good shooter in the Horizon League, but Calliste’s accuracy has completely transformed in Euegene. He is leading the nation in true shooting percentage, and several of his offensive statistics rank within the top percentile for KenPom.com. While occupying a similar percentage of shots attempted as he did in Detroit, Calliste is converting more than 50 percent of his threes.

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

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Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.

Vanderbilt the sixth Kentucky player declares for the NBA draft

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Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”

“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.

All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.