Home Sports Movers, shakers and all the biggest storylines of the 2023-24 men’s college basketball offseason

Movers, shakers and all the biggest storylines of the 2023-24 men’s college basketball offseason

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Movers, shakers and all the biggest storylines of the 2023-24 men’s college basketball offseason

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Has it really only been six months?

The buzzer sounded on UConn‘s win over San Diego State in the men’s college basketball national championship game exactly six months ago — but the entire landscape of the sport has changed in that time. Rick Pitino is back in the big time; Bob Huggins is no longer coaching. Arizona will be headed to the Big 12; the Pac-12 is essentially no more. More than 1,800 players entered the transfer portal; another couple hundred turned pro.

Simply put, there’s been an incredible amount of change.

But before we turn the page and fully look ahead to the 2023-24 season, which tips off Nov. 6, let’s take stock of exactly what happened in the past six months.

If the last thing you remember about college hoops is confetti falling from the NRG Stadium rafters after the Huskies won their fifth national championship in 25 years, ESPN’s men’s college basketball experts — Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway, Joe Lunardi and Myron Medcalf — are here to help you catch up.

Jump to:

Biggest headlines | Coach & player movements | Bracketology risers and fallers | High school recruiting spotlights


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0:45

LeBron: ‘Bronny is doing extremely well’

LeBron James says his son Bronny has begun his rehab process so he can play with USC this season.

Biggest headlines

Bronny James suffers cardiac incident

During a July team workout at USC, the 5-star recruit and son of LeBron James collapsed after suffering cardiac arrest. James is recovering and attending his classes on campus. But his basketball future — his father has said he hopes to one day play with Bronny in the NBA — is unclear, per a recent statement from the university.

Hunter Dickinson picks Kansas

In May, the former Michigan star and top recruit in the transfer portal picked the Jayhawks over multiple suitors coveting the big man who averaged 18.5 points and 9.0 rebounds last season. In interviews, Dickinson implied his decision was partly influenced by name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities. His arrival likely elevates Kansas, which returns Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams Jr., to the No. 1 spot in every reputable preseason poll.

Zach Edey, Donovan Clingan and Kyle Filipowski return

The current state of big men in college basketball is strong with three elite players returning for another season. Edey, the Purdue star who won the Wooden Award last season, is back to help a Purdue squad that suffered a historic upset against 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the 2023 NCAA tournament. Clingan, the 7-footer who averaged 1.8 blocks in just 13.1 minutes per game, will attempt to lead UConn to a second consecutive national title. And Filipowski, who is currently recovering from hip surgery, will try to lead Duke to its second Final Four appearance since 2015.

Controversy surrounds Rick Pitino hiring at St. John’s

In three years at Iona, Pitino led the Gaels to two league titles and two NCAA tournament appearances. Pitino repeatedly stated he was content at the New Rochelle, New York, school and had no interest in other jobs. But he was eventually wooed by St. John’s, which is just 30 minutes from his hometown of Oyster Bay, New York. The Hall of Fame coach has already made a massive impact in the transfer portal, adding Harvard star Chris Ledlum (18.8 PPG) and Penn‘s Jordan Dingle (23.4 PPG) along with other standouts who should immediately boost the Red Storm in the Big East race. But Mike Anderson, St. John’s former head coach, has sued the school in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, claiming the school fired him for cause without justification.

Jahvon Quinerly picks Memphis Tigers

Last season, the guard was critical to Alabama‘s NCAA tournament run, but he announced he would transfer to his third school when he committed to Penny Hardaway in July. As a grad transfer, Quinerly is immediately eligible for the squad that last season allowed former SMU transfer Kendric Davis to blossom. Quinerly, who averaged 8.7 PPG in Tuscaloosa last season, joins a nucleus that could include 27-year-old DeAndre Williams — provided he is granted a waiver to play another season.

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2:24

Mad Dog mocks conference realignment in epic rant

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo sounds off on the lack of rivalries between the teams heading to the Big Ten and Big 12 in 2024.

Big 12 becomes superconference, rejects Gonzaga, UConn

In August, Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark announced that talks with Gonzaga and UConn about joining the league ended after the conference decided to add four Pac-12 squads. While the Zags and Huskies would have strengthened men’s basketball in a league that is arguably the nation’s best, pound-for-pound, the additions of Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado in 2024-25 also enhance the league. With Houston, BYU, Cincinnati and UCF all joining this season, the Big 12 will boast seven teams that finished 2022-23 within the top 30 on KenPom.

Mikey Williams‘ basketball career jeopardized by gun incident

With millions of followers on social media, the four-star recruit and Memphis commit was well-known even outside of basketball when he was in high school. But Williams’ college hoops career is now on hold. Earlier this year, Williams was charged with six felonies after he allegedly fired a weapon at multiple individuals who had come to his San Diego home. He pled not guilty in the initial court hearing, but Memphis released a statement last week saying Williams will not be with the team until there is a resolution in his legal case.

Ed Cooley leaves Providence for Georgetown

For more than a decade, Cooley was the face of Providence basketball in his hometown. Under him, the Friars reached the NCAA tournament seven times. But his bond with the late John Thompson contributed to his shocking decision to accept the head coaching job at Georgetown. Providence officials and fans were blindsided by the move, which now gives Georgetown a proven leader as it attempts to rebuild the program following the turbulent Patrick Ewing era. — Medcalf


The movements that matter

The biggest movement of the summer was actually an exit. Bob Huggins entered the offseason No. 3 all time in career wins as a Division I men’s coach, behind only Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim. Now, well, he’s still No. 3, but that number for wins (935) will stay where it is until further notice.

Huggins appeared to resign as West Virginia coach on June 17 after he was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence. Then, in early July, he insisted he never formally resigned. Cue the lawyers. But Huggins is out, and Josh Eilert is interim head coach of the Mountaineers.

Nor should we look past a very different and truly historic offseason movement, one 65 years in the making. On June 8, the NCAA announced that all numbers from 0 to 99 will once again be permitted on men’s college basketball jerseys. We haven’t seen a 6, 7, 8 or 9 on the floor since Bill Russell rocked No. 6 for the San Francisco Dons in the 1950s.

Who will be the first player to follow in George Mikan’s footsteps with a No. 99 in hoops? The new season will literally look different than anything many of us have seen before. — Gasaway


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1:53

Rick Pitino: ‘I can’t live without basketball’

Rick Pitino chats on “SportsCenter” about why he decided to become the next coach at St. John’s.

Biggest team risers and fallers: Bracketology edition

It’s both embarrassing and instructive to look back at where we ranked teams at the start of the offseason versus now, with the tip off of a new season right around the corner. Alas, that is the assignment, and here are the results:

BIGGEST RISER: St. John’s Red Storm (No. 170 to No. 45, projected Last Four In). The Red Storm fired Mike Anderson on March 10 and needed only 10 days to lure Rick Pitino from New Rochelle (and Iona) to Queens. Myron covered the larger St. John’s saga above, but suffice to say, Pitino’s pursuit of an NCAA tournament bid — and beyond — for the Red Storm will be among the major storylines of the 2023-24 campaign.

OTHER RISERS:

  • Illinois Fighting Illini (No. 74 to No. 18, projected 5-seed). Illinois gained ground by essentially standing still, retaining 6-foot-6 senior Terrence Shannon Jr. and 6-10 junior Coleman Hawkins, a pair of standouts who figured to leave the program at the end of last season. Now, the Illini have the experience and production to challenge presumptive Big Ten favorites Purdue and Michigan State.

  • Mississippi State Bulldogs (No. 78 to No. 29, projected 8-seed). The Bulldogs already overachieved in Year 1 under Chris Jans, reaching the NCAA First Four. The surprising return of 6-2 senior Dashawn Davis, a presumed departure, means the trend line points even further up in Starkville.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

BIGGEST FALLER: Washington State Cougars (from No. 42, projected 11-seed, to No. 76). The Cougars’ best players are now in Atlanta (Mouhamed Gueye, NBA Hawks), in Cleveland (Justin Powell, NBA Cavaliers), at Villanova (TJ Bamba, transfer portal) and at USC (DJ Rodman, transfer portal). The Cougars also don’t have a conference after this season. Other than that …

OTHER FALLERS:

  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish (from No. 183 to No. 214). The rebuilding Irish were always going to be a heavy lift for new coach Micah Shrewsberry. The loss of grad transfer Cormac Ryan to North Carolina makes the start of the post-Mike Brey era that much harder.

  • Miami Hurricanes (from No. 10, projected 3-seed, to No. 33, projected 9-seed). Folks remain justifiably high on the Hurricanes, but it’s hard not to forecast at least a one-season drop after a Final Four finish led by ACC player of the year Isaiah Wong, subsequently picked by the Indiana Pacers in the NBA draft.

MORE FALLERS:

— Lunardi


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0:25

High school phenom Cooper Flagg puts on dunk show at Rucker Park

Cooper Flagg shows out with three nice dunks before playing in the SLAM Summer Classic.

Summer recruiting wrap-up

Ron Holland decommits from Texas, goes pro

Holland — now the projected No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA draft — was expected to be the cornerstone of Texas’ 2023-24 roster. He committed to the Longhorns in November and stayed committed, despite Chris Beard’s firing. After weeks of speculation, however, the No. 2-ranked recruit in the 2024 class announced in late April he was reopening his recruitment. One month later, Holland chose to play for the G League Ignite.

Bronny James signs with USC

James’ cardiac arrest was the biggest story of the summer, but his recruitment was one of the biggest stories of the spring. He became a legitimate five-star prospect and a projected first-round draft pick during his high school senior season then impressed at the postseason all-star games. There was very little concrete information about his recruitment, but USC emerged as the favorite over the final weeks and ultimately beat out Oregon and Ohio State.

Mackenzie Mgbako flips from Duke to Indiana

On the same day that Kyle Filipowski announced he was returning to Duke, Mgbako — a top-10 recruit in the 2024 class — requested a release from his letter of intent to the Blue Devils. He considered several schools following his decommitment, including Kansas, St. John’s and Louisville, but picked Mike Woodson and Indiana, where he should immediately be a go-to scorer.

Cooper Flagg cements himself as the No. 1 recruit — and reclassifies to 2024

Flagg was the story of the summer in the recruiting world. Entering July, there was a debate over which player was the best in high school basketball: Flagg, Cameron Boozer or A.J. Dybantsa. A couple of weeks later, there was a clear winner. Flagg averaged 25.4 points, 13 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 6.9 blocks at the prestigious Nike EYBL Peach Jam, including three triple-doubles. He then moved from the 2025 class into the 2024 class, and Flagg is in the process of taking his official visits. He went to UConn in late September, and he will head Duke this month. — Borzello

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