Men's college basketball retention rankings: Who did the best job keeping a team together?

Jamie Dixon convinced most of his TCU roster to return after the program's first NCAA win in 35 years. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

"I have to re-recruit my entire roster every offseason."

It's been a common refrain among college basketball coaches since the introduction of the NCAA's one-time transfer waiver, which grants players immediate eligibility at another school if it's their first time transferring. Waivers have been consistently granted for second-time transfers this offseason, too. With roster retention and program continuity having become an ongoing process, we wanted to take a look at which schools did the best job of keeping their players out of the portal and maintaining continuity from last season.

Why is roster retention and continuity important? Look at last season's Final Four. National champion Kansas had only one player who was not in the program during the 2020-21 season -- Arizona State transfer Remy Martin -- play more than three minutes in the title game. North Carolina's run to the championship game was sparked by a core of returnees from the previous season, in addition to Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek. Villanova was as experienced as any team in the field, with its entire rotation spending multiple years in the program. Duke was the lone outlier, with three freshmen and one transfer among its top seven.

Ranking roster continuity isn't an exact science, of course. At least on paper, some teams improved despite seeing their rosters ravaged by departures, whether to the NBA draft or transfer portal. But given that most coaches generally identify maintaining production and minutes continuity as a goal, we were curious about which programs best achieved those objectives.

We went through each of the top six leagues, as well as every other team that was in the hunt for the NCAA tournament down the stretch last season (and threw in a couple of other notables as well) to devise our national Retention Rankings Top 20. Beyond that is a conference-by-conference ranking for the top six leagues, and a look at a couple of dozen other notables with a robust returning core: