There is an epidemic in college basketball that has the ability to decimate a team's roster or be a lifeline that propels a team to the next level: transferring players.
Last season, more than 450 players transferred in order to get a fresh start, find a new role and, in most cases, get more playing time. Prior to the NCAA granting waivers -- to players from institutions ineligible for postseason play, to players who needed to be closer to their homes due to a family emergency or to players who earned their undergraduate degrees but had a year of playing eligibility remaining -- the only transfers eligible to play immediately were junior college players who had earned their degrees.
Coaches across all levels of college basketball now hold scholarships for the late-signing period, with the expectation that players who could be immediately eligible will become available.
Here's a look at my list of the 15 most influential transfers heading into this season, including players eligible to play immediately and those who had to sit out last season:
1. Alex Oriakhi, F, Missouri Tigers
Former team: Connecticut Huskies
No coach in the country has been more active in the transfer market than Missouri's Frank Haith. With a roster decimated by graduating seniors, Haith has acquired three transfer players who are eligible at the start of this season -- all of whom will be counted on for the Tigers in their first season in the SEC.
Oriakhi, who averaged 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in 2010-11 for national champion Connecticut, received an NCAA Academic Progress Rate waiver and will be eligible immediately. He gives the Tigers an experienced, mature frontcourt player. Last season, Ricardo Ratliffe did a great job of playing off the penetration of the Tigers backcourt and finishing in spread ball screens. Oriakhi must present himself as a consistent low-post threat, and he needs to rebound and run the floor. If he plays off Michael Dixon Jr. and Phil Pressey as well as he did off Kemba Walker, he will be a difference-maker for the Tigers.
2. Will Clyburn, G, Iowa State Cyclones
Former team: Utah Utes
Clyburn averaged 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line at Utah. He joins an Iowa State program that transformed itself last season into an NCAA tournament team with the additions of Minnesota transfer Royce White, Penn State transfer Chris Babb and Michigan State transfer Chris Allen. Coach Fred Hoiberg's latest quick-fix difference-makers are Clyburn and Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious.
Clyburn is a double transfer, having spent two years at Marshalltown Community College (Marshalltown, Iowa) before enrolling at Utah. Clyburn has a nose for the ball and can score in a number of ways. He shoots well with range and is a relentless rebounder. He will be counted on to fill some of the void left by White's departure.
Former team: La Salle Explorers
Murray averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds while playing 28 minutes a game in his sophomore year at LaSalle. As WVU transitions to the Big 12, Murray will have a major impact on the team. Bob Huggins' system is built on physically tough, competitive players. Murray, a big-bodied (6-foot-10, 245 pounds), skilled frontcourt player, has great hands and the ability to finish at the basket as well as step out and make shots (35 percent from 3-point land). He is a physical defender and post player who will rebound outside his area. He and Deniz Kilicli will form a physical frontcourt that will be able to bang with the big guys in the Big 12.
4. Ryan Harrow, G, Kentucky Wildcats
Former team: North Carolina State Wolfpack
In his lone season with the Wolfpack, Harrow averaged 9.3 points and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 39 percent from the field and 22 percent from the 3-point line. He will be surrounded by a talented but inexperienced group at Kentucky, with Kyle Wiltjer as the only returning Wildcat who played significant minutes on last season's national title team. Coach John Calipari will need Harrow to be solid for the Wildcats to be in the national title hunt.
The challenge for Harrow is to not take on too much, be comfortable in his own skin and play to his strengths. He doesn't have to be John Wall, Derrick Rose or Tyreke Evans. However, he does need to lead, attack the lane using the dribble drive, initiate the Kentucky half-court offense, defend and bring maturity to the Wildcats' locker room.
Former team: Arizona State Sun Devils
Lockett averaged 13 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc for Arizona State last season. Lockett will be eligible immediately after being granted an NCAA hardship waiver.
Coach Buzz Williams frees his players offensively to attack and make plays, and Lockett will excel in this style of play. He is an athletic scorer who makes shots, attacks the basket in transition and can rebound (5.8 rpg). His ability to score will help fill the void left by the graduation of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. Lockett is a committed defender who will fit in well with Marquette's blue-collar, smashmouth defensive approach.
6. Mark Lyons, G, Arizona Wildcats
Former team: Xavier Musketeers
Lyons averaged 15.1 points and 2.8 assists per game for Xavier last season. A fifth-year senior who will be eligible immediately due to the NCAA graduate exception waiver, Lyons could be the leader the Cats need to return to the NCAA tournament and make a deep run.
He is a unique transfer in that he was originally recruited to Xavier by Arizona coach Sean Miller. In most transfer situations, the new coach and player don't really know what they are getting, but in this case, the coach and the prospect will be on the same page.
There is no doubt that Lyons has talent and toughness. He can score, competes on the defensive end and is a reliable 3-point shooter. His challenge will be to give up a little of himself for the good of the group. How he fits in with Nick Johnson and Solomon Hill will be a key for Arizona. Overall, Lyons needs to be more of a playmaker, get his young frontcourt involved and embrace leading by example. If he can do this, he will be the missing piece to the Wildcats' puzzle; if not, he will just be another talented player on an underachieving team.
7. J.T. Terrell, G, USC Trojans
Former team: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Terrell averaged 11.1 points a game in his lone season as a Demon Deacon. An attacking offensive player with unlimited range, Terrell can create a shot whenever he wants. He can play through contact and finish at the rim. However, he needs to have better discipline and not chase shots. He has the skills and mentality to be one of the Pac-12's leading scorers. As a good ball-screen player, he will be effective in Kevin O'Neill's pro-style offense.
8. Rotnei Clarke, G, Butler Bulldogs
Former team: Arkansas Razorbacks
Clarke averaged 15.2 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the 3-point line at Arkansas in 2010-11. Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens has built on the tradition of Butler basketball with a hard-nosed defense and tough, skilled players who can make shots. Last season, the Bulldogs struggled because they didn't shoot well. Not only is Clarke one of the elite shot-makers in college basketball, but he also has deep range. He and freshman Kellen Dunham will form one of the best shooting backcourts in the country.
Clarke is a basketball junkie who can put it on the floor and has one of college basketball's best shot fakes. Look for him to be a starter, playmaker and scoring point guard for the Bulldogs as they transition to the Atlantic 10.
Former team: Monroe Community College (Rochester, N.Y.)
Sanchez, a 6-9 junior college All-American, is a perfect fit for Steve Lavin's young but talented Red Storm. He runs the floor, has range, possesses the mentality of a shooting guard and is hard to keep off the glass. He will be effective in pick-and-pop situations and on kickouts off penetration, as he has the ability to knock down 3s and get to the rim.
10. Earnest Ross, G, Missouri Tigers
Former team: Auburn Tigers
Ross averaged 13.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game at Auburn as a sophomore. A 6-6 winger with the ability to make shots, Ross is an athletic, physical player who rebounds well for his position. He runs the floor well and will be an excellent complement to the dynamic backcourt of Pressey and Dixon.
11. Luke Hancock, F, Louisville Cardinals
Former team: George Mason Patriots
Hancock, who averaged 10.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game at George Mason in 2010-11, is a great fit for Rick Pitino's Louisville team. His versatility and feel for the game will soften the losses of Kyle Kuric and Mike Marra. At 6-6, Hancock is a point-winger with the ability to make a scoring pass, initiate the break, get to the basket and finish. I would not be surprised to see him play some backup point guard.
An improving 3-point shooter (36 percent), Hancock will be called upon to make enough shots to open the court for Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Plus, Hancock will be another late-game scoring option for the Cardinals.
12. Eric Wise, F, USC Trojans
Former team: UC Irvine Anteaters
Wise averaged 16.3 points and 8.1 rebounds during his junior season at UCI, and in his three seasons with the Anteaters, he amassed 1,280 points and 553 rebounds.
Wise is a big-bodied (6-6, 240 pounds) but undersized power forward (or a physical small forward) with the ability to score on the block as well as step out and make plays off the bounce. He is a mixture of Charles Barkley and Adrian Dantley, giving the Trojans versatility, toughness and a player who is a tough matchup. The challenge for Wise will be on the defensive end, but it's clear that he is a pivotal piece in O'Neill's resurrection of the USC program.
13. Keion Bell, G, Missouri Tigers
Former team: Pepperdine Waves
Bell, who averaged 18.9 points per game at Pepperdine two seasons ago, is a slashing, running and jumping wing player who attacks the rim off the bounce. He has the potential to be a lockdown defender. Bell should be effective in the Tigers' transition game, but he needs to improve as a shooter.
14. Larry Drew II, G, UCLA Bruins
Former team: North Carolina Tar Heels
Drew left UNC in midseason after being replaced by freshman Kendall Marshall as the point guard of the future. Drew took a great deal of the heat for UNC's rough start to the 2009-10 season, but it's important to remember that he was a player who did a capable job of backing up Ty Lawson in 2008-09 during the Tar Heels' national title run. It was only after he was thrust into the starting lineup in a system reliant on point guard play and with a new cast of players that Drew struggled.
He takes over point guard duties at another tradition-rich program in UCLA, and he has the ability and experience to be a solid player. A good play starter and on-ball defender, Drew makes good decisions and enough shots to keep the defense honest. He will be reunited with former UNC teammates David and Travis Wear. If highly touted freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson are cleared to play by the NCAA eligibility committee, Drew will have skilled attacking players to play off. Overall, he will be a key piece of coach Ben Howland's Bruins.
15. Korie Lucious, G, Iowa State Cyclones
Former team: Michigan State Spartans
Lucious is a Michigan State transfer with the experience of playing in two Final Fours. Despite his pedestrian numbers at MSU (6.5 ppg, 4.1 apg in 2010-11), Lucious has the ability to create his own shot. A one-on-one player with a feel for seeing the play, Lucious must take better care of the ball, make simple plays and be consistent in his approach, something he struggled with as a Spartan. With the graduation of Scott Christopherson, Lucious will be a key player for the Cyclones.
Other transfers to keep an eye on
Khem Birch, UNLV Rebels; Ari Stewart, USC Trojans; Sam McLaurin, Illinois Fighting Illini; Tony Chenault, Villanova Wildcats; Matt Humphrey, West Virginia Mountaineers; Trey Zeigler, Pittsburgh Panthers; Jake O'Brien, Temple Owls; LaShay Page, South Carolina Gamecocks