As the number of players in college basketball's transfer portal swells to record numbers amid the expectation that NCAA rules will change to allow all first-time transfers immediate eligibility next season, the sport is bracing for seismic change.
While the impact of widespread transferring on college basketball is set to accelerate considerably, it will merely be a continuation of a trend that has seen elite programs become increasingly reliant on transfer talent in recent years.
That trend will be on full display during the Final Four on Saturday, when eight transfers are expected to start between the four teams in action. Baylor, Gonzaga, Houston and UCLA each start at least one transfer, and two of them — Houston and UCLA — are led in scoring by a transfer.
By comparison, there were a total of five transfers who started in Final Four games during a decade's worth of Final Fours between 2006 and 2015. The total began creeping up slightly in 2016, when Oklahoma and Syracuse each started a transfer in a Final Four game. By 2018, the number had ballooned to five with Loyola Chicago using two transfers in its starting lineup during its historic Final Four run.
But this year's expected total of eight appears to be an all-time record and just the second time ever that all four teams have at least one transfer starter. Of the eight who will start Saturday, four of them are from one team. Houston's Dejon Jarreau, Justin Gorham, Reggie Chaney and top scorer Quentin Grimes each transferred in from other Division I schools.
"That's just the way it is today," Houston coach Sampson told reporters. "Thirty years ago, people that didn't know what they didn't know turned their nose up at transfers. They thought something was wrong with them. It shows you how little they knew though. Now, if you're not taking transfers, you're behind."
Sampson's words appear to ring true upon an examination of how Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky and North Carolina have fared in the years since more transfers began appearing in Final Four starting lineups. In the decade between 2006 and 2015, those four schools combined for 11 Final Four appearances and four national titles.
In the five NCAA Tournaments since, North Carolina (2017) and Michigan State (2019) account for the group's only Final Four appearances. UNC's national title team in 2017 made it 15 straight years in which the national title winner did not start a transfer.
But the last two national champions (Villanova in 2018 and Virginia in 2019) have each started a transfer, and that trend is guaranteed to continue for another year, regardless of who cuts down the nets on Monday.
With legislation expected to pass ensuring all first-time transfers will get immediate eligibility, it seems probable the streak could stay alive for quite some time.
"I think it will be the most significant piece of legislation that's ever happened in college basketball," UNC coach Roy Williams said earlier this month before announcing his retirement Thursday. "I'm old school. I believe if you have a little adversity, you ought to fight through it, and it makes you stronger at the end. I believe when you make a commitment, that commitment should be solid. And it should be to do everything you can to make it work out."
As well-intentioned as that mindset may be the, numbers suggest a reluctance to embrace the transfer trend is now a hindrance to programs. There will be stronger evidence than what we see on the court Saturday.
Here is more on the eight projected transfer starters in the Final Four:
Note: for the purpose of this story, transfers are considered players who appeared in game action for another Division I school.
Dejon Jarreau (UMass): Houston's gritty point guard started his career for the Minutemen in the 2016-17 season and then spent a year in junior college without playing. Since arriving at Houston for the 2018-19 season, he's seen his role increase and has blossomed into the leader of this Cougars' team.
Quentin Grimes (Kansas): Ranked the No. 10 overall player in the Class of 2018 by the 247Sports Composite, Grimes began his career with the Jayhawks, starting all 36 games for them as a freshman. He received immediate eligibility last season upon returning to his hometown school and is now one of the best volume 3-point shooters in the country.
Justin Gorham (Towson): The 6-foot-7 Gorham played two seasons for the Tigers and sat out the 2018-19 season after transferring to Houston. He was a role player last season but has started 30 games for the Cougars this year and is a rebounding force.
Reggie Chaney (Arkansas): A 6-foot-8 forward who spent two seasons playing for the Razorbacks, Chaney has worked his way into the starting lineup during the second half of the season and has played valuable minutes during Houston's 11-game winning streak.
Other transfers who could see action: Brison Gresham, Cameron Tyson
MaCio Teague (UNC Asheville): The 6-foot-4 guard was the Big South Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-Big South honoree as a sophomore for the Bulldogs. He sat out the 2018-19 season as a transfer and has proven that his strong all-around game translates to college basketball's highest level during an incredibly productive two seasons at Baylor.
Davion Mitchell (Auburn): A menacing defender and vastly improved 3-point shooter, Mitchell has blossomed into a star during his second season on the court at Baylor. He began his career with the Tigers in 2017-18 and averaged 3.7 points for the Tigers as a freshman before sitting out the 2018-19 season while transitioning to Baylor.
Other transfers who could see action: Adam Flagler, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua
Johnny Juzang (Kentucky): After struggling to carve out a consistent role with the Wildcats as a freshman last season, Juzang transferred home to the school he grew up following. Juzang's addition has been vital for the Bruins, as he leads the team in scoring and helped carry them to an Elite Eight win over Michigan with 28 points.
Andrew Nembhard (Florida): The 6-foot-5 point guard was solid in two seasons for the Tigers but opted to leave for Gonzaga and has emerged as a starter over the past two months. Nembhard is averaging 4.3 assists vs. just 1.2 turnovers and is proving to be an important cog in the Bulldogs' offensive machine.
Other transfers who could see action: Aaron Cook