College Basketball Preview: Top 20 transfer players

Rodney Hood (Getty)
Duke's Rodney Hood is ready to contribute after transferring from Mississippi State. (Getty)

The transfer. A player archetype becoming more common -- and impactful -- in college basketball. Used to be that leaving one school for another meant taking on a significant risk. A player might not stick or jell in his new spot the same way he did his previous one. Enhanced playing time was obviously no given, and the pause it put on the path to graduation was formerly a factor in many players' decisions.

But that's not the reality anymore for those who opt to take a powder. Now there's little fear or second thought, and transfers can go from feeling unappreciated at one program to having unprecedented impact at another. Consider last season's Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Remember who it was? Luke Hancock. A transfer.

Where did he play before he got to Louisville? Ah, you probably don't know unless you're a fan of his former school or the Cards. (It was George Mason.) That's kind of the point. Allegiance isn't allegiance anymore, and now the transfer has never had more value, leverage or potency at the college hoops level.

Not only that, but these days, it's not as if players are expecting to have to sit a full year before making their way back to the floor. Take Georgetown's Josh Smith, who the NCAA afforded eligibility to Wednesday night, just in time for not only this season but also this column. Thanks, NCAA! You so kind and inconsistent.

So yeah, new faces in new places. Who are the transfers due to make the most noise this season? Here are the 20 best, in my estimation. We'll peel them off alphabetically. (Note: The Josh Smith waiver has caused many to believe Oregon will inevitably get Joseph Young good to go for this season as well, but as of now that ruling is still TBD, so I'm leaving Young off this list.)

 Antonio Barton

 New team: Tennessee

 Old team: Memphis

 Comment: I like this intra-Volunteer State swap. Barton comes in to replace Trae Golden, another transfer who's eligible this year -- and featured on this list. Barton can be a me-first point guard, no doubt about it, but he's also a capable sub-in for Golden. He'll be far from the best player on this list, but expect Tennessee to reach the NCAAs with him at the helm.

 Tarik Black

 New team: Kansas

 Old team: Memphis

 Comment: Black never came to be in regular games what he showed so often in practice. But he's still a physical specimen and will likely fit in finely in his one year at Kansas amid a team with so much freaking talent. Consider him a glue guy of the buffest order. He's also good at no-look half-court shots. Grad-student transfer means no one-year redshirt for Black.

 Eli Carter

 New team: Florida

 Old team: Rutgers

 Comment: Left Rutgers in wake of Mike Rice scandal, thus, he won't have to sit a year. Carter is a combo guard that could get a chance to shine early if the currently suspended Scottie Wilbekin is forced to miss a handful of regular season games. Carter put up 13.8 and 14.9 points in his first two seasons at Rutgers. More impressively, he went from being a 70 to an 86-percent free-throw shooter in one year. He can aptly handle being a 1 or a 2 for UF, if asked.

 Jordan Clarkson

 New team: Missouri

 Old team: Tulsa

 Comment: If the name rings a faint bell, Clarkson was the player former Tulsa AD Russ Parmley refused to release to certain schools in 2012. One of those schools was Missouri. Parmley went on to be fired after an FBI probe uncovered the fact he was gambling while on the job as interim athletic director. Clarkson averaged 16.5 points as a sophomore, in 2011-12. Good on the boards for a guard, too. He really should make Mizzou well-rounded.

 Maurice Creek

 New team: George Washington

 Old team: Indiana

 Comment: You'll notice I'm listing off the 20 players who I expect to have the biggest tangible and statistical impact for the year ahead. Hard to think Mo Creek won't factor in. Creek had an injury-plagued career at IU. That freshman season ended badly, when he was averaging more than 16/game. After that, IU's fledgling rebuild combined with Creek's recurring injuries never allowed the 6-5 guard to be a real factor. But he's going to produce for GW, I just know it. If anyone has karma in his corner this season, it's Creek.

 Josh Davis

 New team: San Diego State

 Old team: Tulane

 Comment: Sleeper pick to win Player of the Year in the Mountain West. Even our own Gary Parrish liked him enough to include him among our 100 best players in the sport. He's a big man who will average a double-double. I like SDSU to steal the league title this season; Davis obviously a big reason why. He put up 18/11 at Tulane a year ago.

 Michael Dixon

 New team: Memphis

 Old team: Missouri

 Comment: Dixon has one year of eligibility left after being forced out of Missouri amid sexual-assault allegations that never brought charges. Dixon put up more than 13 points and three assists per game and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2011-12, and his eligibility clearance by the NCAA in September prompted us to declare the Tigers' backcourt now the best in the nation.

 Dorian Finney-Smith

 New team: Florida

 Old team: Virginia Tech

 Comment: He was the highest-rated player ever brought to Va. Tech. But Finney-Smith, who put up seven boards, six points and two assists per game, didn't touch his potential in one year with the Hokies. He was unhappy, so he left with the coinciding departure of former coach Seth Greenberg. The 6-8 forward has been subject of some gossip that he could be one of the two best players for UF this season. I gotta see that to believe, but nonetheless he'll give Florida one of the best frontcourts in the sport.

 Rodney Hood

 New team: Duke

 Old team: Mississippi State

 Comment: I'd say no transfer has had more conjecture put upon him than Hood, who was nondescript at middling MSU before opting to leave in 2012. A reminder of his numbers: At 33 minutes/game, scored 10 points, grabbed five boards and dished two assists. Not a harbinger of All-American status, yet that's where we have him, right here as a Third-Teamer. Hood is a tall forward with guard-like tendencies and a real diverse option for Duke. He's svelte (weighing less than 220 despite being 6-8), but was said to have been remarkable in practice during his redshirt season.

 Michael Gbinije

 New team: Syracuse

 Old team: Duke

 Comment: Can I cop to groupthink inclusion here? The kid's rep is quite high, and I'm going off word-of-mouth here, because Gbinje's barely played at all. He averaged less than six minutes a game and didn't see the court in half of Duke's tilts in 2011-12. His position floats between a 2 and a 3 -- so call him a definitive wing -- and he weighs in around 210 pounds, 6 feet, 6 inches tall. Syracuse is very excited about his sophomore season.

 Trae Golden

 New team: Georgia Tech

 Old team: Tennessee

 Comment: Just got cleared last week. I don't know if Georgia Tech can make the NCAA tournament this year, but I do know it was absolutely out of the question before the Golden news came down. Averaged 12.5 points, 4.4 assists and two boards over the past two seasons. Powerful guard. Eager to see how he blends with the Bees.

 Derrick Gordon

 New team: UMass

 Old team: Western Kentucky

 Comment: I'm on an island when it comes to thinking UMass is winning the A-10 this season. Gordon's inclusion was the clinching factor to me, because while Chaz Williams can be the POY in the conference, he and the Minutemen will need Gordon's gaudy production at WKU to translate at the A-10 level. He averaged 12 points and seven rebounds ... and he's listed at 6-3, 200 pounds. Here's to hoping Williams and Gordon make us nostalgic for the days of Edgar Padilla and Carmelo Travieso.

 Ryan Harrow

 New team: Georgia State

 Old team: Kentucky

 Comment: Speaks to many things regarding the player and the sport that Ryan Harrow made this list LAST season, when he went to Kentucky by way of North Carolina State. He's in a much better spot now and I can absolutely see Harrow having a redemption story play out at GSU.

 DeAndre Kane

 New team: Iowa State

 Old team: Marshall

 Comment: Kane wasn't as consistente last year for Marshall as most expected him to be, but Fred Hoiberg's penchant for creating good with transfers means he's gotta be on here. Kane's a grad-student transfer who can score and will play a good combo role opposite the big men the Clones have down low. I think he could be anywhere from a 10-16 point-per-game player for Iowa State.

 Jermaine Marshall

 New team: Arizona State

 Old team: Penn State

 Comment: I like the Sun Devils to reach the NCAA tournament this year -- saving Herb Sendek's job in the process -- because Marshall should be a very nice complement to stud point guard Jahii Carson in ASU's backcourt. Was huge for Penn State last year after the team lost all-league guard Tim Frazier to a torn ACL. Marshall's line: 15.3 PPG, 4.6 RPB, 2.6 APG, 1.5 SPG.

 T.J. McConnell

 New team: Arizona

 Old team: Duquesne

 Comment: A lot of expectations behind this anticipated up-transfer. McConnell played two seasons at Duquesne before leaving following the firing of Ron Everhart. McConnell's one of the best thieves in college basketball, finishing in the top 12 in steal percentage in both of his prior seasons. He'll have loads of talent around him in Tucson, so the pieces are in place for him to be successful.

 Four McGlynn

 New team: Towson

 Old team: Vermont

 Comment: First off: obviously that name. But more pragmatically, McGlynn is going to be the reason Towson makes the NCAA tournament this season. The team -- which, remember, was puke-awful just two seasons ago, when it won ONE game -- has the preseason player of the year in the conference in big boy Jerrelle Benimon. McGlynn's only a sophomore and can make Towson the cream in that conference over the next three seasons.

 Mike Moser

 New team: Oregon

 Old team: UNLV

 Comment: A grad transfer, a guy with one year left -- who's on his second transfer of his career. Moser started at UCLA, then transfered in 2010. He didn't shine for UNLV last season, and maybe that's why the Runnin' Rebels were ultimatley such a disappointment. But I think Moser is set for a very nice season ahead. My prediction in that offense: 12 points, 10 rebounds and a block per game.

 Rayvonte Rice

 New team: Illinois

 Old team: Drake

 Comment: Physical guard who will give Illinois hope to be on the bubble this season. Rice can rebound, can score, is unafraid and probalby just what John Groce's team needs this season, especally since Ahmad Starks' transfer waiver was denied.

 Josh Smith

 New team: Georgetown

 Old team: UCLA

 Comment: Well, of all the players list, Smith's inclusion provides the most upside. There were times at UCLA when Smith's efficiency numbers were simply incredible. But he was never consistent, and a lot of that had to do with his weight. He's said to be in much better shape now -- but we've heard that tune before. If it's true, if Smith can provide at least 20 good minutes per game for the Hoyas, then look out. They can win the Big East and have Sweet 16 expectations if Greg Whittington returns to the team come January or February.

Interested in other transfers that could make noise on a lower level? We've got a batch of those ready for you as well.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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