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Thanks to the transfer portal, it's never been simultaneously easier and harder to fix your roster in one offseason. The "easy" point of view is easy to adopt: thousands of players enter the portal every offseason, and there are plenty of contributors from all levels changing homes. The "hard" point of view is also easy to adopt, though, too: it can be overwhelming to try to narrow down, evaluate, recruit and win over transferring players, all while trying to keep your current roster in order. If you go to the portal and hit, the rewards are massive and immediate. If you go to the portal and miss, you find yourself in a world of trouble.

"Obviously, you're managing your roster with the portal, with NIL," UConn coach Dan Hurley said ahead of the Elite Eight. "I mean, for us, you better be a more skilled coach these days because you're dealing with a lot more stuff. ... It's tough. It's not easy."

The Final Four teams -- UConn, Alabama, NC State and Purdue -- all roster former transfers, though some programs have used it more than others.

That are 19 in total Here's the top five and how those five help their teams specifically.

All per-possession and specific play type stats are via Synergy.

5. DJ Burns Jr.

The stats: 13.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 53% FG
The path: One redshirt season at Tennessee (2018-19), three seasons at Winthrop (2019-22), two seasons at NC State (2022-24)

Burns is a wonderful story and a darn good player, too. His 332 points on post-ups this season are second in Division I to Edey, and fittingly, those two face off in the Final Four. Much like his team as a whole, Burns has taken his game to a new level in the postseason. He is also a strong passer from the post, a skill he'll need to use against Edey.

Burns on post-ups (2023-24)Reg. SeasonACC TournamentNCAA Tournament

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Team W-L




4. DJ Horne

The stats: 16.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 40.9% 3-point FG pct
The path: Two seasons at Illinois State (2019-21), two seasons at Arizona State (2021-23), one season at Arizona State (2023-24)

Horne returned to his hometown for his fifth year, and it's been a terrific match. After scoring over 15 points per game as a sophomore at Illinois State, he was a hot commodity in the transfer portal, but the move to Arizona State didn't go as planned. His scoring dipped, and his efficiency plummeted.

At NC State, Horne has rediscovered his shooting touch. His 183 points as a spot-up shooter this season were 40th in Division I, and he ranked in the 97th percentile in points per possession in those situations.

It'd be easy to say he's just shooting it better and move on, but a huge difference has been Horne's excellence handling the ball in pick and rolls. He's a good enough shooter to pull up if defenders sag off with the creativity and soft touch to score in a variety of ways off the dribble. It will be fascinating to see how NC State and Horne in particular attack Zach Edey, a massive center but one who doesn't love to extend way out to the perimeter.

3. Cam Spencer

The stats: 14.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, 44% 3-point FG pct
The path: Three seasons at Loyola Maryland (2019-22), one season at Rutgers (2022-23), one season at UConn (2023-24)

Spencer was Plan B last offseason when Hurley was looking for a shooter. Towson's Nicolas Timberlake was Plan A. What a blessing in disguise Timberlake's commitment to Kansas proved to be. Spencer has been everything the Huskies have needed and more: a lights-out shooter, a capable ball handler and a fearless competitor unafraid to take and make big shots.

The 44% shooting from 3 speaks for itself, but a huge part of Spencer's game -- and a major reason he's been such a great fit -- is his work off the ball. He never stops moving, and he reads screens at an extremely high level. His 138 points off screens are tied for fifth-most in Division I.

If you overplay him as a shooter, he'll smartly cut backdoor for easy looks as seen in the final two clips below.

2. Mark Sears

The stats: 21.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG. 4.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 50% FG pct, 43% 3-pt FG pct
The path: Two seasons at Ohio (2020-22), two seasons at Alabama (2022-24)

A key role player alongside star Jason Preston at Ohio when the Bobcats won an NCAA Tournament game in 2021, Sears jumped from 8.5 points as a freshman to 19.6 as a sophomore and then transferred to Alabama. In Tuscaloosa, Sears once again waited alongside/behind another future NBA pick (Brandon Miller) before taking over. Sears is outstanding offensively. He can shoot from anywhere and is a willing passer, but more than anything, he does a great job managing one of the fastest-paced teams in the nation. He plays quickly but never hurries and keeps his cool late in the shot clock.

Sears was one of just six players nationwide to score at least 135 points as a pick-and-roll ball handler, in transition and on spot-up shots.

1. Tristen Newton

The stats: 15.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 6.1 APG
The path: Three seasons at Eastern Carolina (2019-22), two seasons at UConn (2022-24)

The call between Sears and Newton was extremely close. Newton gets the nod here as a do-it-all guard who doesn't need to score to control a game. He was the only major-conference player to average 15 points, six rebounds and six assists this season and just the fifth to do so this millennium, joining Luke Walton (2001-02), Evan Turner (2009-10), Denzel Valentine (2015-16) and Jalen Pickett (2022-23).

It's not just the basic stats. has Newton No. 2 in its Player of the Year rankings, only behind Edey. has Newton seventh in its top players. Newton isn't the greatest shooter, but he can fill it up when needed: seven games of 20-plus points this season. At 6-foot-5 he can score in a variety of ways. After shooting 38% inside the arc, he's up to 51% this season, and he has cut down his turnover rate. Finally, he -- unlike anyone else on this list -- has title-winning experience: 19 points and 10 rebounds in the championship game against San Diego State last year.

Honorable mentions

  • Jones has been exactly what Purdue needed, providing perimeter shooting, toughness and defensive versatility.
  • Nelson's heroic Sweet 16 performance against North Carolina will not soon be forgotten, and Estrada's experience next to fellow senior Mark Sears has been huge.
  • O'Connell saved NC State's season in the ACC Tournament, and Morsell, Diarra and Middlebrooks have played key complementary roles.