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Minnesota Basketball: Transfers Not a Problem for Pitino & The Gophers

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Our first data analysis of the off-season shows that Minnesota's transfer "problem" is over blown.

Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota has been hit by a number of high profile transfers over the last few years. Tubby Smith and Richard Pitino have both seen multiple transfers of contributing players and high profile recruits. Some fans have expressed anxiety about the well-being of the program, and a few of those transfers has negatively affected Minnesota's APR. Consequently, it is worth asking whether Minnesota is an outlier when it comes to transfers.

To do so, I looked at every single transfer from 2012 to 2016. The rate for 2016 so I don't include it in the percentage and overall totals, but I would expect more transfers over the rest of the off season. All code and data for this project is available on Github for anyone who would like to play around with the analysis.

Data on transfers comes from a compilation at verbalcommits.com. Instead of making future analysts scrape the data, I've just included it in the repository. I also made an assumption on the total number of scholarship athletes. In general, every basketball team in Division I has 13 scholarship athletes which is the maximum by NCAA rules. There are 351 NCAA Division I teams, so a simple multiplication gets the upper bound of scholarship athletes per year.

Transfer Percentage by Year

Year Transfer Percentage
2012 13%
2013 15%
2014 17%
2015 18%

There is an increasing trend in transfers over the last five years. 2016 is not shown because of a lack of complete data.

Total Transfers from P5 Conference

Year Total Transfers
SEC 148
BIG
121
P12
118
ACC
112
B12
86

The next table shows the total number of transfers by Power 5 Conference. The SEC has the most transfers and the BIG second most transfers from 2012-2015. I want to include these numbers to show that there are a lot of transfers every year.

How many transfers occur in the Big Ten? The next chart shows every single Big Ten team's total transfers.

Hey, Rutgers won something!

As far as Minnesota is concerned, the Gophers are in an enviable position with regards to transfers. Rutgers has a transfer rate three times as high as Minnesota, and six times as high as Wisconsin.

The Gophers are not only in the bottom third of the conference, but also all Power 5 schools. Very few schools have had no transfers over the same time period. Moreover, transfers are not necessarily a predictor of failure. Among the top 10 Power 5 teams for total transfers are Louisville, Iowa State, Oregon, and Utah.

This is not to say that transfers are excellent, but in general high star players do not transfer. The following table shows the star rankings out of high school of recruits who transferred from a Power 5 school.

Transfer Star Ranking Total Transfers
2 Star 289
3 Star 190
4 Star 102
5 Star 4

As can be seen by the table, the vast majority of transfers are 2 and 3 star recruits. Indeed, almost half of all Power 5 transfers were 2 star level recruits out of high school. The majority of 4 Star and above players move to another Power 5 school, so I wouldn't be surprised if Kevin Dorsey returned to a school in the ACC.