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College basketball’s top available graduate transfers

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Graduate transfers are a huge part of college basketball recruiting.

Grabbing a college-ready player who can come in and be productive right away is a common practice for some teams. And with recruiting getting hectic this offseason thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, graduate transfers look like an even safer option since college coaches can easily watch last season’s game film as other recruits can’t visit campus.

Here’s a look at the top ten available graduate transfers left this offseason. All ten of these players should be able to come in and contribute right away next season.

Matt Haarms, Purdue

The 7-foot-3 center surprised many with his decision to transfer. Haarms became one of the most coveted graduate transfers in college hoops. The main reason? The past three years, Haarms averaged at least two blocks per game. He’s a two-year starter in the middle for a successful Big Ten program. Finding immediate help with rim protection isn’t common on the graduate transfer market. Particularly from a big man who also averaged around nine points per game and shot above 52 percent the past two seasons. Over 20 schools have already reached out to Haarms since he entered the transfer portal. It’ll be fascinating to see Haarms in a new situation.

Bryce Aiken, Harvard

Aiken will close out his injury-plagued career at the highest level. This comes after a successful stint at Harvard where Aiken was a two-time first-team All-Ivy selection. As a junior last season, Aiken put up 22.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. This season, Aiken missed all but seven games due to a foot injury. Health will be a factor for Aiken. Across the past three college seasons he’s only played 39 total games. But Aiken’s a former consensus top-100 recruit and a dynamic playmaker at lead guard. He should be able to step in and become an impact player right away. Aiken has been linked to Iowa State, Maryland, Michigan and Seton Hall.

Justin Turner, Bowling Green

A two-time first-team All-MAC selection, Turner is the best pure scorer among graduate transfers. Turner put up 18.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game last season. He’s a 36 percent three-point shooter who can create shots on his own. The 6-foot-4 guard should be able to handle high-major competition right away. Turner had a 26-point outburst on LSU early in the season. Iowa State, Marquette and Missouri are the three schools left on Turner’s list. Returning to Bowling Green is also an option.

Jordan Bruner, Yale

Bruner is down to Alabama, Baylor and Maryland. The 6-foot-9 big man was a double-double threat every game the past two seasons. Bruner made first-team All-Ivy status by putting up 10.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this season. The junior had an impressive three-game double-double stretch mid-season against UMass, Clemson and North Carolina. Bruner also shows intriguing skill at 32 percent from three-point range and 3.8 assists per game.

Jalen Tate, Northern Kentucky

The 6-foot-6 Tate is the premier two-way wing left among grad transfers. He’s reigning Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. Tate improved on offense enough the past two seasons to also become a consistent double-figure scoring threat. Tate put up 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game last season. High-majors have shown interest in Tate, including Arkansas, Cincinnati (where former coach John Brennan is now head coach), Penn State, Virginia Tech and Wichita State.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 14: Davion Mintz #1 of the Creighton Bluejays is defended by Kyle Castlin #2 of the Xavier Musketeers in the second half during the Quarterfinals of the 2019 Big East men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 14, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Davion Mintz, Creighton

Mintz sat out this past season with injury. He likely fell out of the starting picture following breakthrough Creighton’s Big East title season. Starting 79 games his first three seasons, Mintz is a consistent backcourt rotation piece at the high-major level. As a junior, the 6-foot-3 Mintz averaged 9.7 points, 3.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. Mintz only announced his transfer four days ago, so a recruiting list hasn’t become available yet. Expect Mintz to hear from a large number of suitors.

Amauri Hardy, UNLV

Consistent scoring is what the 6-foot-2 Hardy brings to the table. A double-figure bucket-getter for the Runnin’ Rebels the past two seasons, Hardy can fill it up. As a junior, Hardy scored 14.5 points and dished out 3.3 assists per game as a third-team all-league selection. Hardy can play both backcourt spots and that’s part of his appeal. But Hardy could seek a situation where he plays with the ball in his hands. Hardy maintains a large list of high-major suitors at this point in the process as he hasn’t cut a list.

Mike Smith, Columbia

Leading the Ivy League in scoring last season, Smith is one of the top microwave scoring graduate transfers. Smith put up 22.8 points, 4.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds last season for the Lions. Smith had to do it all on a very bad team. That didn’t slow him down from big games against tough competition. Smith tallied double-figures against Wake Forest, Virginia and St. John’s in non-conference play. He averaged 36 points per game in two contests against Harvard and dropped 37 on Yale the final time he played them. Smith will struggle to adapt defensively thanks to his generously-listed 5-foot-11 size. But he’s capable of putting up points or running an offense. Michigan, Northwestern and Seton Hall remain seriously involved.

Rapolas Ivanauskas, Colgate

This former Patriot League Player of the Year is a hot recent name to enter the transfer portal. Ivanauskas just entered a few days ago. According to Brian Snow of 247 Sports, Cincinnati, Dayton, Georgetown and Maryland have all reached out. A former Northwestern recruit who thrived at Colgate, the 6-foot-10 Ivanauskas put up 13.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Ivanauskas shot 43 percent from three-point range two seasons ago and brings a solid perimeter-shooting element to his game.

Charles Minlend, San Francisco

A known scorer, Minlend leaves the Dons after leading the team in points this past season. Averaging 14.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, the 6-foot-4 Minlend can do tons of damage off the dribble. Minlend scored in double-figures in all three games against Gonzaga last season (twice scoring 20-plus) while also going for double-figures in all three games against Pac-12 competition. Minlend has a long list of high-major schools in pursuit.

Dons hire Columbia’s Smith

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Kyle Smith, formerly of Columbia, was named as the newest coach at San Francisco, the university announced Wednesday.

Smith spent six years guiding Columbia, going 101-82 overall with a 25-10 mark and a CIT championship this past season.

“I am extremely honored and thrilled at the opportunity to lead the USF basketball program and be associated with a great university in the most beautiful city in the world,” said Smith in a statement released by the school. “We will work tirelessly to develop leaders on the court, in the classroom and the community who will compete for a West Coast Conference championship and add to the legacy of this great program.”

Smith’s Lions teams were known for their measured pace and strong shooting in recent years with an emphasis on getting up a lot of 3-point attempts.

He inherits a group that was unable to break .500 the past two seasons under Rex Walters after what looked to perhaps be a breakthrough season in 2013-14. The Dons return the bulk of their team that went 15-15 and finished fifth in the WCC last year.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ivy League’s best meet in New Haven

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.

The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.

They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
  • Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
  • Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.

 

VIDEO: Columbia beats Harvard on Alex Rosenberg buzzer-beater

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Harvard’s hopes of making a fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament took a significant hit this weekend, as the Crimson dropped home games against Cornell and Columbia. Saturday night’s loss to Columbia, one of the preseason favorites to win the Ivy League, came as a result of Alex Rosenberg’s fadeaway as time expired.

Rosenberg’s shot capped a wild comeback for the Lions, who trailed by as much as 20 in the first half and by a score of 33-16 at the half.

Harvard’s now 1-3 in Ivy League play, a full three games behind Columbia and Yale. While it is early in league play, the fact that the Ivy doesn’t have a conference tournament (they label their conference slate as the “14-game tournament”) makes these regular season games that much more important.

Video credit: Ivy League Digital Network

Siyani Chambers’ last-second, step-back jumper lifts Harvard past Columbia (VIDEO)

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Siyani Chambers created separation from Maodo Lo with a step-back before rising up for the game-winning bucket with 2.9 seconds. Wesley Saunders would ice the win moments later, as Harvard remains atop the Ivy League standings with a 72-68 win over Columbia on Friday night in Cambridge.

The junior point guard ended with a season-high 16 points in addition to his three assists (zero turnovers). Saunders recorded 18 points, five boards and six assists. Lo led all scorers with 22.

The Crimson, winners of five straight since a home loss to Dartmouth, led by 19 points with 80 seconds left in the first half. The Lions would dig into that deficit, cutting it to nine before the first TV timeout of the second half. Lo and Jeff Coby each connected on 3-pointers in the last minute to tie the score at 68-68.

With Yale’s 75-48 win over Penn on Friday night, Harvard remains tied for first in the league standings. The Crimson hold a slight edge after beating the Bulldogs last week. Yale travels to Harvard for the rematch on March 6.

No. 1 Kentucky’s offensive rebounding prowess once again its greatest weapon

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To this point in the season No. 1 Kentucky has been, in the eyes of many, the best team in the country. With their ten-man rotation chock full of highly talented players, the Wildcats entered Wednesday’s game against Columbia having won all nine of their games by 12 points or more. Yet even with that being the case there’s still plenty of room for improvement for John Calipari’s team, with perimeter shooting being the issue of late.

Kyle Smith’s Lions were able to effectively slow down the pace at Rupp Arena, with each team getting a paltry 52 possessions on the night. The combination of the slow pace and Columbia’s outscoring Kentucky by 12 points from beyond the arc in the first half led to Columbia leading 25-23 at the intermission.

However Kentucky’s ability to hit the offensive glass ultimately made the difference, with the Wildcats grabbing 21 offensive rebounds on their way to the 56-46 victory.

It should be noted that the Wildcats played without guards Tyler Ulis and Devon Booker (and Columbia is playing this season without Alex Rosenberg, who’s their best player), and that did impact the way in which Kentucky shot the ball from the perimeter. Overall the Wildcats shot 2-for-17 from beyond the arc, and over the last four games (playing three with their full rotation) Kentucky’s made just eight of their 49 three-point attempts. Yet even with their struggles in making perimeter shots the Wildcats have remained one of the best offensive teams in the country with regards to efficiency.

Why? Because they’re the best offensive rebounding team in America.

Prior to Wednesday’s game Kentucky was rebounding 45.5% of its missed shots, and against Columbia the Wildcats posted an offensive rebounding percentage of 52.5%. And while Kentucky may have scored “just” 15 second-chance points those extra possessions add up, and given Kentucky’s total scoring output that isn’t a figure to scoff at.

Willie Cauley-Stein was responsible for five of those 21 offensive rebounds, and he combined with Trey Lyles to grab 20 of Kentucky’s 41 total rebounds. The size and athleticism of the Wildcat big men produces extra opportunities against most opponents, and that will likely be the case throughout the 2014-15 season.

On nights when that doesn’t occur and they’re dealing with teams who can take away the lob without giving up the offensive glass, which Columbia was unable to do, Kentucky will need to hit some perimeter shots to loosen things up. However given the pieces at Calipari’s disposal, that strategy is far easier to plan than it is to execute.