College basketball transfers have the potential to change a team, which can change a conference, which can change the layout of the NCAA tournament.
For some, a change of scenery can be just what the doctor ordered. Kyle Wiltjer struggled to get on the floor at Kentucky; he was one of the best offensive players in the country during the last two seasons at Gonzaga.
Not all of these guys will have a Wiltjer-like effect, but they will make their presence known nonetheless. Here are seven eligible transfers to monitor in 2016-17.
PG Nigel Williams-Goss, GonzagaIt’s tough not to wonder, ‘what if?’ as it pertains to Williams-Goss and last season’s Bulldogs. Gonzaga’s frontcourt of Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis was excellent, but it didn’t have a consistent point guard presence.
Williams-Goss, a Washington transfer, should take on the lead ball handling reigns in Spokane this season. As a sophomore for the Huskies in 2014-15, Williams-Goss averaged 15.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. Simply put, the guy can do it all.
More good news for Gonzaga fans: The Bulldogs should once again have a dominant frontcourt, with Przemek Karnowski due to return from a back injury and Missouri transfer Johnathan Williams ready to man the power forward spot.
The Zags will look different in 2016-17, but they’ll be very, very good. Williams-Goss is a primary reason for the optimism.
SG Jordan Mathews, Gonzaga
Oh, and so is this guy. The Cal graduate transfer is immediately eligible, and he can do something this Bulldog roster desperately needs: get buckets from distance.
Mathews has topped 41 percent from 3-point range in each of his last two seasons while scoring upwards of 13 points per game. The 6-3 guard is a solid defender, too, and should serve as an upgrade at the shooting guard spot.
The Zags might have their best backcourt in years, and they have two transfers to thank for the distinction.
PF Austin Nichols, Virginia
Anthony Gill is gone, but Virginia may have found his equal in Nichols.
The junior forward is a terror on defense and a rapidly improving offensive player. He blocked 3.4 shots per game at Memphis in 2014-15, and despite Virginia’s unbelievable defense in recent years, they haven’t sported this kind of athleticism.
Nichols averaged 13.3 points per game in his sophomore year at Memphis, but he’s going to have to polish his game if the Cavaliers are going to score enough to make serious noise in 2016-17. Gill is gone, and so is Malcolm Brogdon. But Nichols should help pick up plenty of that slack.
SG Canyon Barry, Florida
Florida’s defense improved in Mike White’s first season at the helm in Gainesville, but its offense stalled. Enter Canyon Barry.
Canyon, the son of Rick Barry, can absolutely fill it up. As a junior last season at Charleston, he averaged 19.7 points per game.
Barry isn’t a great shooter, but he’s as crafty of a scorer as they come. The 6-6 wing loves to get to the free-throw line; he averaged 5.5 attempts per game last season and converted on almost 85 percent on them.
For a Gators squad that finished 84th in adjusted offensive efficiency last season, slotting Barry in at shooting guard should do them wonders.
SG Marcus Foster, Creighton
An underrated backcourt duo that’s going to be terrific to watch in 2016-17: Maurice Watson and Marcus Foster.
Watson was quietly the best point guard in the Big East last season not named Kris Dunn or Isaiah Whitehead, and now, he’s got a sidekick in Foster.
As a freshman at Kansas State in 2013-14, Foster averaged 15.5 points per game. His production (and role) dipped a bit as a sophomore, and now he has a fresh start in Omaha.
Defenses are going to have a lot of trouble staying in front of Watson and Foster; they can break down just about anyone off the dribble and create scoring chances for themselves or their teammates. Foster’s arrival could propel the Bluejays into the NCAA tournament next season.
PG Josh Newkirk, Indiana
Though Newkirk’s past production isn’t up to par with everyone else on this list, the purpose here is to project for next season. Whether he’s ready for it or not, Newkirk will have a chance to become a very important player at a big-time school in 2016-17.
Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams are gone, but the Hoosiers have a lot to be excited about. Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby, Robert Johnson and James Blackmon are all back, and Tom Crean’s squad feels like it’s a point guard away from becoming a serious contender.
That’s where Newkirk comes in. The jet-quick ball handler averaged 5.9 points and 2.7 assists per game at Pittsburgh in 2014-15, and he’s going to have every opportunity to shine in Bloomington.
He’s got the talent, and he’s got the supporting cast. We’ll see if Newkirk can rise to the occasion in 2016-17.
SG Kethan Savage, Butler
About 45 minutes north of Bloomington, Butler is going to heavily rely on transfers to get back to the NCAA tournament. Ex-George Washington Colonial Kethan Savage is the leader of the pack.
Savage has athleticism that will make Bulldog fans (and their mascot) drool:
But with Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham graduated, Savage is going to have to do more than generate highlight reels. He flashed all-around ability at George Washington, averaging 11.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in his junior season.
The bouncy transfer could become a star in Indianapolis if he proves to be a natural fit in Chris Holtmann’s offense.