Noie: Roster turnover no offseason issue — for now — with Notre Dame men's basketball

Tom Noie
ND Insider

What has been a college basketball offseason like no other seems like just another for the Notre Dame men’s program.

When the NCAA allowed players a one-time transfer exception that provides freedom to jump from School A to School B without consequence — players previously were required to sit out for one season — college basketball life as we knew it effectively ended.

That was reinforced this offseason with a rush to the transfer portal by the dozens. Then by the hundreds. According to the NCAA, the college hoops transfer portal carried 681 players in 2017. Four years later, and at one point this offseason, at least 1,573 players were in the portal.

No longer are mainly non-Power Five conference teams losing key guys to the bigger schools. Duke had multiple players in the portal. Indiana had multiple players in the portal. Louisville and North Carolina too. Big schools and the blue bloods aren’t immune to transfers/roster turnover. Guys who wanted to jump, jumped. Guys who thought they wanted to jump, jumped. Even guys who maybe didn’t want to jump, well, they too jumped.

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey directs players during the first half of Wednesday’s game against North Carolina State.

There were enough players in the portal to fill out each of the 13-man roster spots on 121 Division I teams. That’s a lot of guys. That’s too many guys.

Is it good for college basketball? Bad for college basketball? Doesn’t matter because that’s college basketball in 2021 and beyond. It’s part Wild West, part Thunderdome rolled into one portal. College coaches not only have to recruit high school kids, they have to recruit their own kids. This year. Next year.

Eventually, even at Notre Dame. But not yet.

Endure a season like the one the Irish staggered through last year (11-15 overall, 7-11 ACC), and certainly the roster would be affected by the new immediate transfer rule. Losses in five of the last seven games. No NCAA tournament trip a fourth straight season. A seemingly stagnant program. Back in January and February and March, some guys getting out of town fast seemed certain. Not maybe, but more like when. And how many?

Something happened on the way out the door. Barely anybody Irish walked through it.

At one point this spring, only two schools from Power Five conferences — Michigan and Alabama — had zero current players in the transfer portal. Add Notre Dame to that group with an asterisk.

► More:Noie: For Notre Dame, Anthony Solomon is right guy at right time

► More:NDI May hoops chat transcript

Former Irish guard Nik Djogo entered the transfer portal in spring. He’s since landed at Northeastern, where he’ll room with former Irish power forward Chris Doherty. But Djogo’s not a traditional transfer. How many in the portal spent five seasons at their previous school? Left with two degrees? Had agreed with their head coach last fall that even if/when the NCAA granted all college athletes an additional year of competition thanks to coronavirus that his time at Notre Dame would not include a sixth year?

It was just time for Djogo to do something else and somewhere else.

With the tunes on the transfer musical chairs all but stopped – players have until July 1 to transfer and retain immediate eligibility – a Notre Dame roster figured in need of a complete teardown remains relatively intact.

Last March, everybody Irish was considered a transfer portal candidate. But nobody left. What does that say about these guys? About this program? That these guys are in it more for than just stats and all the stuff that come with it. That maybe its a little more stable on the inside that what the outside thinks.

That includes the status of the head coach. Mike Brey left the floor at Purcell Pavilion to a chant that he be fired following the March 3 loss to North Carolina State. He’s back for Year No. 22 with a veteran roster that gave little, if any, thought to the portal.

There will be more movement on Brey’s staff — two changes down, two to go — than on the returning roster.

A year from now, Brey knows he won’t have it as good when it comes to the portal. Somebody’s going to leave. It’s the nature of the college basketball world. You can sidestep the portal for one offseason, but likely not two.

Yale power forward Paul Atkinson announced late Sunday his intent to transfer to Notre Dame for the 2021-22 season.

Do the math.

Notre Dame will carry 12 scholarship players – one short of the maximum – into summer school, which starts Monday. Since the end of the spring semester, returning players have been home, a place they hadn’t been in nearly a year after pandemic protocols kept them on campus from early August through Thanksgiving and Christmas and any other break in the academic schedule. Notre Dame was one of only two ACC schools (Miami Fla.) not paused at any moment last season because of coronavirus issues from within its program. Spring was a different story. Once the season ended in early March, the virus rolled through Rolfs Hall and affected almost everyone.

Same can/will be said for the transfer portal this time next year. It’s coming.

With the returning core and the additions of Yale transfer Paul Atkinson and freshmen J.R. Konieczny and Blake Wesley, Notre Dame has a deeper roster for 2021-22. Brey’s rotation still won't stretch beyond eight. More guys mean more playing time issues and more transfer possibilities. Buckle up, it’s coming.

Seniors Dane Goodwin and Prentiss Hubb and Nate Laszewski are going to play. A lot. Atkinson’s going to play. A lot. Juniors (seniors academically), Cormac Ryan and Trey Wertz are going to play. A lot. That there is six.

Figure it’s one of the two freshmen — or both in a tag-team to begin — and one of the three sophomores (Tony Sanders, Elijah Taylor, Matt Zona) for the other two spots. There’s also a wild card (senior swingman Robby Carmody), whose career has been sidetracked by three devastating injuries – shoulder, knee, kneecap. He faces a long road back to the rotation.

Notre Dame junior guard Prentiss Hubb directs traffic as he dribbles during Saturday’s game at Pittsburgh.

So that’s nine, or really eight, which means a handful on the outside looking in. Then there’s this — of the 12 on scholarship for 2021-22, only Atkinson exhausts his eligibility. Everybody else, including six of the seven “seniors” this season, could return in 2022-23.

Not likely. Somebody’s — makes that somebodies – going into the portal next spring, when this Irish roster likely will look a lot different.

Or will it?

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI