NCAA Basketball: 25 biggest offseason winners heading into 2021-22 season

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On Monday, April 5th, the Baylor Bears defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs to win the program’s first-ever NCAA Basketball national championship. The game concluded a wacky overall season, with games being canceled left and right and even the NCAA Tournament being affected by covid issues.

The good news is that things are looking up for the 2021-22 NCAA Basketball campaign, thanks to vaccinations being available. But before we get to fully previewing the upcoming season, I want to take one last look at what happened in the offseason.

Due to the new rules regarding the NBA Draft entrant process, class of 2021 recruiting decisions, one-time transfer waivers, and the NCAA allowing players an extra year of eligibility, we as fans and observers got so many more storylines and newsworthy transactions in the past few months.

It’s been 125 days between Baylor cutting the nets and August 9th and with the exception of Emoni Bates’ pending decision, the rosters and players for next season have been set. Many teams have done well in the offseason overall but here’s my opinion of who did the best.

Honorable mentions

Tennessee Volunteers

The biggest weakness for the Vols last season was the frontcourt and they were able to fix that with a pair of high-profile freshmen in top-50 center Jonas Aidoo and five-star power forward prospect Brandon Huntley-Hatfield. And with John Fulkerson electing to take a 5th year to provide experience and leadership, Tennessee shouldn’t have any holes on its roster for next season.

New Mexico State Aggies

No team was affected more last season with covid issues than the Aggies, which ended with them not winning the WAC for the first time in years. However, they should be the clear favorites to win it next season, thanks to three seniors taking a 5th year (Clayton Henry, Johnny McCants, and Donnie Tillman), along with add a number of transfers to have extreme depth, including 16 ppg Nebraska transfer Teddy Allen. In terms of depth, they could go 13 deep and handle just about anyone in the WAC.

Ohio State Buckeyes

They did lose Duane Washington to the NBA Draft but star forward EJ Liddell come back, giving them a top-15 caliber team for next season. But they’ve been even more impressive on the recruiting trail, landing a trio of top-50 prospects in the 2022 class to currently have the top spot. That’ll likely change but Ohio State has had good news for both on and off the court.

LMU Lions

Eli Scott is one of the best players you’ve never heard of, as he’s a 6’6 point/forward/center that does a ton for the Lions. He opted to come back for another year, joining what should be LMU’s best roster since 2021 where they won 11 games in WCC play. Add 20 ppg scoring transfer Cameron Shelton and this may be the third-best team in the league.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

A big theme for this list is about massive transfer success this offseason and I had to include a team that did pretty well, at least in terms of name value. The Bulldogs added All-ACC big man Garrison Brooks from UNC, Memphis forward DJ Jeffries, and guards Rocket Watts (Michigan State) and Shakeel Moore (NC State). If this group can have a big impact alongside returning guard Iverson Molinar, they’ll find a way to contend in what should be a very strong conference.

Nevada Wolf Pack

Two offseason was great for the Wolf Pack for two reasons. First, their two stars (Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge) stayed and didn’t leave for the portal or the draft, while also landing 20 ppg transfer forward AJ Bramah. And their Mountain West rivals (San Diego State, Boise State, and Utah State) all lost plenty of production this offseason as well, leaving Nevada and Colorado State as the perceived team to beat in the league.

UCF Knights

With how prevalent the transfer portal is these days, it’s hard for teams to bring back over 90% of their scoring production from the season prior. The Knights are one of those teams, thanks to guards Brandon Mahan and Darius Perry taking a 5th year. And with UNLV center transfer Chiekh Mbacke Diong providing the size down low they didn’t have, UCF could sneak to a top-4 finish and possible bubble spot heading into March.

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