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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.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Michigan State, Penn State win on the road

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College basketball didn’t have a ton of games on Tuesday night.

But we learned more about a crowded Big Ten race with two key road wins.

And three ranked teams struggled to put away feisty unranked teams during a night of close games.

Michigan State survives at No. 22 Illinois

College basketball’s biggest matchup came from Champaign on Tuesday night.

Michigan State claimed a crucial road win over No. 22 Illinois with a 70-69 victory. Stopping a three-game losing streak, this was one of the Spartans’ biggest wins of the season.

Jumping out to an 8-0 advantage, it looked like Michigan State would win this one with ease. The Spartans led by 17 at the half. For about the first 30 minutes, Michigan State looked like one of college basketball’s elite teams in this one.

Then Illinois made a furious rally to take the lead with under five minutes left. A back-and-forth finish ensued. Cassius Winston’s missed layup was followed by a Xavier Tillman putback dunk with just over six seconds left for the game-winning bucket.

Illinois sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu took the ball the length of the floor on the ensuing possession and twisted his knee before losing the ball. Dosunmu (17 points) was a warrior in the second half. But he had to be carried off the floor by two Illinois staffers following the heartbreaking loss. Dosunmu’s status going forward is certainly a concern for Illinois in a brutal Big Ten race.

But the story of this one is Michigan State holding on to win.

The Spartans blew a 20-point lead and got cold in the second half after a hot start. On an off night from Winston (12 points, four turnovers), freshman Rocket Watts (21 points) came up huge in the scoring column for Michigan State. Watts created offense off the dribble by himself when it was difficult for the Spartans to generate offense.

Xavier Tillman (17 points, 11 rebounds) also came through with a double-double as he converted a few key post touches on mismatches late in the second half.

This one certainly wasn’t pretty. And Michigan State still has to figure out how to get Winston going on certain off nights. But for Watts to step up like that and the Spartans to take Illinois’ best shot is a very positive sign of a turnaround. If Michigan State wanted to stay in the Big Ten race, they needed a road win like this to keep pace with teams like Maryland and Penn State.

No. 13 Penn State pushes win streak to seven with statement win

Perhaps the night’s most impressive win belongs to Penn State.

The Nittany Lions blitzed Purdue with 10 first-half three-pointers to claim another Big Ten road win. On a seven-game winning streak, the Nittany Lions have four road wins in that span.

Tuesday night’s win was impressive because of the way Penn State did it. With Lamar Stevens battling foul problems and second-leading scorer Myreon Jones (illness) out, the role guys stepped up.

I have much more on Penn State’s notable road victory here. It’s been a long time since Penn State basketball was relevant. This is one of the most fun and surprising stories of the 2019-20 college basketball season.

Three ranked teams survive scares

Some close games scared some ranked teams across college basketball on Tuesday night.

In a slow night for the top 25, two SEC teams needed second-half comebacks over unranked teams. And the Big Ten’s leader survived a final push from a conference bottom feeder.

After jumping out to a double-digit lead, Vanderbilt couldn’t close No. 12 Kentucky at home. Tyrese Maxey scored 25 points to pace the Wildcats past the Commodores for an SEC road win. Ashton Hagans also registered a triple-double for Kentucky in the win.

Keeping pace with the Wildcats in the SEC was No. 25 LSU. The Tigers also needed a second-half rally as they held off Missouri. Skylar Mays (23 points) and Darius Days (20 points, 10 rebounds) paced the five double-figure scorers for LSU. The wins for both keep Kentucky and the Tigers tied atop the SEC with 9-2 conference marks.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten’s leader also had some trouble. Maryland needed to get a stop on its final two defensive possessions to seal a win over Nebraska. Jalen Smith registered a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, coming up with a key defensive play late in the game to help keep the Terps on top.

The win keeps Maryland on top of the Big Ten standings. The Terps are a game up on Penn State and two up on the Spartans after Tuesday night.

No. 13 Penn State earns statement win at Purdue

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Penn State basketball is gaining national attention for its recent play.

The Nittany Lions pushed their winning streak to seven on Tuesday night with a 88-76 road win at Purdue. Penn State stays firmly in the Big Ten race because of another impressive victory. Winning at Purdue this season has been a nightmare for opponents. Ask Virginia. Or Michigan State. Maybe Wisconsin or Iowa. The Boilermakers beat those four teams by at least 19 points each at Mackey Arena.

So for Penn State to earn yet another Big Ten road win over a strong opponent really says something. During this seven-game stretch the Nittany Lions have wins at Michigan, Michigan State and now in West Lafayette.

But the Penn State win on Tuesday is perhaps most impressive because of the way the Nittany Lions did it.

Because this was a win for the role players. Senior forward and leading scorer Lamar Stevens (16 points) played only nine minutes of the first half with foul trouble and got off to a sluggish start. Second-leading scorer and ace shooter Myreon Jones didn’t play with illness.

Yet Penn State responded with 10 first-half threes and established a 42-30 halftime lead. The Nittany Lions pushed the lead to as much as 24 points the second half.

Big man Mike Watkins dominated inside with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Watkins’ double-double on Stevens’ slow night helped put Penn State’s offense in a rhythm because of consistent production and positive post touches. Freshman guard Seth Lundy had a career-high 18 points and six three-pointers to offset the perimeter-shooting loss of Jones. Myles Dread stepped up with 12 points — replacing some of Jones’ lost minutes. Reserve big man John Harrar stepped up 12 points, hitting some clutch free throws when Purdue made a late push.

Penn State only shoots 32 percent from three-point range on the season. To hit a season-high 14 three-pointers without Jones, a 41 percent three-point shooter, is a massive confidence boost. Penn State’s offense only had eight turnovers. The Nittany Lions are hitting their stride at the right time.

A game behind Maryland in the loss column atop the Big Ten standings, the remaining schedule isn’t exceedingly difficult for Penn State. Two of the seven games left come against Northwestern.

This recent stretch also proves that Penn State basketball, for the first time in years, might be a real threat for an NCAA tournament run because of its overall talent. At one point, this team sat 12-5 and only 2-4 in the Big Ten. A three-game losing streak put Penn State in jeopardy of a tailspin. The Nittany Lions responded with four straight road wins. They’ve placed themselves in a strong spot for the rest of the conference schedule.

Penn State hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2001. This is the latest in the season the Nittany Lions have been this high in the Big Ten standings in 34 years. The unlikely story of Penn State basketball competing for a Big Ten title in mid-February has turned into one of college basketball’s most surprising stories this season.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: Vanderbilt snaps SEC losing streak; Purdue smashes Iowa; Baldwin lifts Butler over Villanova

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Wednesday night in college basketball had plenty of twists. One of the sport’s longest conference losing streaks ended, Purdue decimated another top-25 opponent at home and Butler secured an important Big East home win thanks to the heroics of senior guard Kamar Baldwin. 

1. Vanderbilt snaps 26-game SEC losing streak with upset win

The streak is finally over.

During a week in which athletic director Malcolm Turner parted ways with the program after only one year at the helm, Vanderbilt notched its first SEC win in almost two seasons with a 99-90 home upset of No. 18 LSU.

Winless in the SEC last season, this is Vanderbilt’s first conference win since a road win at Ole Miss (March 3, 2018).

Saben Lee (33 points) and Maxwell Evans (31 points) both had big nights to pace the Commodores. Vanderbilt shot 57 percent (35-for-61) from the floor and had little issue scoring on an LSU team that was previously unbeaten in SEC play.

This win isn’t going to salvage head coach Jerry Stackhouse’s first season. Vanderbilt still has worlds to go before they become regularly competitive in the SEC. Knocking off the undefeated conference leader is a major step in the right direction. During a week (and a season) in which the Commodores could have easily called it quits and went winless in league play for a second straight year, Vanderbilt earned one of the more unlikely upsets of the past few weeks.

Vanderbilt’s upset win isn’t quite on par with Stephen F. Austin beating Duke at Cameron or Evansville upsetting Kentucky at Rupp. But it might amount to at least the feel-good conference upset of the season.

2. Purdue claims another blowout home win over No. 17 Iowa

Purdue earned a blowout win over No. 17 Iowa on Wednesday night with a decisive 104-68 Big Ten home victory.

Shooting a ridiculous 19-for-34 from three-point range, the Boilermakers scored 61 points in the first half and never looked back. Following an impressive comeback road win to close out Northwestern over the weekend, Purdue continued a strong stretch to improve to 6-6 in Big Ten play.

Senior forward Evan Boudreaux was 4-for-6 from three-point range to pace the Boilermakers with 18 points. Boudreaux was one of five Purdue players to score at least 13 points in the balanced effort.

Walk-ons were subbed in with over four minutes left. Broadcasters wondered, “where has this team been all year!?” Purdue generally looked like a team that should be in the top 25 with the way they played on Wednesday night.

But the question still remains after another blowout home win: is Purdue a legitimate threat going forward? Or are they just really good at home?

We’ve seen the Boilermakers run past quality teams at home plenty of times this season. Purdue already has 29-point home wins over Virginia and Michigan State. Wisconsin fell victim in West Lafayette by 19 points a few weeks ago. Iowa is just the latest in a string of blowout home wins for Matt Painter’s crew.

So, while Purdue deserves credit for another decisive Q1 home win, it remains to be seen if this win can help them establish a consistent presence away from home. Only 2-5 in true road games this season — with underwhelming wins against Ohio and Northwestern — Purdue will get a major road test on Saturday when they face Indiana. Rivalry matchups on the road are always a giant test. We’ll see if Purdue can sustain the recent momentum in Bloomington to earn its biggest road win of the season.

3. Kamar Baldwin’s buzzer-beater lifts Butler past Villanova

The night’s only matchup between top-25 teams ended in dramatic fashion.

Kamar Baldwin calmly buried a stepback three to lift No. 19 Butler over No. 10 Villanova for an important Big East win.

With the victory, Butler moves within a game of the Wildcats for second place in the conference. The middle of the pack remains crowded in the Big East. This is also the type of home win the Bulldogs needed if they want any chance at a Big East regular-season title.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Villanova gears up for big stretch, Auburn wins ugly in 2OT and Rutgers keeps rolling

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The headliner of Tuesday night was Virginia regaining an NCAA tournament pulse with a win over No. 5 Florida State, but there were plenty of other developments on the bubble across the country.  Here’s what else you need to know:

1. Villanova runs streak to seven ahead of grueling stretch

Jay Wright’s team had little trouble winning its seventh-straight Tuesday with a 79-59 victory at Madison Square Garden over St. John’s. Saddiq Bey was brilliant, scoring 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 9 from deep. Collin Gillespie was equally great, going for 17 points, 13 boards and six assists while Jeremiah Robinson-Early had 13 points and 14 rebounds. Cole Swider and Justin Moore both had 11 to put all five Wildcat starters in double-figures to help offset the absence of the injured Jermaine Samuels.

The victory, while unremarkable given St. John’s mediocrity, keeps momentum for Villanova heading into a huge stretch that very well could decide the Big East. They’ve got Creighton at home Saturday before a trip to No. 16 Butler and then back-to-back home games against No. 10 Seton Hall and Marquette, which handed the ‘Cats their lone conference loss this season.

How Villanova emerges from this four-game stretch – and subsequently what the Big East landscape looks like – will likely be determined by a couple of things. If the ‘Cats are going to make it through in the conference driver’s seat, it’ll probably because Villanova’s defense proves for real. The Cats’ defense this season on the whole has been fine, ranking 60th nationally on KenPom, but it’s been the best in the Big East during conference play. They’ve been stingier both inside and outside the arc while improving on the glass. They’ve kept opponents from launching a lot of 3s and have mostly kept them off the line.

Wright’s team is going to be fine offensively, even if they haven’t been elite in Big East play yet. If the defense holds up, the ‘Cats are going to be sitting pretty come March.

2. No. 17 Auburn comes from behind to win in 2OT

Things were looking pretty dire for Auburn. The Tigers narrowly avoided a third loss in four games over the weekend when they blew a big lead to a sub-.500 Iowa State team, and then they fell behind by 19 in the second half Tuesday at Ole Miss.

It turned out to be nothing to be worried about, unless you were on your couch hoping to watch good overtime basketball.

The Tigers narrowly escaped, 83-82, against the Rebels, overcoming a huge deficit and mistakes of their own making that could have negated their comeback but instead will be footnotes.

Auburn shot 56 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range in the second half to mount its comeback while Ole Miss shot just 33 percent. They nearly gave the game away, though, after taking a two-point lead in the final seconds of overtime. The Tigers missed a jumper that would have put them up four with 25 seconds left, but the shot missed and they inexplicably fouled on the rebound to allow Ole Miss to tie the game with 22 seconds left on free throws. After a missed 3 in a tie game by Danjel Purifoy, Ole Miss gave Auburn a gift it just wouldn’t accept. Devontae Shuler’s inbounds pass under the basket with 2 seconds left went astray and was headed out of bounds, which would have resulted in no time coming off the clock and Auburn getting the ball on the baseline, but Isaac Okoro, for some reason, grabbed the ball, waited a second and called timeout. Samir Doughty’s forthcoming 3 out of the huddle as time expired miss to send things to 2OT.

Ole Miss led by as many as four in overtime, but Auburn took the lead with 1:41 left. The two teams traded missed opportunities for the remainder of the game, leaving the Tigers with a win.

College basketball: Not always pretty, but rarely boring.

3. Rutgers continues to build its case

It’s been 29 years since Rutgers last made the NCAA tournament. It’s been 13 since the Scarlet Knights even finished above .500 in a season. Both those streaks seem incredibly likely to fall in just a handful of weeks.

Rutgers ran its overall record to 16-5 and its Big Ten mark to 7-3 with a 70-63 victory Tuesday at home against Purdue.

Steve Pikiell’s team is building a bulletproof resume after losses to St. Bonaventure and Pittsburgh in the first month of the season made it seem as the status quo would be very much in place in Piscataway this winter. Since then, the only three losses Rutgers have taken have all been on the road to high-quality opponents, with Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa the only teams able to get the best of them.

Rutgers is doing it o the strength of a top-10 defense that overcomes an offense that can be clunky at times, especially at the 3-point line. Defense as stout as the Scarlet Knights are playing, though, makes up for a lot of deficiencies on the other end.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Kansas and K-State Brawl, TCU’s signature win, Villanova beats Butler

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College basketball had plenty of action on Tuesday night.

But instead of a bevy of upsets and huge top-25 games, the action came in the form of a Kansas/Kansas State brawl and a new bubble team picking up a signature win.

There was also a top-25 matchup in the Big East as Villanova squared off against Butler. 

Kansas/Kansas State brawl erupts at end of rivalry game

The big story of Tuesday night involves Kansas and Kansas State.

This inner-state rivalry lost some steam with the Wildcats in rebuilding mode this season. But as we found out Tuesday, there is still plenty of intensity when these Big 12 rivals take the floor.

At the end of a Jayhawk blowout home win, a brawl started under a basket. Video came from all over the place as Kansas and Kansas State players took swings and even picked up a chair.

It overshadowed a rivalry win for the No. 3 Jayhawks. Suspensions will likely be handed out. These teams also have a return matchup at Kansas State to look forward to on Feb. 29. We’ll hear more about this fight throughout the week.

TCU picks up signature win against No. 18 Texas Tech

During a major season of turmoil where upsets are normal and road wins are nearly impossible, TCU has stayed in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid with a positive 11-5 start.

The Horned Frogs lacked a signature win though.

That changed on Tuesday night with TCU claiming a 65-54 win over No. 18 Texas Tech. Now with a Q1 win on the profile, TCU should make a move up the NET to get in respectable bubble territory.

TCU still has work to do if they want to secure a bid. Only one Q1 win, one Q2 win and a combined 2-5 record in those two quadrants isn’t going to cut it.

But with a 4-2 record in the Big 12, TCU is a team to keep tabs of the next several weeks. After getting absolutely destroyed by an average of 26 points per game the last two losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma, this is a quality bounceback win for the Horned Frogs. And the type of win that can jumpstart a postseason push.

No. 9 Villanova cruises past No. 16 Butler for Big East home win

Tuesday night’s only top-25 clash was in the Big East. Villanova ran past Butler for a 76-61 home win to keep pace with Seton Hall in the Big East standings.

Jermaine Samuels paced five double-figure scorers for Villanova with 20 points.

Big East brutality continued for Butler meanwhile.

The Bulldogs have lost three straight games in conference play. All three losses have come by at least eight points. It’s not only that Butler is losing but they’re playing poorly.

It feels like the Wildcats will once again remain in the Big East title picture this season. If Butler wants to say the same, they’ll need to figure things out quickly to fix its January swoon.