Baylor won the National Championship last Monday night by thumping previously unbeaten Gonzaga. 

Gonzaga had two transfers—Andrew Cook and Andrew Nembhard—in their main rotation. 

Baylor had four transfers—Mario Teague, Dayvian Mitchell, Adam Flagler, and Jonathan Tchatchoua—in their main rotation.

Welcome to college basketball 2021.

The transfer portal is overflowing, and college basketball coaches must discover a new type of recruiting. 

Imagine playing an opponent, and in the course of trying to win that game you are making mental notes about players on the opposing team thinking of how that player could help your team. That’s the new world of college basketball.

Players want a lot of things these days, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

Coaches can pack their bags any time a better offer comes along. The players they leave behind are sometimes caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. They can stay true to their commitment to the school even though the incoming coach may not share the same vision for said player. Option two is enter the portal for a yet to be determined destination.

Players will love having this option at their disposal. Look how many trips these kids take during the recruiting process, many after they already have their minds made up. Most of these kids aren’t averse to going to a new locale to play sports. 

Kids also, much like coaches, want to better their situation. A lot of these players want to play professionally. It is hard to reach that goal while glued to the bench. Many think getting a fresh start will help that goal. Some are right. Others find the grass isn’t always greener.

There are 1,200 players in the portal. Some are looking for greener grass. Some are running because their former coach ran. Some want a fresh start. Some didn’t get along with a former coach. Some want to play in a new offense. Some feel betrayed by their former school, AD, or coach. With 1,200 players there are probably hundreds of reasons for hitting the portal.

Is this “Wild West” mentality of the transfer portal a good thing for college basketball?

I’m not sure it has to be good or bad. I think it is just different. 

These 18-22 year olds are used to help make millions of dollars for their schools. Dollars that benefit every student on campus, or at least it should. While athletes are bound to win—and benefit—from the NIL court proceedings, the free transfer rule gives them a little more freedom and power. 

Schools make tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, coaches earn millions, players get a free education. Not exactly an even split.

Without the players, coaches are useless. Without the players, schools don’t make all that money. That would mean higher tuition for all students and maybe that nice, new, shiny science lab doesn’t get built.

 Athletes for the teams at your favorite school are responsible for all of that. With all of that money flowing through the system of higher education, it is easy to see why ESPN’s Jay Bilas thumps the drum so often on the fact that these athletes aren’t really amateurs. 

While I have always said athletes should value their scholarship and the education it provides, it is hard to look passed the money flying right by the people earning it.

Allowing free of charge transfers gives these unpaid athletes an added little benefit. Again, that’s not a bad thing. 

This rule will have college coaches scrambling. It’s an open market and coaches will have to find a way to make their school and team look more attractive to transfers than other schools. The only difference from recruiting high school players and the portal is that coaches will have seen these players play at the college level. They will have a better idea of what these kids can do at the college level.

To avoid more kids transferring coaches will have to be more honest when they recruit them out of high school. Making promises that can’t be kept will be remembered by every player. Promises broken will lead to bigger numbers in the portal. Even without broken promises, some kids are going to test the waters.

COVID-19 has obviously increased the numbers looking to transfer. More than likely, a return to normalcy will quell the transfer portal numbers. A little. 

Dick Vitale made an interesting suggestion on Twitter.

Vitale is loud and annoying to some. One thing nobody can argue is that he wants what is best for the sport he clearly loves. Maybe that suggestion should at least be discussed.

If the current transfer rule remains, kids may never realize the value of the word commitment. At the first sign of difficulty or negativity, kids now know they can just up and leave.

Take former USC football quarterback and current Georgia quarterback JT Daniels. After injury cut his freshman season short, he had to watch Kedon Slovis take over an thrive. Faced with a competition his injury wouldn’t allow him to win, he bolted. A kid who has SC tattooed on his leg left his dream school when the going got tough.

In fairness, this has turned out to be a great move for Daniels. He is starting at Georgia in a pro style offense and showing the skills that made him a top high school recruit. He is positioning himself to be a top NFL draft pick. Slovis struggled—somewhat—in the gimmicky “air raid” offense USC runs. 

He may have left when adversity came knocking, but Daniels clearly made the right decision for his future.That is what the portal provides for college athletes.

At the end of the day, I’m in a wait and see pattern. Let’s see if these ridiculously high numbers continue past this season. 

Dick Vitale’s idea has merit. If a coach leaves then players can get a free transfer. Otherwise they must sit out a year. Of course, coaches would never agree to being on one year contracts. You couldn’t effectively do your job that way. They also wouldn’t agree to sitting out a year if they change jobs. That isn’t good for anyone.

Ultimately, Jay Bilas is correct, which doesn’t come as a surprise to him. All of this money being earned by coaches and made by universities makes it hard to keep punishing the people responsible for that money being made. 

I hope players respect their scholarships. I hope they see the value in education, regardless of whether they go on to make millions playing basketball. I hope, through all of the switching of schools, that continuing to work towards your degree is both encouraged and emphasized. 

At the same time,  I hope all of these seven figure suits that suck up money like a vacuum sucking up lint quit trying to restrict the very people that allow them to suck.

Two Cent Takes

College Basketball

~Well, the final nail in my worst ever bracket picking coffin was driven home last Monday night when Baylor beat my pick to win it all, Gonzaga.

~Turns out Baylor was way better than everybody else. Jalen Suggs was the only Zag that would have started for Baylor.

~Speaking of the transfer portal, new Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry better get active. He retrieved one of the seven transfers that left the team last month(Izaiah Brockington), but it doesn’t look like he will get anyone else back. That leaves him with a thin roster. Maybe he will have to pull out the old Gene Hackman quote from Hoosiers: “My team is on the floor.”

Football

~Sam Darnold is in Carolina. It appears Zach Wilson from BYU will be in New York. San Francisco seems enamored with Mac Jones. That means the excitement in the upcoming NFL draft comes at four where the Atlanta Falcons sit. Will they take the best available player? Draft Matt Ryan’s replacement? Or will they trade with one of several teams interested in a quarterback?

~The Eagles traded down, apparently not interested in Kyle Pitts or JaMarr Chase. Is anyone sure what the Eagles are trying to do?

~For the Steelers it may come down to what comes first, the chicken or the egg. They may find Alabama running back Najee Harris sitting there at number 24. On the other hand, they may feel like an offensive lineman is more necessary. Either way, the Steelers seem extremely aware that their putrid running game needs addressed.

~College football teams are finally getting back to normal with spring practices that more closely resemble those from the pre-Covid era.

NHL

~The trade deadline is today, and the lead up to it has been eerily quiet for the Pens and Flyers.

~The Flyers are moving closer to not making the playoffs, so they may wait until the offseason to make changes. They could be wholesale changes at that.

~The Penguins are right in the thick of things. The problem for the Pens is they need to save draft choices. New GM Ron Hextall wants to win now, while keeping the future bright. Former GM Jim Rutherford let it rip while he was in charge. That drained the team of a lot of draft picks, so look for the Pens to be fairly quiet today.

~The Penguins have been playing really good hockey for a month. One main reason is goaltending. Here is one of the best you’ll see from backup net minder Casey DeSmith.

~In case we all thought COVID-19 was over, check in with the Vancouver Canucks. The Canuck will be lucky to finish the season after a massive outbreak within the team.

MLB

~Example number 234 why baseball replay sucks. The Mets won a game last week when this was called a hit by pitch instead of strike three.

The worst part is replay allowed it to stand. Why have replay if you can’t overturn a call that bad? Listen to the Mets announcers who echo my thoughts. Oh, and the home plate umpire admitted the next day he should have been called out on strikes.

~Then this from Sunday night’s Braves/Phillies game.

Alec Bohm clearly never touched home plate. He was called safe on the field and, despite clear evidence, replay upheld the call.

Reactions to this call came from all over.

Imagine baseball stepping all over itself in the implementation of something that was supposed to provide a positive.

~Former Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove threw the season’s first no hitter for the Padres over the weekend. Musgrove was atrocious with the Pirates. Having said that, he wouldn’t be the first former Pirates pitcher to find himself after leaving Pittsburgh. It should also be mentioned that the opposing team—Texas—is absolutely atrocious.

~The Pirates are currently on a two game win streak. I had to type that because there is a chance I won’t get another chance this year.

~Noah Syndergaard still isn’t impressed.

~The Cubs are far worse than I could have imagined.

~Atlanta Braves Freddie Freeman is a good dude.

Bowling

~I had no idea that the 7-10 split had only been made on TV three times in history.

Make that four times, and this time from an 18 year old nicknamed the “Ginger Assassin”. I assume the announcer was heading over to announce Wrestlemania after this match.

A Penny For My Final Thought…

Boycott The Masters? I don’t think so.

The Masters is a tradition like no other.

Having a Masters winner from Japan, however, is brand spankin’ new.

Hideki Matsuyama sprinted out to a big lead, then wobbled home to hold on by one stroke. Matsuyama hasn’t won a PGA event in four years, but almost always plays well. Unfortunately when it came to picking a winner not many tabbed the under the radar Matsuyama. Well, other than Bob Pompeani who knows his way around a golf course.

This year The Masters seemed to be a tale of two tournaments.

Before a weather delay on Saturday Justin Rose maintained a lead he built with a -7 first day. My pick, Justin Thomas, was surging along with red hot Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau. Matsuyama was lurking, but not threatening.

After returning to play, Rose stagnated, Finau leveled, and Thomas imploded. Only Spieth maintained a push through Sunday evening. After the delay, Matsuyama went birdie crazy. By the end of Saturday he had what looked to be an insurmountable lead.

On Sunday two players had a chance to catch Matsuyama. Xander Schauffele, who I also tabbed as a contender, made a huge push. The other player was the new kid on the block, Will Zalatoris. Zalatoris will be someone to be reckoned with for years to come. He’s built like a ski pole, but hits it long and hits it straight.

Schauffele was within striking distance after a string of birdies, then he hit it in the water at 16 and took a triple bogey.

Zalatoris was steady and cool reaching -9 by day’s end. In many respects he stole the show at Augusta this year. Even Adam Sandler took notice.

Zalatoris would fall one shot short of the true star at Augusta.

Matsuyama won with a -10 score, and lifted the spirits of an entire country. Japan will treat Matsuyama as a national hero. If he would have lost Matsuyama would have felt the weight of a country’s disappointment. Maybe that explains the nerves he said he felt Sunday.

It was neat to see his joy—and relief—after putting on the green jacket.

It was another tremendous tournament. It always is. Some suggested the tournament should not be played because of the Georgia voting situation. No way you cancel The Masters, even if the cause is a solid one.

This is the tournament every player wants to win. It is the tournament even casual golf fans pay attention to. It is the course—along with Pebble Beach—every amateur hacker would love to play.

The blooming azaleas, the music, Amen Corner…it is all fantastic. Here is my top ten list from this year’s Masters:

10. Bryson DeChambeau, after saying Augusta is like a par 67, sucking.

9. Matsuyama’s caddy returning the flagstick to the eighteenth hole after removing the flag that goes to the winner.

Respect for the course. Fantastic gesture displaying the Japanese culture.

8. The Jim Nantz whisper joined by funny, yet expert analysis, from Nick Faldo. Truly the entire CBS golf crew is top notch.

7. Chris Vernon with a unique and tremendous Masters update.

6. Brooks Koepka showing heart. Showing up and playing with recently surgically repaired knees took guys. Some view Koepka as just the “cool guy”. It also shows just how much the players cherish this tournament.

5. The Masters theme music. It is one of those iconic theme songs that both soothes and excites.

4. Billy Horschel showing his clubs who is boss.

3. Even better than Horschel, I give you Si Woo Kim.

Everything about this is fantastic. Snaps the putter. Calmly waves over his caddy because he needs something to putt with(uses a 3 wood). Makes his par(and pars out) with his 3 wood then chucks ball in the water. Goes to the next tee to ponder life. I can relate. Been there. Done that.

2. The fact that great young players keep coming out of the woodwork. Will Zalatoris is the latest young gun. He played his first US Open last fall and finished sixth. In his first Masters he finished second. That’s pretty impressive stuff.

1. Verne Lundquist at 16. Smooth, understated, and witty. He won’t be there forever, and I hate that fact. While Schauffele was imploding on 16, Verne simply gave it an “oh dear”. He’s a treasure.

Golf is in great shape, and Augusta is a perfect place to put that on display. Maybe the next Tiger Woods is in this group of golfers. Maybe the next Tiger is nowhere to be found.

Who cares?

These guys are all a blast to watch play golf. And where better to watch them perform than Augusta?

You seriously want to boycott The Masters?

Oh dear.

Just my two cents…