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Transfers Pay Off: Villanova and Gonzaga Strike Gold in College Basketball Transfer Portal

With UConn’s championship win fading into the background, the attention shifted to the captivating and ever-evolving transfer portal season. Over 1,500 names emerged in the transfer portal this spring, including notable stars like Hunter Dickinson (Michigan to Kansas), Ryan Nembhard (Creighton to Gonzaga), and Jesse Edwards (Syracuse to West Virginia), who already made their decisions on new destinations.

After the Madness: The Drama Continues in College Basketball Transfer Portal Season

While many talented players found new homes, there are still intriguing names available, such as Ivy League Player of the Year Jordan Dingle (Penn), experienced big man Olivier Nkamhoua (Tennessee), and shot-blocking sensation Moussa Cisse (Oklahoma State).

It’s important to note that players aiming to transfer entered their names into the portal by Thursday, May 11, due to the NCAA’s new 60-day window introduced this season. Sources revealed that a power conference player would be testing the NBA draft waters but planning to enter the portal this week to keep the option of returning to college open.

Look at the major winners and losers arising from this year’s roster movement across the college basketball landscape.

Mark Few and Gonzaga Reload in the Transfer Portal

The course of Gonzaga’s future took a dramatic turn on the morning of Friday, April 21. Within just over an hour, two highly regarded players in the transfer portal clarified their intentions—they were heading to Spokane to join the Zags.

The day began with Graham Ike, the Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year and a standout 6-foot-9 transfer from Wyoming, announcing his commitment to Gonzaga. Ike’s impressive stats of 19.5 points on 51% shooting and 9.6 rebounds per game make him an ideal replacement for Drew Timme at center, who is set to embark on his professional journey.

While the center position was addressed, a question mark remained regarding the point guard role for the Bulldogs. However, that question didn’t linger for long, as Ryan Nembhard from Creighton, one of the top available players, declared his decision to join Gonzaga for his third year of college basketball. Nembhard’s older brother, Andrew, had previously transferred from Florida to Gonzaga and played for the program from 2020 to 2022. Initially, there were rumors of Ryan heading to Arizona to play under Tommy Lloyd, who had played a significant role in recruiting Andrew as a Gonzaga assistant. However, Ryan ultimately chose to follow in his brother’s footsteps and become a key player on Gonzaga’s perimeter. With impressive averages of 12.1 points, 4.8 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game, Nembhard’s skill set extends beyond running the point, as he brings leadership and high basketball IQ. If Malachi Smith returns to Gonzaga for another season, Nembhard’s partnership with Smith and Nolan Hickman could prove formidable.

In addition to Ike and Nembhard, Gonzaga secured the commitment of Steele Venters, a 6-foot-7 wing transferring from Eastern Washington. Venters, a strong candidate to start at the wing position, boasts an impressive scoring average of 15.3 points per game and a career 40% shooting from beyond the arc. With Nembhard orchestrating the offense, the stage is set for Gonzaga to showcase another high-quality offensive unit in the upcoming 2023-24 season.

During this transfer portal season, Mark Few demonstrated that Gonzaga remains a force to be reckoned with. Despite some staff members moving on to head coaching opportunities elsewhere, Few’s ability to attract top talent ensures that Gonzaga will continue to compete at the highest level.

Villanova Reloads in the Transfer Portal: Kyle Neptune Makes Impactful Pickups

Following an uncharacteristic absence from the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly a decade, Kyle Neptune and his coaching staff wasted no time in revamping the Villanova roster through the transfer portal. With the recent acquisitions, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats return to their winning ways and contend in the highly competitive Big East conference.

Neptune’s efforts have resulted in two significant additions to the starting lineup: TJ Bamba from Washington State and Hakim Hart from Maryland.

Bamba, a 6-foot-5 guard hailing from New York, brings scoring prowess to the Wildcats. As a junior, he averaged an impressive 15.8 points per game, showcasing his ability to knock down multiple three-pointers in nine out of his last ten games. With his shooting ability and offensive versatility, Bamba is expected to make an immediate impact alongside fifth-year senior Justin Moore, forming a formidable backcourt for Villanova.

On the other hand, Hart, entering his fifth season of college basketball, brings valuable experience to the Wildcats’ lineup. Standing at 6-foot-8, Hart presents matchup problems for opponents and adds depth to Villanova’s frontcourt alongside Eric Dixon. He is set to start at the power forward position, having been a critical contributor to a Maryland team that surprised many in the competitive Big Ten conference. Hart averaged 11.4 points on an efficient 48% shooting from the field while contributing nearly three assists per game. He aims to improve his perimeter shooting and build upon his rebounding capabilities. Throughout the past season, Hart shot 33% from beyond the arc, a mark he has maintained over the past three years.

With likely starting guard Mark Armstrong, along with promising players like Jordan Longino and Brendan Hausen, Villanova needed starting-caliber talent to complement Moore and Dixon. The acquisitions of Bamba and Hart fill that void and provide the Wildcats with a boost. However, Neptune and his staff are not done yet, indicating the potential for further additions to the roster as they aim to strengthen Villanova’s position and maintain their tradition of success.

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