Written by Pete Wehry on 01/17/2023
Hey my name is Pete Wehry. Former basketball coach [Northland International University—don’t google it—the school is closed—but if you do I will come up] and now serving college basketball with a ministry Nations of Coaches. I have the privilege to be around the game a lot. Actually, most of my days. Practices, shoot-arounds, games, team meals, coach’s conferences, AAU events, and on and on. With that I believe I can provide the reader with some great insights and hopefully good perspectives on the game as it stands today in college basketball. All levels. D1, D2, D3, NAIA, JUCO, and other less known organizations. Let’s get at it!
What is the dialogue about today in college athletics? Amongst coaches? Amongst players? Amongst administration? Amongst the fanbases? Well, there is a lot and much of it centers around the changes in the game. In the next few months, I would like to address those changes. Ever heard of Name, Image, and Likeness—aka NIL? The Portal? Conference shake-ups? We will look at these and ebbs and flows of the game, who is hot and who is not, and we may even dabble in some conference championship talks. So, let’s get started.
Let’s start with the equality in college basketball right now, and potential reasons it seems to have so much parity.
When the college basketball season started three “Blue Bloods” this year were projected to be great, solid teams. The number one team in the country was North Carolina. They are no longer in the top 25. Duke was projected to be number 7, and at this time they are ranked 24th. Kentucky was picked to be number 4 in the country, and right now they are not in the top 25. How is that even possible, predictable, and realistic. College basketball has changed. The landscape has changed. I believe there are at least five reasons for this “phenomena” or “abnormality”.
First, the number of players that are “good” continues to increase. There used to be a big difference between the 3 stars and 5 stars. I am not sure there is that gap that used to be evident. More kids playing, better training opportunities for players, more AAU opportunities, and the addition of European players seems to level the playing field.
Secondly, the portal. This can help or hinder teams. If your team is looking for additional scoring or a “glue” guy, check the portal in the spring. However, this is two-edged sword. What if you lose that bench guy who gives you offensive spark off the bench or is your glue guy. Some teams fill that need in the portal, and some teams lose that important player.
Thirdly, the carousel of coaching. Coaches cannot complain about the portal. Why? They have a similar situation going on as coaches sometimes are on the move and looking for the “better spot”. Not that this is wrong, but it is real. If your staff loses a solid head or assistant coach, would it impact your program? Absolutely! If they add a dynamic coach does that impact the program? Absolutely! The truth is coaches that have the ear of player, do a great job with individual workouts, a great with scouting, recruiting, or video does impact that program. Thus, programs can take steps forward or backwards, and this affects the game and program.
Fourthly, player leaving early for either the NBA or other professional leagues. When players leave for the NBA or skip college all together, and head to the G-League, the teams are more balanced with less star players. Examine this one team has new players every year or two years. They are now 18-19-20 years old. Then they play teams with Juniors [21 years old], Seniors [22 years old], or Grad Student [23 or 24 years old]. Evaluate this scenario. One team has 19-20 year old players, the other has 21-22 year old players. Who is bigger? Who is stronger? Mentally more mature? Understands the system they have played in four years? Thus, I believe more parity!
Finally, culture. Teams that a good, I mean really good, have a mission, vision, core values, and purpose. The head coach lives it, the assistant’s breath it, and then the players represent it on the court and off the court. The questions is then—can you build, sustain, and develop your culture in your staff, team, and overall program. This will impact parity. “One and Dones” and “Portal Players” make this a bigger need and challenge.
Parity—it is here and I believe to stay! Hope you enjoyed this article and would be glad to have some feedback and give and take!
My email is [email protected] or you can DM me on twitter @CoachPeteWehry.