I have a new love: the NCAA transfer portal — and specifically the men's basketball transfer portal.
Before we get into my infatuation, a bit of information: while my love of the portal is swelling, the portal itself is not brand new. It debuted in the fall of 2018, and per the NCAA the intent was "as a compliance tool to systematically manage the transfer process from start to finish, add more transparency to the process among schools and empower student-athletes to make known their desire to consider other programs."
In short: it saves on administrative time and gives athletes more power. If a college athlete intends to transfer, they enter the portal. Other schools can see that they intend to transfer, and a re-recruitment of sorts commences.
In a lot of sports, athletes can transfer once during their careers without having to sit out a year. But in other major sports — including college basketball — a waiver is required if the athlete is to become immediately eligible. That might change soon if and when the NCAA votes on whether to allow a one-time transfer for all sports, a vote that has been delayed.
But a lot of waivers have been approved anyway in college basketball, creating a system that has fundamentally changed the sport. I talked about the pros and cons of such a structure on today's Daily Delivery podcast.
If you don't see the podcast player, click here to listen.
Look: transfers are nothing new. Former Gophers coach Richard Pitino used transfers and ultimately the portal to add to his teams. New Gophers coach Ben Johnson himself transferred from Northwestern to Minnesota, playing two years at each school — with a year where he was ineligible in between.
What's undeniable is that I'm fascinated by the level of player movement that is now possible — particularly as it pertains to the Gophers and Johnson — and how easy it is to track.
You can find a good frequently updated list of men's college basketball players who have entered their names into the transfer portal on 247 sports, though you should note that they are organized by how many "stars" they received in high school recruiting and therefore the order might not give you a full picture of how good they are now.
Our Marcus Fuller detailed on Wednesday four players who intend to transfer that have Minnesota roots — all of whom have either been contacted by the Gophers already or will be contacted Thursday: Parker Fox of Northern State, Race Thompson of Indiana, Jamison Battle of George Washington and Ish El-Amin of Ball State. All played in high school in Minnesota.
Whether all or some of them wind up playing for Johnson as soon as next season remains to be seen, but the idea of an instant and experienced incoming "class" is one way to jump-start Johnson's coaching career as he works to gain larger footholds with younger high school recruits who might join future classes and as he anticipates losses of current Gophers players like Jamal Mashburn Jr. who are in the portal as well and could very well wind up somewhere else.
All of it creates a condensed window of player movement that is different from even tracking high school recruiting — a process that can play out over months or even years.
Whether the NCAA intended to create a turbo-charged free agency of sorts is not even really important. That's what it has now, and I get the sense the same fans who love trade deadlines and free agency tracking in pro sports are loving it the portal.
I know I am.