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Pitt basketball not alone in transfer issues ... but above the norm

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

With the middle of the week here, I thought it was a good time to take a much-needed break from football. For some time now, I've been digging for some stats on transfer rates for college basketball programs. Verbal Commits is a great resource and has this data for the past four seasons, so I was interested to see where Pitt stacked up among other schools.

Here's what I came up with. The numbers shown (which I cannot personally account for in terms of accuracy since this is Verbal Commits' list) are the number of transfers a school lost from 2012-2015:

17 - Arizona State

15 - Rutgers

14 - Auburn, Texas Tech

13 - Louisville, Oregon

12 - Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah

11 - Alabama, Iowa State, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, West Virginia

10 - Maryland, Washington State

9 - PITT, Kansas State, Mississippi State, Penn State, Texas A&M, Wake Forest

8 - Boston College, Georgia Tech, Illinois, North Carolina State, Purdue, UCLA, USC, Washington

7 - LSU, Michigan

6 - Arkansas, Cal, Clemson, Florida, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Texas, Vanderbilt

5 - Colorado, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa, Miami, Minnesota, Northwestern

4 - Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Oklahoma, Virginia

3 - Michigan State, Notre Dame, TCU

2 - Kentucky, Ohio State, Stanford, Syracuse, Wisconsin

0 - North Carolina

Something to keep in mind here, obviously, is the list of schools that have endured coaching changes over that time. Those programs are bound to have at least a few transfers due to that, so we can't take this list purely at face value since there are some circumstantial things that would need to be considered.

To that point, one alarming thing when it comes to the Panthers is that, unlike some of the programs with more transfers than them, they have not undergone a coaching change. If you remove some of those schools from consideration (such as Virginia Tech, which has had three coaches in the past four seasons) since they are clearly going to have more transfers, the Pitt transfer problem looks even more glaring.

That precursor aside, the first thing you notice in the data is that the transfer epidemic is not solely a Pitt issue. For the sake of my own time and sanity, I reviewed the transfer numbers for only the P5 programs. Every school, save North Carolina which didn't show a single one, had at least two transfers in the past four years. Most had at least five, in fact. The days of roster turnover being limited are over - for pretty much everyone.

Another thing that jumps out are the teams with only a few transfers. The list of schools with fewer than five transfers are almost exclusively comprised of very good programs or at least teams that have been good lately. Conversely, there are few good programs once you get past the list of schools with ten or more. To become elite, Pitt needs far more stability than they've had lately.

Overall, we see that Pitt has had a bigger problem than the norm. The Panthers are tied for 42nd out of the 65 programs shown. Could the Panthers have still had success with that kind of roster turnover? Schools like Louisville and their 13 transfers might say yes. But Pitt's success has generally come in the past from having four-year players - not necessarily top talent. When you mess with the system, seasons such as the one from last year are likely to occur.

When you look at the list of actual transfers, you see a disturbing trend, too. Here is a table of the players Pitt lost via transfer over that stretch.

  • Isaiah Epps
  • Malcolm Gilbert
  • Tyrone Haughton
  • Durand Johnson
  • John Johnson
  • J.J. Moore
  • Josh Newkirk
  • Joseph Uchebo
  • Trey Zeigler

You can say without hesitation that more than half of those players (Epps, Gilbert, Haughton, J. Johnson, and Uchebo, Zeigler) were poor additions. Epps and Zeigler, of course, looked promising, but neither worked out at all. D. Johnson, Moore, and Newkirk played well at times and were worthy of being on the team, but in all, six of the nine players that left Pitt via transfer didn't bring much to the table in their time here.

What should also be accounted for are the transfers that Pitt brought in. In that list and the list above would be Haughton, Uchebo, and Zeigler. Then there are guys that stayed with the team, including Derrick Randall and Sheldon Jeter. Jeter has performed well while Randall was a complete bust. So even in terms of the transfers Pitt has brought in, they are only 1-5 in terms of making quality additions. When you factor in the recruits that left and never panned out, mentioned earlier, you see far too big of a history of swings and misses.

As we've said before, Jamie Dixon has still had some success winning 50 games in the two seasons before last year. To say he deserves more time to turn things around is an understatement. But until the transfers become less of an issue, the Panthers could be in for more seasons like the one they encountered in 2014-15. Stability is an essential part of the Pitt program and that's evident based on what we saw last year.

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