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Player movement already altering Pac-12 men’s hoops landscape

CU Buffs relatively unscathed compared to many league rivals

UCLA's Jules Bernard, right, drives to ...
Photo courtesy UCLA athletics
Both Colorado and UCLA men’s basketball teams are among the many programs watching as players are utilizing the transfer portal at record numbers.
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It barely has been a week since UCLA, the last Pac-12 team standing in what turned out to be a phenomenal NCAA Tournament for the conference, trudged off the floor following an overtime loss against Gonzaga in the national semifinals.

Since then, the conference already has undergone a major facelift leading into what, after the Pac-12’s tourney run, will be a highly-anticipated 2021-22 season.

At long last, Sean Miller is gone at Arizona. Same for Larry Krystkowiak at Utah, which hired now-former Utah State coach Craig Smith. On the heels of stirring NCAA Tournament runs, UCLA coach Mick Cronin and Oregon State’s Wayne Tinkle landed contract extensions, while Oregon lost a valued 11-year assistant in Tony Stubblefield.

And then there’s the transfer portal.

Like every league across the nation, the Pac-12 has been impacted by the mad dash for the transfer portal, which has welcomed around 1,200 players this spring. That total certainly has been inflated this year by the NCAA’s one-season eligibility relief for the 2020-21 pandemic season. Colorado, for instance, sent seniors into the portal like D’Shawn Schwartz, Dallas Walton, and Jeriah Horne who would have exhausted their eligibility in normal seasons.

Nevertheless, early departures for the NBA draft and a few surprises among the transfer portal exodus have dotted the Pac-12. Despite the loss of seniors who weren’t in the original plan for 2021-22 anyway, and a youthful makeover in the rotation on the way, the Buffs and head coach Tad Boyle have enjoyed a reassuring level of program stability compared to most of their rivals across the league. A look at the how the rosters of those 11 Pac-12 foes have altered since the end of the regular season.

Arizona

With NCAA investigators nipping at the program’s heels, UA finally parted ways with Miller following 12 seasons, the last four of which were played under the shroud of the 2017 FBI college basketball corruption probe that ensnared former UA assistant Book Richardson. Whoever replaces Miller won’t have an easy job, regardless of the result of the ongoing NCAA investigation. Oft-traveled guard Terrell Brown, Jr. transferred to Washington and forward Ira Lee also entered the portal. Guard James Akinjo is testing his NBA draft prospects while keeping the option to return to college.

Arizona State

Remy Martin’s stellar four-year career is over. But also gone are freshmen Marcus Bagley (keeping options open) and Josh Christopher, who are headed for the draft. ASU’s already-thin front court lost Taeshon Cherry but one gut-punch departure was the defection to the transfer portal by sophomore guard Jaelen House, the son of ASU all-time leading scorer Eddie House. The Sun Devils are set to add Toledo’s Marreon Jackson, the MAC Player of the Year.

Cal

Coach Mark Fox will go into his third season looking to fill a gaping hole after all-everything guard Matt Bradley opted to enter the transfer portal. The 6-foot-4 Bradley remained uncommitted as of Monday afternoon and is one of the gems of the transfer market.

Oregon

The loss of freshman guard Jalen Terry to the transfer portal could signal a return to Eugene by junior point guard Will Richardson. Most pressing for coach Dana Altman after leading the Ducks into the Sweet 16 is replacing Stubblefield, a key recruiter who took the head coach job at DePaul.

Oregon State

A new extension in hand after the Beavers’ run to the Pac-12 tournament championship and then the Elite Eight, Tinkle is set to return a big chunk of his rotation — Warith Alatishe, Gianni Hunt, Jarod Lucas and Maurice Calloo — but is preparing for the loss of senior guard Ethan Thompson, whose draft stock certainly increased during the postseason. Senior 7-foot-1 forward Roman Silva is planning to return for an extra season.

Stanford

The Cardinal suffered a key but expected loss when freshman Ziaire Williams opted to enter the NBA draft. After big preseason expectations eroded into an injury-marred 14-11 season, chances are the hot seat might be starting to warm for Jerod Haase going into next year.

UCLA

Getting the Bruins back to the Final Four ended with a two-year extension for Cronin that basically resets his original six-year contract. Given the Bruins’ postseason run ended on April 3 there has yet to be player attrition in Westwood, with all eyes on Johnny Juzang’s possible entry into the NBA draft.

USC

Freshman Evan Mobley has yet to make his NBA draft intentions official, but that announcement likely is only a matter of time for a player expected to be, at worst, one of the top five picks. Senior guard Tahj Eaddy is expected to remain in the NBA draft pool, but on Monday backup forward Chevez Goodwin announced he plans to return to the Trojans with his extra season of eligibility.

Utah

Smith, who won a pair of Mountain West tournament championships at Utah State, inherits a roster reeling from the loss of All-Pac-12 forward Timmy Allen, who entered the transfer portal but seemingly remains a candidate to jump into the NBA draft pool. Guard Alfonso Plummer also announced he either will enter the draft or spend his extra collegiate season elsewhere.

Washington

Just two seasons ago, coach Mike Hopkins had the Huskies in the Pac-12 title game and the NCAA Tournament. Now UW barely has a roster. Senior Hameir Wright announced he will play his extra season elsewhere, while Buffs-killer Marcus Tsohonis, 3-point specialist Erik Stevenson, Nate Pryor, RaeQuan Battle, and J’Raan Brooks have opted to transfer. The Huskies did add Washington native and former Arizona and Seattle guard Terrell Brown, Jr. via the transfer portal.

Washington State

Forward Jaz Kunc (6.3 ppg, 4.3 ppg) has entered the transfer portal, though the Cougars have landed high-scoring South Alabama transfer Michael Flowers.