Building a championship roster: How college basketball’s best teams were assembled in 2023-24

James Fletcher IIIby:James Fletcher III04/12/24


How Uconn Set The Blueprint For The Future Of College Basketball | 04.09.24

College basketball has changed dramatically in a short amount of time. The era of one-and-done dominance is over, and coaches are now searching for the new model.

Through the transfer portal and NIL opportunities, it has become easier than ever to get old and stay old, bringing the game back to the old adage.

However, a balance exists between new and old. The data shows that bringing in transfers is great, but keeping those players for a second or third season results in winning. Young talent also plays a role when it fits a certain mold.

As the transfer portal opens and the coaching carousel turns, here is a look at how college basketball’s most successful high-major programs built their roster to lift a trophy in the 2023-24 season.

Below is a history of each rotation player – those who averaged 10-plus minutes and played in at least half of their team’s games. How they got there, and how the team came together.

NCAA Tournament Final Four teams


Tristen Newton started his career with three seasons at East Carolina before transferring to UConn in 2022, he then used his COVID year to return for this season. Cam Spencer is also using his COVID year, but he worked his way up from Loyola (MD) to Rutgers after three seasons before arriving here as a transfer in 2023.

Alex Karaban redshirted his freshman year as the No. 97 recruit in 2021, then was used as a role player last season before breaking through.

Stephon Castle came in this season as a five-star freshman ranked No. 8 in the country. Donovan Clingan returned for his sophomore year after drawing interest in a backup role on the first national title run as a top-50 recruit.

Hassan Diarra spent two seasons as a Texas A&M backup before transferring in 2022, where he accepted a similar role with the Huskies. Samson Johnson came to UConn as a four-star recruit in 2021 and has slowly worked his way into the rotation over three seasons.

Meanwhile, Solomon Ball started the year as a four-star freshman ranked No. 47 in the 2023 class.


Braden Smith became and immediate starter as a three-star freshman in 2022-23 and returned for another season. Zach Edey signed with Purdue in 2020 as a three-star recruit and broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore, then becoming National Player of the Year as a junior before opting for a return over the NBA Draft.

Lance Jones spent four years as a starter at Southern Illinois and earned two All-MVC honors before transferring this season. Fletcher Loyer is also a sophomore who has started since he arrived as the No. 112 recruit in 2022.

Mason Gillis* redshirted at Purdue in 2019-20 and broke into the starting lineup for two and a half seasons before moving to a bench role, however he stayed on this season as a sixth man.

Trey Kaufman-Renn arrived last year as a four-star recruit and came off the bench before emerging as a starter this season. Camden Heide saw his role increase off the bench as a three-star freshman this season.


Mark Sears rose from a backup to a star at Ohio before transferring to Alabama in 2022, starting every game since for his local school. Aaron Estrada has transferred up and down before, going from St. Peter’s to Oregon then Hofstra for two seasons before Alabama.

Rylan Griffen* came off the bench as a freshman in 2022 before emerging as a start this season.

Grant Nelson tested the NBA waters after rising from a role player to a star in three seasons at North Dakota State before transferring to Alabama this season. Latrell Wrightsell moved from three years as a starter at Cal State Fullerton to a role with Alabama in 2023.

Nick Pringle took the JuCo route at Dodge City after one backup season at Wofford before arriving in a reserve role at Alabama in 2022.

Jarin Stevenson re-classified from 2024 to play this season as the No. 21 freshman. Meanwhile, Sam Walters entered as a four-star freshman to provide depth at forward.

NC State

DJ Horne spent two seasons at Illinois State, then another two at Arizona State, before using his free COVID year to play at NC State. Casey Morsell started his career off the bench at Virginia for two seasons before transferring to NC State for a starting role since 2021 and using his COVID year this season.

Jayden Taylor spent two seasons at Butler before transferring this year. Michael O’Connell did three seasons with Stanford prior to his 2023 transfer.

DJ Burns redshirted at Tennessee as part of the 2018 class, the spent three seasons at Winthrop before making a move to NC State in 2022, later choosing to use his free COVID year for a return.

Mohamed Diarra went the JuCo route at Garden City for two season before transferring the Missouri in 2022 and again to NC State in 2023. Ben Middlebrooks was part of a transfer move which drew trade comparisons as Jack Clark went the opposite way to Clemson.

Dennis Parker, a four-star freshman, is the lone member of the rotation who did not transfer in.

Conference tournament champions


Johni Broome spent two seasons dominating at Morehead State before transferring to Auburn in 2022 and staying there another season after testing the NBA waters.

Jaylin Williams emerged from a four-star recruit off the bench to a key starter after using his free COVID year in 2023.

Denver Jones started his college career with two seasons at FIU before returning to his home state as a junior this season. Chad Baker-Mazara bounced from Duquesne to SDSU to JuCo Northwest Florida over his first three years before arriving at Auburn.

Aden Holloway* arrived this season as a Top 20 recruit in the country. Tre Donaldson* entered his second season at Auburn after playing a role off the bench as a four-star recruit.

KD Johnson* transferred from Georgia in 2021 after a strong freshman year after being tabbed the No. 83 recruit in 2020, then continued to make an impact for three seasons at Auburn.

Chaney Johnson spent three seasons at Division II Alabama-Huntsville before transferring this season.

Dylan Cardwell has now spent four seasons as a reserve big at Auburn after arriving as a three-star recruit in 2020. Chris Moore followed the same path but has started to break into the starting lineup for his effort over recent seasons.


Marcus Domask was a three-time All-MVC selection, choosing to transfer to Illinois for his final season. Terrence Shannon started three seasons at Texas Tech after being ranked No. 84 in the 2019 class, transferring to Illinois in 2022 before using his free COVID season.

Coleman Hawkins started as a reserve player at Illinois as a three-star freshman in 2020 and stuck with the team for four seasons.

Quincy Guerrier started at Syracuse in 2019, then spent two seasons at Oregon, choosing to use his free COVID year at Illinois.

Ty Rodgers came off the bench as a Top 75 freshman in 2022-23 before being elevated into a starting role as a sophomore. Luke Goode has spent three seasons as a role player at Illinois as the No. 98 recruit in 2021.

Justin Harmon started with two JuCo years at Barton before two more at Utah Valley prepared him to use his free COVID year at Illinois. Dain Dainja* spent one season on the bench at Baylor as a four-star recruit before transferring in 2022.

Iowa State

Tamin Lipsey has started every game since signing at Iowa State at the No. 191 recruit in 2022. Keshon Gilbert made the move this season after two seasons at UNLV as a Top 150 recruit. Milan Momcilovic entered the year as the No. 45 recruit in the 2023 class.

Curtis Jones spent one season at JuCo Indiana Hills before one season off the bench and one season as a starter at Buffalo set him put to transfer to Iowa State in 2023. Tre King started his career at Eastern Kentucky in 2018 and spent three seasons before a 2022 move to Iowa State set him up to use his free COVID year this season.

Robert Jones spent two seasons at Denver before transferring to Iowa State in 2021, coming off the bench for two year before entering the starting lineup this season in his free COVID year. Hason Ward also spent three seasons at VCU where he blossomed into a starter before arriving at Iowa State in 2022, then using his free COVID year to return.

Jackson Paveletzke* spent one season at Wofford before transferring to Iowa State this season to come off the bench.


Jermaine Couisnard redshirted as a freshman in 2018 and then played three more seasons before transferring to Oregon in 2022 and returning through the free COVID year.

Jackson Shelstad, meanwhile, came to Oregon as a Top 30 freshman. N’Faly Dante is a former Top 30 recruit from the 2019 class who has remained with Oregon through injuries.

Jadrian Tracey started his career off the bench for St. Joseph’s in 2020 before redshirted his sophomore year then spending a season at JuCo Florida SouthWestern and making the move to Oregon in 2023 to become a starter.

Keeshawn Barthelemy started at Colorado in 2020 before transferring into a role at Oregon in 2022. Brennan Rigsby* spent one JuCo season at Northwest Florida before arriving at Oregon in 2022 and remaining as a role player.

Kwame Evans arrives at Oregon as the No. 15 freshman in a starting role.

Kario Oquendo did one year at Florida SouthWestern before two years starting at Georgia, then coming off the bench at Oregon after his 2023 transfer.

Mahamadou Diawara played four seasons at Stetson starting in 2019 but lost his starting role in 2022, entering the transfer portal and using his free COVID year to start 10 games for Oregon.

Regular season champions


Caleb Love spent three seasons at North Carolina as a five-star recruit before entering the transfer portal as one of the top available players in 2023. Pelle Larsson started his college career at Utah for one season, then transferred to Arizona in 2021, where his role has steadily grown.

 Keshad Johnson used his free COVID year at Arizona after starting for SDSU four seasons and appearing in a Final Four.

Kylan Boswell* entered the starting lineup after coming off the bench as a Top 50 freshman in 2022-23.

Oumar Ballo* redshirted at Gonzaga before spending one season as a reserve, then moved to Arizona in 2021 and emerged as a starter in his last two seasons. Jaden Bradley started at Alabama as a Top 30 recruit in 2022, then moved into a reserve role at Arizona this season.

KJ Lewis arrived as a Top 100 freshman off the bench. Motiejus Krivas arrived as a freshman and quickly entered the rotation off the bench.


LJ Cryer came off the bench as a freshman for Baylor on the way to a national championship, then spent two more seasons there before transferring to Houston for his senior season.

Jamal Shead spent four seasons at Houston as a three-star recruit, making his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore.

Emanuel Sharp redshirted at Houston in 2021 then came off the bench before entering the starting five in 2023. J’Wan Roberts also redshirted as a freshman in 2019 before two seasons off the bench and two more as a starter.

Ja’Vier Francis came to Houston as a freshman in 2021 and earned a starting role this season.

Damian Dunn* played four seasons at Temple before arriving through the transfer portal at Houston this season. Mylik Wilson started at Louisiana in 2019, playing for two seasons before one at Texas Tech, then a redshirt for Houston in 2022 led to playing time off the bench.

Joseph Tugler arrived as a Top 75 freshman this season. Ramon Walker has now come off the bench for three seasons at Houston.

North Carolina

RJ Davis has played four seasons at North Carolina, working his way from part-time start to All-American. Armando Bacot played all five years here, using his free COVID year to return.

Harrison Ingram was a Top 25 recruit at Stanford for two seasons, then came to North Carolina as one of the top transfers this season. Cormac Ryan started at Stanford in 2018, redshirted at Notre Dame before three seasons and then used his free COVID year to play for North Carolina in 2023.

Meanwhile, Elliot Cadeau re-classified to 2023 to play as a five-star recruit. Seth Trimble* arrived in 2022 as a Top 50 recruit and has played a role off the bench.

Jae’Lyn Withers redshirted at Louisville in 2019, then played three seasons there before transferring to North Carolina as a role player this season.


Zakai Zeigler has slowly moved from bench player to starter over three seasons at Tennessee after arriving as a freshman.

Dalton Knecht spent two seasons at JuCo Northeastern before two seasons at Northern Colorado, then arriving at Tennessee in 2023 to showcase his scoring ability.

Josiah-Jordan James arrived as a Top 25 recruit in 2019, starting in each season before using his free COVID year and taking a walk-on spot to return. Santiago Vescovi arrived early to Tennessee as a midseason enrollee in 2019, starting in each season since and using his free COVID year in 2023.

Jonas Aidoo came to Tennessee as a Top 50 recruit and has gone from bench player to starter in his third season.

Jordan Gainey spent two seasons starting at USC-Upstate before transferring to Tennessee – where his father is an assistant – in 2023.

Jahmai Mashack came off the bench as a four-star freshman in 2021 and has played a role as an occasional starter since then. Tobe Awaka* has been a reserve big for Tennessee the past two seasons after arriving as a three-star recruit in 2022.