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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

JJ Redick is one of the few talking heads on ESPN worth listening to, but his take on college basketball needs a minor adjustment. At the very least, there needs to be additional context.

Here’s the tweet that Redick is referencing in this video. It’s an odd take for sure.

First things first, Redick is spot on with his assessment of why the “there’s no defense in the NBA” doesn’t hold water. The NBA is a league predicated on pace and space nowadays. The best of the best in the NBA will score no matter who is on defense.

Do guys go 100% on every possession for a full season? No, but to insinuate that NBA players don’t try on defense is ridiculous.

Moving onto the other part of Redick’s comments, specifically about the style of play in college:

“These guys have not evolved their philosophy since the 1980s or 1990s. It’s ridiculous. Same sets — same sets that I used to run, that I used to watch growing up, that Kansas used to run.”

Let’s try and attach some context to this. Roster turnover and job security are two reasons why the college game doesn’t evolve as quickly as the pros.

With roster turnover, our first instinct is to point to the one-and-dones, but only a select few programs are lucky enough to have freshmen make the leap to the pros. The transfer portal is the bigger factor in why coaches have to run the same vanilla sets they have been running forever.

For better or worse, the transfer portal is turning college basketball into the wild, wild west. Over 1,700 players entered the transfer portal during the 2021 offseason, which means most teams are going to see significant roster turnover on a yearly basis.

As for the coaching factors, when there is zero risk of being fired, there is little pressure to adapt. This applies to an elite group — Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Jay Wright, Mark Few, and Jim Boeheim are a few in this category.

These are coaches who know they are on lifetime appointments, for the most part, but it also extends to the guys who will always find a job — Rick Pitino, Rick Barnes, Shaka Smart, Frank Martin, Archie Miller, Sean Miller, and the list goes on and on.

When there is less pressure on the top coaches to adapt, there is going to be less evolution across the board.

There are 353 Division I men’s basketball head coaching gigs compared to just 30 in the NBA. The seat is already hot when an NBA coach sits down for his introductory press conference.

This adapt-or-die mentality for NBA coaches leads to a homogenized game. They say the NFL is a copycat league but the same can be said of the NBA. Everyone runs spread pick-and-rolls, dribble handoffs, hammer actions, etc.

Try picking out two NBA teams with completely contrasting styles. Teams may do things a little bit differently from one another, but it’s largely the same philosophy of pace and space throughout the league.

Look at any DI basketball conference and you are bound to find two teams who are the complete antithesis of one another. St. John’s presses fullcourt and plays as fast as anyone in the country while Providence slows the game down to a grinding halt with post entries and tight flex sets.

Providence is public enemy No. 1 for the crowd that hates the old-school sets. They run flex sets where all five players are inside the three-point line. It might not be the most efficient way to play basketball and it definitely is a little ugly at times, but that variety is part of what gives college basketball its charm.

For what it’s worth, Providence won the Big East regular-season crown, went to the Sweet 16 before losing to Kansas, and Ed Cooley won the Naismith College Coach of the Year. Not to mention, one of the best plays of the NCAA Tournament came from a set that kids learn by the time they are in middle school.

There’s room for teams like Alabama and Gonzaga who play a pro-style offense and others like Bellarmine who barely even dribble the basketball. The NBA vs. NCAA argument is almost as old as the game itself. It’s OK to be a fan of both.

Knicks, Nets, NY/NJ college hoops, and sports betting reporter. Mostly basketball, but a little bit of everything when it comes to NY sports. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.