In the not-so-distant past, schools often put the kibosh on players transferring to another program within its own conference. But with the NCAA relaxing transfer rules the last few years, intraconference transfers have become vastly more common, especially this year in the Big 12.
Already this offseason, six players are moving from one Big 12 program to another in the conference which could add some spice to games which already would have been hotly contested.
One of the most hard-fought Big 12 games this season saw Kansas top Texas Tech in double-overtime in a game with league title implications. Kevin McCullar played in 43 of the 50 possible minutes for Texas Tech, the most of any Red Raider player. And when the two teams meet up in 2022-23, McCullar will find himself on the opposite side after transferring to Kansas this offseason.
"I know it'll be an intense game," McCullar told reporters recently of playing his former teammates. "Nothing but love for Tech and everything, you know I laid my heart on the line for them. So it will be good going back there and competing. It's basketball at the end of the day, so I'll be looking forward to it for sure."
Reminded that Texas coach Chris Beard's own homecoming after leaving Texas Tech wasn't for the faint of heart, McCullar said he wasn't worried about the response.
"I'm not worried about it: at the end of the day, it's basketball—everybody moves around, this and that," McCullar said. "It's basketball at the end of the day: fans are gonna be fans. We're out there to put on a show for the fans. So I'll be ready for sure."
Within the Big 12, McCullar is hardly alone. Texas Tech might have lost McCullar from a conference rival, but the Red Raiders pulled in Jaylon Tyson from Texas—a former Texas Tech signee under Beard who went with the former Red Raider coach to the Longhorns last year before switching back to Texas Tech this year. The Red Raiders also pulled in a former Big 12 player with a gap between league stops: De'Vion Harmon, previously of Oklahoma, who played for Oregon last year.
Texas, of course, landed arguably the nation's best transfer in Tyrese Hunter, courtesy of league foe Iowa State. In addition to losing Tyson to Texas Tech, Texas also saw center Tre Mitchell head east to West Virginia. West Virginia's Jalen Bridges headed back the other way to the Lone Star State, pledging to Baylor. Another in-conference Texas school raided north: TCU bringing in Oklahoma State guard Rondel Walker.
And Oklahoma State will once again start Bryce Thompson, a former five-star guard who started his career at Kansas before transferring to the Cowboys last year.
Got all that? All told, seven of the 10 teams in the big 12 will suit up a player who previously logged time for a conference opponent.
And the three who won't — Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma — are hardly opposed to it. Iowa State deployed Kansas transfer Tristan Enaruna last season before Enaruna decided to transfer again. First-year Kansas State coach Jerome Tang, himself an import from a league school in Baylor, kicked the tires on multiple league transfers but ultimately didn't convince one to sign, showing he has no issues with inter-conference transfer sniping. That's a similar setup for second-year Oklahoma coach Porter Moser, who has pursued multiple Big 12 transfers — Oklahoma was a finalist for Thompson in Moser's first offseason, for instance — before falling short.
|Team||Transfer (Old school)|
|Baylor||Jalen Bridges (West Virginia)|
|Iowa State||None yet|
|Kansas||Kevin McCullar (Texas Tech)|
|Oklahoma State||Bryce Thompson (Kansas, 2021)|
|TCU||Rondel Walker (Oklahoma State)|
|Texas||Tyrese Hunter (Iowa State)|
|Texas Tech||Jaylon Tyson (Texas)|
|West Virginia||Tre Mitchell (Texas)|
That means the trend isn't likely to slow down anytime soon. Statistics website KenPom.com ranked the Big 12 as college basketball's best conference in seven of the last nine years, and second-best in the other two years.
So as league coaches search for players who can play, and excel, at that level, there's no more proven commodity than a player who's already logged minutes in the Big 12.