The NCAA left the eligibility of hundreds of college basketball transfers in the 2020 cycle up to the waiver appeals process this spring when it opted against implementing comprehensive new transfer legislation until at least next year. But when UCLA's Johnny Juzang successfully appealed for an eligibility waiver after leaving Kentucky, he proved that perhaps college basketball's governing body will find some lenience in its heart during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Juzang, a Southern California native, won his appeal for immediate eligibility because he was transferring home amidst a global crisis. His waiver case reached a quick conclusion, but there are many more cases still pending that could have a major impact on the 2020-21 season.
These are the five programs with the pending waiver cases that will have the biggest impact on the sport ahead of the upcoming college basketball season.
As things stand now, there is no more significant eligibility waiver case in college basketball than with Sarr and Kentucky. The former Wake Forest center has the size, productivity and veteran pedigree to turn an otherwise young Wildcats squad into a serious national title contender.
Perhaps Kentucky, with its No. 1-ranked recruiting class, will evolve into a Final Four team anyway. But having Sarr would dramatically improve its chances. His initial case for a waiver hinged at least partially on the argument that he did not have enough time to make an informed decision about whether to enter the NBA Draft between the date former Wake Forest coach Danny Manning was fired on April 25 and the original early-entry deadline for the draft, which was April 26.
Now that the NBA Draft has been pushed back until October and players have a renewed window to declare for the draft, it could hurt Sarr's case for a waiver. But his waiver appeal is still worth monitoring. If he does receive immediate eligibility, it will dramatically reshape the preseason outlook for Kentucky.
The Golden Gophers are replacing one of the country's most underrated stars in Daniel Oturu, who averaged 20.1 points and 11.3 rebounds as a sophomore center last season. That's why getting Liam Robbins eligible would be huge as coach Richard Pitino tries to get things going in the right direction again following a 15-16 season. Robbins is a 7-footer who averaged 14.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game at Drake last season. He's a formerly unheralded prospect who has undergone a physical transformation that suggests the best is yet to come as he takes his game to what is arguably the nation's toughest league.
However, it appears that Minnesota's other transfer, Both Gach, has a better case for immediate eligibility. Gach is leaving Utah after two up-and-down seasons as a wing for the Utes. He's from Minnesota, and it's already been proven that transferring home amid the pandemic makes for a good waiver case. Gach's productivity fluctuated at Utah, but he's talented enough to make a major impact on Minnesota's 2020-21 roster if he earns eligibility.
The Cyclones made the NCAA Tournament in three of Steve Prohm's first four seasons as coach but struggled to a 12-20 record in the 2019-20 season. Now Iowa State is remaking its roster with the addition of four freshmen and three transfers. One of those transfers, Jalen Coleman-Lands, is a graduate transfer from DePaul. But the other two, Blake Hinson and Tyler Harris, would need waivers to be eligible immediately.
Hinson is a versatile wing who averaged 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds at Ole Miss last season, and he told the Daytona Beach News-Journal he is now proud "to not be associated with anything representing the Confederacy." Mississippi has since moved to remove the Confederate emblem from its state flag, but that only happened after Hinson decided transfer. Perhaps the NCAA will reward Hinson for his stance by allowing him immediate eligibility. Harris is a 3-point specialist who played his first two seasons at Memphis. It's unclear if he has a case for a waiver, considering that he is actually leaving his hometown school.
Getting either player -- or both -- would be especially impactful for Iowa State as it seeks to replace potential first-round pick Tyrese Haliburton and compete in the Big 12 again after a disappointing season.
Landers Nolley, DeAndre Williams
Getting DeAndre Williams and/or Landers Nolley eligible immediately would be huge as Penny Hardaway tries to get on-court results to match the recruiting hype he generated in his first two years at Memphis. Both transfers are versatile, seasoned players who could add the veteran punch that was missing from last year's Memphis team that finished 21-10 (10-8 AAC).
Williams is coming from Evansville, which had three coaches during a dysfunctional 2019-20 season. That ordeal could provide him a good case for a waiver. Nolley, on the other hand, can argue that he already took one redshirt year during his true freshman season at Virginia Tech before the Hokies underwent a coaching change. Collectively, it could make for a decent waiver case.
Memphis is replacing AAC Player of the Year Precious Achiuwa, who could be a first-round draft pick. Nolley is 6-foot-7 but wants to play on the wing for the Tigers after he was slotted as a small-ball big at Virginia Tech. But at 6-foot-9 and with a smooth outside shot, Williams would be especially helpful in replacing Achiuwa and elevating the Tigers' viability as a preseason pick to contend for the AAC title.
The Red Raiders are going to look different -- and likely be better -- even if their transfers do not receive immediate eligibility. But Chris Beard snagged three high-profile players out of the portal who could be especially helpful if they are eligible. Former VCU big man Marcus Santos-Silva is expected to graduate in time to be classified as a graduate transfer. But if that falls through, his potential waiver case will be important for the Red Raiders' hopes of making another deep NCAA Tournament run.
Getting former Georgetown guard Mac McClung and former Wichita State guard Jamarius Burton eligible immediately would also give Texas Tech two proven backcourt playmakers. This program is on solid footing either way, but its ceiling for the 2020-21 season would improve considerably if two of these transfers are eligible.