As transferring mid-career becomes more of the norm across the college basketball landscape, coaches have had to adjust their recruiting and overall roster makeup. The typical wooing of high school recruits has become only one piece of the equation. The transfer portal has become the college version of free agency. Just last year, 694 student-athletes entered their names into the portal. Only 58 of the 347 teams in Division 1 did not have a player transfer out of the program in 2019.
Because of this apparent free agency frenzy, let’s take a look at what potential addition each fan base should be excited about.
Indiana Hoosiers: N/A
If all things go according to plan for Archie Miller, the Hoosiers’ roster should be set for next season. Five-star recruit Khristian Lander announced via social media that he will be reclassifying from the 2021 class to join the program this offseason. This is a welcome addition as Lander was considered a top ten recruit in the 2021 class prior to this announcement. His reclassification is more of a long-term play for Archie as Lander will be more raw than any graduate transfer they may have brought in, but Lander is likely more talented than any potential transfer.
Maryland Terrapins: Bryce Aiken, PG (Harvard)
Aiken might be overshadowed by the other transfer from Harvard, who we will touch on later. Don’t let that fool you because Aiken is a legitimate difference maker at point guard. The Terps will have an opening at point guard next season with Anthony Cowan’s graduation but Maryland fans will have a hard time telling these two apart, if Aiken does end up in College Park. Like Cowan, Aiken is undersized (listed at 6’0”) but uses a herky-jerky style to get defenders on their heels. From there, he’s able to step back and hit a three (39.8%) or drive the lane and create contact.
Aiken played only seven games this season before missing the rest due to injury. Due to Ivy League rules prohibiting graduate students from participating in sports, he was forced to find somewhere else to play his final season. Maryland is expected to be one of the two or three finalists for Aiken, along with Marquette and Seton Hall. Mark Turgeon recruited him out of high school and Aiken grew up in in New Jersey.
Michigan Wolverines: Mike Smith, PG (Columbia)
Smith is another player that fell victim to the Ivy League’s outdated rules around fifth-years. After tearing his meniscus in 2018-19, what would have been his junior season, he came back and led the conference in scoring at 22.8 ppg. His name has been in the transfer portal since the beginning of the season as he was knew he would have to spend his final season somewhere else if he wished to continue playing in college.
Smith is undersized, being listed at only 5’11” but is really creative around the basket to get his shots up. He uses a multitude of spins and shot fakes as well as a reliable floater over bigger defenders. Smith is a career 33% three-point shooter but doesn’t really take enough for it to become a liability. The Wolverines are one of the two favorites to land Smith, along with Arizona. Though, Michigan has the geographic advantage if that matters to Smith, as he grew up and played in the Chicago Catholic League.
Michigan State Spartans: Amauri Hardy, PG (UNLV)
The Spartans’ roster situation is tough to navigate as any potential roster addition via transfer is dependent on what Xavier Tillman and Joshua Langford decide to do. If both players return, then Michigan State has no more scholarships to allocate. Assuming at least one of those players decides to go pro, Amauri Hardy is an intriguing option to replace Cassius Winston.
Hardy played at nearby North Farmington before heading out west to UNLV. His outside shooting leaves something to be desired (33% career) but was still able to average 14.5 ppg, including good games against quality opponents in non-conference play. Beyond his contributions on the court, bringing in Hardy could help the Spartans in their recruitment of his younger brother, 5-star Jaden Hardy. The two brothers wouldn’t play together as Jaden is entering his senior season of high school, but getting Jaden around the program may help Izzo down the road.
Ohio State Buckeyes: Seth Towns, SF (Harvard)
Similar to the Kobe King addition for Nebraska, Ohio State is not going to be able to bring in a bigger name than Seth Towns who was the consensus best graduate transfer target this offseason. The Buckeyes were the favorite all along to land Towns, as he grew up in the Columbus area.
Towns was the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2017-18 despite only being a sophomore in a league full of upperclassmen. He was expected to repeat that honor the following year before a knee injury in November caused him to miss the remainder of that season and next. The 6’7” forward is expected to have two seasons of eligibility remaining, if he decides to stay. But don’t be surprised if Towns spends only one season in Columbus if he is able to return to his pre-injury form.
The Buckeyes were also included in Jamarius Burton’s top five which he released on Thursday. Burton was part of the mass exodus from Wichita State and would provide a lot of value if he commits to Ohio State. He has a big build that allows him to absorb contact on his way to the rim, which allowed him to average about 8 ppg last season as a sophomore. Burton will sit out the 2020-21 season before having two years of eligibility remaining.
Penn State Nittany Lions: Mattias Markusson, C (Loyola Marymount)
Markusson is the biggest transfer on this list in terms of size. He’s listed at 7’3” so he’s one of the tallest players in all of college basketball. The big man sat out this past season to tend to his personal life after the death of his mother. Since, he’s graduated from LMU so he will be an immediate contributor to whatever school he transfers to.
Markusson was able to make an impact in the West Coast Conference, averaging 11.7 points per game against the two conference powers, Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, his junior season. He also owns LMU’s program record for career FG%. Penn State had their best season in recent memory, but the loss of Lamar Stevens will really hurt their identity. Markusson’s size could be an enticing addition to the Nittany Lion roster.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights: N/A
The Scarlet Knights are another team that is at the scholarship limit so their roster is set heading into next season. They had their best campaign in over a decade and would have made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991 had it taken place. With the set roster, Steve Pikiell can focus on the players he already has in hand.