Portal Kombat: April has become theater of the absurd in college basketball

May 1—There were no plans for a large basketball dropping at midnight at Times Square in New York City.

There was no Ryan Seacrest-hosted television special showing the clock strike midnight, time zone-by-time zone with basketball coaches popping champagne and kissing their significant others in celebration.

But the new world of college basketball seems to have created a new holiday, one in which anxious coaches and fans count down the seconds to watch the clock flip from 11:59 p.m. (local time for each school) on May 1 to midnight on May 2, signifying the closing of the chaotic and program-defining transfer portal window.

Players who wish to be eligible to play at another school in the 2024-25 season have to "initiate the process" of entering the transfer portal by the last minute of May 1, UNM Director of Compliance Amy Beggin explained.

That can be through an email or text message to Beggin, and upon receipt of player communication, the school's compliance office will deliver the paperwork necessary for that player to "enter" the transfer portal.

Beggin, a former Lobo basketball star herself, told the Journal on Wednesday she had no plans to stay up to commemorate the occasion.

College basketball coaches can continue their recruitment of players in the transfer portal until the fall semester starts.

UNM head coach Richard Pitino is in the same wait and see mode as every other coach, and has chosen to keep public commentary on the process to himself until the portal window is closed. He did, however, predict the chaos of the month ahead for his and every team's roster with his "they're all free agents" comment on March 22 in Memphis, moments after his team's loss to Clemson in the NCAA Tournament.

The biggest shoe to drop for the UNM Lobos happened over the weekend informally, and more publicly and officially with paperwork completed on Tuesday morning when Mountain West Freshman of the Year JT Toppin entered the transfer portal, bringing an end to a brief, but prolific career with the program.

Entering the offseason, he and rising junior point guard Donovan Dent, an all-conference performer this past season and far more polished of the two young players, were seen as the cornerstone pieces of the Lobos' coming season.

Dent on Tuesday night posted an image of himself in a Lobos uniform and the words "I'm Back!"

While reassuring to Lobo fans, and certainly the Lobo coaching staff, Dent's never said anything but that he was staying. However, a social media post isn't binding.

Until that portal closes, it's still anyone's guess.

After all, there were more than a few cases in the past month social media accounts prematurely posting seemingly reassuring messages about the future.

And, frankly, it's all become the theater of the absurd, no matter what side of the fence you're on in the era of immediately eligible transfers and players being able to accept money for use of their name, image and likeness.

UNM had it happen to them with former Colorado State and Missouri Tiger wing John Tonje announcing his commitment to be a Lobo on social media only to delete those posts days later after sources say he decided to instead take an offer from Wisconsin.

Relatedly, Lobo Braden Appelhans announced he'd enter the portal only to announce four days later that his true desire was to stay at UNM.

The University of Charlotte last Friday posted on its official team account an image of the program's starting backcourt — guards Nikolas Graves and Lucye Patterson — with the words "Run it back" indicating they planned to return. Patterson entered the transfer portal on Tuesday.

Coaches aren't free from the fiasco, either.

Amid rumors head coach Eric Musselman was leaving Arkansas for another job, the Razorbacks Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek on March 28 posted a video showing him getting on an empty bus only to see that the bus driver was Musselman, who then yelled back to him, "Buckle up!" Yurachek responded with, "You're still here?!?"

Musselman was named the new head coach at USC on April 4.

So, while March may still have the title of being Mad, in the long overdue era of player empowerment, albeit one seemingly happening without much foresight or order, April has quickly become the most important, and influential month on the calendar for what the following season of college basketball will actually look like.

To coaches and fans trying to keep up, cheers. The end of a new hell month of the college basketball calendar is here.

Here's hoping your favorite program will replenish whatever was lost with better fits and brighter stars, or at least that you don't have any embarrassing tweets left out there indicating you jumped the gun.

And, to be clear, let's hope my writing this on May 1 won't need a May 2 correction due to some overnight portal jump we never saw coming.