In NCAA’s “Wild, Wild West” Culture,
UNC’s 2024 Roster Stability Stands Out

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

Welcome to the “Wild, Wild West” era of college sports.

While that phrase originally described the lawless, unruly culture often seen in the western United States in the 1800s, it applies nicely to the current state of college athletics, too.

Although roster chaos isn’t a brand-new concept in college sports — it occurred, for example, during World War Two, the Vietnam War and at other times when America instituted a military draft (most recent: 1972) — it’s no longer a rarity brought about by international warfare.

In 2024, it’s truly the law of the NCAA landscape.

Thanks to the 2018 creation of the NCAA transfer portal, the 2021 emergence of Name-Image-Likeness (NIL) compensation, and the brand-new (2024), lawsuit-induced move toward immediate eligibility for almost all transfers, player retention and roster management have never been more complicated than they are now.

The transfer portal simplified the transfer process for college athletes. NIL money added another major incentive for accomplished players to contemplate their options elsewhere. Most recently, a series of immediate-eligibility tweaks (in contrast with the one-year sit-out requirement the NCAA had in place for decades) truly opened the roster-chaos floodgates.

With such things in mind, it’s a good time to recognize North Carolina coach Hubert Davis and his staff, because the Tar Heels have had the most stable, productive offseason (so far) of the soon-to-be 18 Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball programs.

Senior guard RJ Davis, a first-team All-American and the 2024 ACC Player of the Year, opted to stay in school … and stay at Carolina. Freshman point guard Elliot Cadeau, another starter, also stayed put, giving the Tar Heels a wonderful backcourt foundation for their 2024-25 campaign.

Sophomore guard Seth Trimble — a truly brilliant defender, sensational fastbreak finisher and much-improved shooter — entered the transfer portal, then withdrew, leaving the Heels with yet another valuable, experienced guard.

In a sport that has been setting records every year for the sheer volume of major college transfers (there are more than 2,000 in Division One this year, meaning an average of approximately six per team), UNC has lost only one scholarship player to the highly traveled transfer circuit since the end of the 2023-24 season, in which the Tar Heels won the ACC regular-season title and advanced to the Sweet 16.

By the time the NCAA’s 2024 transfer portal window for men’s basketball finally closed, on May 1, UNC had lost only reserve center James Okwonkwo (Akron). A one-year Tar Heel who previously served in a backup role for two seasons at West Virginia, he wasn’t likely to play meaningful minutes in Chapel Hill next season.

The only other UNC scholarship players who left did so for the more traditional reasons. Either they were out of eligibility (Armando Bacot, Cormac Ryan, Paxson Wojcik) or they liked their projection in this year’s NBA draft (junior forward Harrison Ingram) and turned pro early.

Given the Tar Heels’ returning players and their top-10 recruiting class, which includes two McDonald’s All-Americans and one of the best shooters available in this year’s transfer portal, they project as a preseason top-10 team nationally and one of the favorites in the ACC for the 2024-25 season.

Projected 2024-25 UNC Lineup

Guards (3) — 6-0 fifth-year senior RJ Davis, 6-1 sophomore Elliot Cadeau, 6-3 junior Seth Trimble

Wings (3) — 6-5 freshman Ian Jackson (McDonald’s All-American), 6-7 Belmont transfer Cade Tyson (second-team All-Missouri Valley Conference in 2023-24; 16 ppg, 47% 3-point shooting), 6-6 freshman Drake Powell (McDonald’s All-American)

Forwards (5) — (expected portal signee), 6-10 junior Jalen Washington, 6-9 fifth-year senior Jae’Lyn Withers, 6-9 sophomore Zayden High, 6-9 freshman James Brown

In stark contrast, nine of the other 17 ACC teams lost seven or more scholarship players — in a 13-scholarship sport, that’s more than half your roster — specifically to the transfer portal. Those shocking numbers do NOT include players who exhausted their college eligibility or opted to turn pro early.

ACC Men’s Basketball Transfers
(2024 Transfer Portal/Outgoing)

12 — Louisville
9 — Florida State, Southern Methodist
8 — Wake Forest
7 — California, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, Syracuse
6 — Boston College, Virginia Tech
4 — Clemson, Stanford
3 — NC State
2 — Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Virginia
1 — North Carolina

Louisville, for example, lost literally every eligible-to-return scholarship player on its entire roster after its postseason coaching change. Thus, the Cardinals’ entire 2024-25 playing rotation will consist of major college transfers who are brand-new to their new university, their new program and (for the most part) each other.

Meanwhile, for the first time in program history, Duke lost two starters via transfer. Senior guard Jeremy Roach, a four-year starter for the Blue Devils, will use his final season of eligibility at Baylor. Sophomore forward Mark Mitchell, a two-year starter in Durham, signed with Missouri. Five Duke backups entered the transfer portal, too, including a pair of prep All-Americans in freshman forwards TJ Power (Virginia) and Sean Stewart (Ohio State).

Louisville (all five), Boston College (four), Florida State (three), Miami (three), Virginia Tech (three), Stanford (two) and Wake Forest (two) also lost multiple starting players to the portal.