Hoop Vision Weekly: 5/3/19

#TransferSZN Part 1: By The Numbers

Note: This was originally sent to Hoop Vision Weekly subscribers on May 3rd, 2019.

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What Offseason?

Welcome back to the Hoop Vision Weekly!

We're back with another OFFSEASON edition of the Hoop Vision Weekly.

As we wrote in last week's edition, we'll continue using this space in different — hopefully compelling! — ways, but the hope is to keep this coming on a weekly cadence. We're always eager for interesting topics, so please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or ideas for future topics.

This week, we'll tip off a multi-week series on TRANSFERS with some introductory data and analysis, plus the debut of a "Spring Reading" section, in which we pass along informative or otherwise useful content in the world of basketball and beyond.

(Note: A major shout to Nathan LeClair of Verbal Commits and his meticulous, admirable work in creating and updating the VC Transfer Database every year).

Here we go...


The closest corollary college athletics has to professional free agency, player transfers between schools/programs is one of the major hot-button issues in college basketball.

Any controversy or ideals aside, it's become a key fixture of the modern game.

For the faithful listeners of the Solving Basketball Podcast, you will be intimately familiar with this topic based onthe December episode with two-time transfer (and All-Big West performer) Leland King.

The next few weeks, we'll dive in a bit more on the data surrounding transfers. The programs and leagues that thrive on transfers, the circumstances surrounding them, and some of the surprising insights that emerge around transfers as a whole.

The "New" Normal?

Just as the one-and-done era has changed the face of college basketball within its upper echelon, transfers are an integral part of the college game now. 

Although many programs have long emphasized the junior college transfer scene, transfers between Division I programs have seemingly grown in frequency and importance.

Blue blood programs like Kentucky and North Carolina are adding instant-impact graduate transfers, while coaches such as Eric Musselman(then Nevada, now Arkansas) andFred Hoiberg(then Iowa State, now Nebraska) have built a reputation around leveraging transfers to bring their respective programs into national contention.

And despite cries of "epidemic" and groans of"Is this the new normal?"  from the old guard of college basketball in the past few seasons especially, this is not a shocking trend. In fact, since 2013 the transfer total has fluctuated by year. And while we're obviously still in the thick of 2019 transfer season, there is a realistic change that the total transfer number actuallydecreases for a second year in a row (2019 data as of Thursday morning and italicized to indicate it will continue to change).

Accounting for the reasons behind a player's decision to transfer, some of the key drivers (wrong personality fit, homesickness, academics, etc.) are rarely publicized and difficult to analyze at scale, one extremely important driver is easy to identify: a coaching change.

This year marks the fourth straight in which 50+ programs have made a head coaching change, which has made a material impact on the transfer market as a whole. The pool of players transferring OUT of programs with coaching changes makes up about one-fifth of the total transfer pool, and a program can typically expect 2-3 players to transfer out upon making a change at the helm:

And how does the market look for coaches like Hoiberg or Musselman, stepping into a new job and looking to the transfer portal in hopes of stockpiling veteran talent in April and May? Or for that matter, any first-year coach who is stepping into a program that likely lost two or three players to transfer?

It would be wise to disregard 2019 in the table below — it's still far too early as many players are not yet committed to a new school — but from 2012-2018, the pattern remains consistent: the typical new coach brings in at least one transfer into his program in Year 1 of the new regime:


After today's surface-level introduction, we will go quite a bit deeper on transfers the next two weeks, expanding on the following:

1) Coaching Changes
What causes a transfer exodus? How many new coaches are able to reduce transfers to only one player — or zero? Is there a real correlation between elevating an assistant to the head job and retaining players?

2) Following The Coach
While it's more common for incoming recruits rather than upperclassmen transfers, a handful of players every year follow a coach to his new school. We'll map out who those players are, and what the circumstances were.

3) Graduate/Immediately Eligible Transfers
Are we seeing more graduate transfers than in years past? Where are those graduate transfers going?

4) Conferences & Teams
Which conferences and programs have been most prone to exodus and roster churn? Which programs and leagues thrive on transfers?


Something new we'll be trying out, also — in this space throughout the offseason, we'll be sharing articles, videos, resources, etc. that the Hoop Vision community has enjoyed or recommended. It will be a mix of wonky hoops-specific breakdowns from others, plus some less esoteric content on basketball and team principles.

Whenever you come across anything you think might be educational, thought-provoking or otherwise useful for the Hoop Vision audience, feel free to pass it along!

Hoops: Tactical

Ken Pomeroy: "Investigating The Value of Two-for-Ones" 
(Originally published July 2013)
This is a classic post from Ken — an example of some of the thoughtful, sharp analysis on recurring basketball dilemmas that introduced many to KenPom.com and the ratings in the first place. Always worth revisiting the old KP archives!

Jordan Sperber (hey, we know him!): "Charting Three-Point Rebounds"
(Originally published February 2013)
Some work that I did years ago on KenPom.com, melding shot tracking data with rebounding data at the college level, with an eye toward discovering how three-point misses bounced off the rim, and how it might impact rebounding strategy and gameplans as a whole.

Hoops: Comedy

For a slightly-less-serious and more fun basketball content experience, lean back and laugh at Thursday's new episode of Game of Zones — satirizing the Rockets and their focus on analytics - featuring Daryl Morey, Carmelo Anthony, and "the computers" behind it all. (6m36s) 


Roni Mella (Vox/Recode): "The Productivity Pit: How Slack is Ruining Work"
(Published Wednesday, May 1st)
A thought-provoking, in-depth article on how work messaging platforms like Slack — aimed at increasing productivity and cutting down on time wasted to email — is actually having the opposite effect within many companies. A compelling case study on how a process or technology "solution" can only do so much to address a cultural or systemic issue within a team or organization.

Book Recommendations

Unsafe Thinking by Jonah Sacks (Amazon)
(Published April 2018)
A book all about creative thinking, breaking conventional norms, and the anatomy of breakthrough ideas; a wildly valuable read for anyone leading a team/program/organization, or even for team members (or assistant coaches and managers) who are looking for the best way to package and present big, audacious ideas. One highlight is an extended section on how to break out of creative funks and how sometimes "expertise" can be overrated.


What did you think about this new format for the newsletter? We'd love to hear thoughts!

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