The transfer portal has become a massive part of college basketball’s roster construction, and every season teams, fans and media alike have the same question – how will transfer players do in their new place?
Predicting a player’s effectiveness is especially difficult for low- and mid-major players, as some have emerged in a new environment with more talent around them, while others have floundered against an increased level of talent and athleticism. High major to high major transfers still have a lot of questions, as do styles of play that greatly affect a player’s productivity.
Two seasons ago, I came up with an algorithm to predict the stats of incoming transfers Tyree Appleby and Anthony Duruji, and they ended up being pretty accurate. The next year I made some tweaks with Brandon McKissic, Myreon Jones, Phlandrous Fleming and CJ Felder and again had success. You can read about it and see predictions and actual results here.
So of course I had to push myself again with Florida’s new batch of transfers this season.
Before I get into the predictions for each player, I need to give some preamble.
Will this sound like an excuse in case I’m far away? Potentially. Is that why I’m saying this? Partly.
One of the reasons the predictions have been so accurate the last two seasons, in my opinion, is because Florida basketball has been extremely predictable in terms of style of play. That’s not a shot at Mike White – it’s just the fact that in the fifth year of coaching the program, their style of play is pretty defined. Because the style of the game was kind of set, it was easy to put players into certain roles and see how they would do in those roles.
I don’t have the luxury of a huge Golden sample size in the high majors to know exactly how the team will play, something that could throw a wrench into projections. I can guess based on how San Francisco played and how offensive coordinator Kevin Hovde’s team played in Richmond — and I’ll use those as a baseline — but I expect changes as Coach tries to beat Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary’s as an underdog to now faces SEC rivals.
Another thing to consider when looking at these projections – Florida is very deep and I expect a lot of players from a minutes and production standpoint. These four transfers won’t be the only ones getting points, rebounds and assists, and the numbers you’re about to see may be lower than you’d expect. Just remember that there is a lot of returning talent and some quality newcomers who will contribute as well, and these predictions would definitely end up being invalid if I assumed the Gators would put up 100 points per game, because that would be unrealistic.
Enough preludes, let’s get to the predictions:
Alex Messed Up
Let’s talk about that, starting with Kyle Lofton.
Lofton played an incredible amount of minutes during his four years in St. Bonaventure and created huge samples, which hurt him a little in the projections. Yes, the Atlantic 10 is a great league, but there will still be a big adjustment in the talent level. What hurts Lofton in the projections is that he doesn’t have great individual scoring numbers as a pull player or finisher on the rim, and his pick and roll ballhandling numbers are pretty pedestrian for his career. While his individual scoring ability won’t be his calling card, he’s an excellent decision-maker who should put up solid assist numbers and generally be a savvy general to help the Gators flow smoothly. Also worth noting – his best quality as a player might be his perimeter defense, which is nothing that statistical predictions can ever capture.
My predictive model is a big fan of Trey Bonham and projects him to be a solid backup quarterback who will run next to Lofton at times. The biggest thing that adds to the positive outlook for Bonham is that he was truly elite in the pick and roll at VMI, and even though the Southern Conference is not the SEC, Bonham is so dominant as a pick and roll player in his second year. something that made me very excited about his time in Florida.
Will Richard is in a very different situation than any player I’ve had to predict in recent years. Most of the players who transferred to Florida were older players who have one or two distinct skills that make them ready for the majors. Richard, on the other hand, is young (only in his second year) and was an all-around craftsman who wasn’t great at any particular skill, but was capable of many things. My transfer model relies a lot on looking at similar players from similar situations in the past and there just weren’t many similar players to compare Richard to. Something I didn’t like about the model is that he isn’t a great finisher at the rim and doesn’t have great individual creation skills. However…few first year players do that. It’s one thing for a model to look at Brandon McKissic last year and look at a huge sample size and an older player and declare him someone who isn’t great at creating offense, but it would be extremely silly to look at a first-year player. and thinks it won’t get better. It is very difficult to project young players, so this was difficult. He could completely surpass those projections.
In a similar situation is Alex Fudge, a highly touted high school recruit who struggled to get on the floor for LSU in SEC play. What do you do with a player like that? Again, similar to Richard – there were very few comparable players to help with projection. Additionally, the sample size was so small due to the limited minutes Fudge played. I had to rely on similarly ranked high school talents who struggled in their freshman year but stayed in college and came up with a projection that seems reasonable, but if Popletal has a starting role based on talent and athleticism, those numbers could quit like that, off.
One last thing I’ll add – studying transfers across college basketball… players almost always end up producing less than people think, and I’d go so far as to say that transfers are often overrated. Both seasons I did projections, people said the numbers looked really low…and the numbers ended up being pretty accurate. This isn’t a situation unique to Florida — look at college basketball over the last few years and you’ll see that there have been plenty of really good transfers to the upper major level, but very few amazing ones. That’s not to say none of these Gators beat projections, in fact multiple or even all very good! But if you really look at how transfers have looked in recent years, measured expectations are probably the wise way to go.
Let me know where you think the projections are right and where you think they’re wrong, and we’ll be sure to get back to them after the season!