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One-on-one with Nicki Collen | How the college game has changed

In our sit-down with Baylor women's basketball coach Nicki Collen, she outlines what's changed in the college game since she left for the WNBA five years ago.
Credit: AP
Nicki Collen is greeted by players after being introduced as the women's head basketball coach at the Ferrell Center after a public ceremony, Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Waco, Texas. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)

WACO, Texas — College basketball today isn't anywhere close to the game it was five years ago.

Around the time new Baylor women's basketball coach Nicki Collen left the collegiate ranks for the WNBA, transfers became much more prominent with the advent of the NCAA Transfer Portal. Now, every player gets a one-time transfer waiver.

What that means is players like Adam Flagler of the Baylor men's team would no longer have to sit out for a season after transferring.

"People keep asking me, 'Is it like free agency?,'" Collen said. "It's absolutely like free agency."

Collen added that the waiver all players received due to COVID-19 adds to the changes in college basketball right now, too. 

"I think the biggest change is not the portal itself, other than the ease of going in to it and not having to get signed copies from coaches saying that you can talk to people, the portal hasn't changed," Collen said. "I think what's changed is the idea of this one-time transfer and you add, on top of that, the COVID year."

But she's now returning to a level at which the game is diverse in how it's played.

In the professional ranks, every team in the WNBA spaces the floor, runs pick-and-roll offenses and looks to set up one-on-one matchups in a half-court situation.

In the college ranks, anything goes.

"In the Big 12, the styles are very different," Collen said. "If you look at the SEC, all the teams play pretty similarly, they're all very athletic, their systems are built that way. I think when you look at the Big 12, they're all very different."

Among the challenges Collen said the Big 12 presents: longtime Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly, who she's known since she was 16, Oklahoma's new coach Jennie Baranczyk and Texas' now-second-year head coach Vic Schaefer.