While the proliferation of transferring and immediate eligibility for those who do transfer makes quickly improving a college basketball roster during the offseason far more practical, the in-season options for bolstering a team are limited. There is no free agent pool or developmental league, and trades are not allowed.
Every once in a while, a team will have a reclassified freshman or international player enroll midseason and become available for the second semester to help, but those are exceptions more than the norm. Ultimately, college basketball coaches are tasked with molding the group they have into the best version of itself without much hope for in-season personnel changes.
But what if trades were allowed in college basketball? It will never happen so long as teams remain affiliated with universities, but it makes for a fun hypothetical exercise, especially as crunch time for the sport arrives in the 2022-23 season.
With Thursday's NBA trade deadline now here (highlighted by Kevin Durant's last-minute blockbuster trade to the Suns) and college basketball teams gearing up for late-season runs, it's time to fire up the hypothetical trade machine. For this week's edition of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are executing hypothetical trades that would make sense for teams as we come down the stretch.
Baylor G Keyonte George for UConn F Adama Sanogo
If we're going to do this, let's start with a biggie: All-American candidate Keyonte George for All-American candidate Adama Sanogo. It's a blockbuster that would actually make sense for both Baylor and UConn.
Baylor has two other high-level guards in Adam Flagler and L.J. Cryer, so the Bears could afford to move George for a dominant big like Sanogo, who would give Scott Drew's team a more balanced inside-outside attack. Similarly, UConn has another capable center in Donovan Clingan, so the Huskies could afford to move Sanogo for a projected lottery pick like George, who would pair nicely with Jordan Hawkins and make Dan Hurley's team really dynamic on the wings.
It's an imaginary trade that makes some sense for both sides. -- Gary Parrish
Creighton G/F Baylor Scheierman for Duke F Mark Mitchell
"Duke is trading freshman forward Mark Mitchell to Creighton in exchange for Bluejays combo forward Bayloer Scheierman, sources tell @CBSSports."
It's no Durant to the Suns, but imagine living in that universe! A Bluejay for a Blue Devil.
My pick is based off two likely NCAA Tournament teams that can improve their situations by addressing obvious deficiencies. The Blue Devils are bad from 3-point range, one of the worst long-distance shooting groups ever in Durham. At 32.3%, Duke ranks 258th nationally from deep. In our hypothetical world, if the Blue Devils are going to make a more reasonable push in the ACC or contend for the Sweet 16, they need to add a shooter. One with size would help in Jon Scheyer's system.
Scheyer, go get Scheierman.
Creighton's key transfer is making 38.8% of his treys so far this season, a healthy rate. He'd be a good fit. Because he can play in the mid-range and mess around in the paint, the trade-off in sending Mitchell to Omaha is one Duke can sacrifice, especially since Dereck Lively II has made big strides in the past month.
For Creighton, Greg McDermott's team has enough shooting and experience to handle the loss of Scheierman. Mitchell would be added to a veteran group and give the Jays an interior presence that would make this team one of the 10 best on defense in the country. Plus, Mitchell's playing time would enhance. -- Matt Norlander
Houston G Marcus Sasser for Kentucky F Oscar Tshiebwe
If we're going to get weird, then let's get weird, shall we?
Kentucky needs more offensive firepower and creation ability from its backcourt next to Cason Wallace with Sahvir Wheeler ailing. And while Houston needs nothing -- it might have the best team in college basketball -- purely from a fun perspective it'd be incredible theater to watch Tshiebwe in its system. The Cougars are arguably the most tenacious rebounders on the offensive glass in the country, and adding Tshiebwe to the mix (next to Jarace Walker) would be a cheat code and a nightmare for opponents.
The big piece here is getting Kentucky another quality guard. Sasser is a three-level scorer who can not just create looks for himself but can get others involved, too. Of course, trading away Tshiebwe would come at a cost for UK -- you don't give up the reigning POY without some serious trade-offs -- but defensively he's been a major liability that's impossible to hide. Even John Calipari has broached the idea of playing Tshiebwe less given his limitations. With more Daimion Collins minutes and a more beefed up backcourt, Kentucky could rejuvenate itself and reach its ceiling after being one of the biggest underperformers all season. -- Kyle Boone
Tennessee F Julian Phillips for Missouri G Isiaih Mosley
Tennessee is elite defensively but paralyzes itself with prolonged offensive droughts in a way that raises serious questions about the team's ability to make a deep postseason run. To the contrary, Missouri ranks No. 14 nationally in points per game at 81.9 but is 172nd in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, and needs a defensive stopper.
That's why this trade makes perfect sense for both teams.
Mosley, who is 6-foot-5, averaged 20.4 points while standing out as one of the nation's most efficient high-volume scorers at Missouri State last season. For whatever reason, he struggled to find a spot in Missouri's rotation early this season after ranking as one of the offseason's top transfers. As of late, he's been playing more and shown his high-level scoring acumen. Mosley scored 19 points on 9 of 18 shooting in a loss to Alabama and 20 in a win at Ole Miss. He's shooting 40% from beyond the arc over the Tigers' last five games even as his minutes have decreased in each game during that span. At Tennessee, he would quickly become the team's leading scorer.
Phillips rates as the second-best defender in the country, per EvanMiya.com, which is incredible for a true freshman. That's partially a reflection of Tennessee's excellent team defense, but at 6-foot-8, he is a long and versatile athlete who could help Missouri get big stops. Offensively, he is just OK as he shoots 40.1% from the floor and just 27.8% from beyond the arc. But the Tigers wouldn't need him to be a primary option like Tennessee does. -- David Cobb