The Differences Between College and Professional Basketball

To the untrained eye, there may not seem to be a vast difference between the NBA (which is professional basketball) and NCAA (which is college basketball). 

The overall games look the same, the courts seem identical and even the hoops are in the same position at the same height. 

There are, however, some very subtle and some very overt distinctions between the NBA level and that of college.  Let’s take a look at what they are. 

The Seasons

The professional league and college league differ greatly when it comes to the sheer number of matches that are played. 

College seasons are generally four months, and in that time teams will play anywhere from 30-35 games. The NBA season lasts six months, and in this time they jam-pack a whopping 82 games. 

Despite the distinctions between NBA and college basketball, the two games are nearly identical in terms of overall play. The number of professional NBA players who have come via the NCAA system attests to this.

The Gap of Talent

College basketball highlights players that are both just starting out in their basketball careers, as well as some who may never choose to play professionally. 

The NBA, unlike the NCAA, is a fully professional league with the best basketball players on the planet. Basketball is played to a high standard in the NCAA, but it is at its best in the NBA. Thus, the talent pool differs significantly from one to the other. 

When we speak about the NBA, we are talking about the cream of the crop, and if you watch any NBA match you will see that to be true. They have natural talent and skill, but it is developed at college level and then harnessed in the pro leagues. Their dedication and hard work set them apart from players in the NCAA. 

Match Makeup

When you watch a college basketball game, one of the most noticeable distinctions is that it is split into two parts of twenty minutes each, rather than four 12-minute quarters as it is in the NBA. 

The way college football does this is actually the way the game was designed to be played in the first place. The National Basketball Association actually changed it. 

In respect to the NBA’s use of quarters, author Sam Goldaper recalls the league’s earlier stages, stating that they elected to play four 12-minute quarters ” to bring an evening’s entertainment up to the two-hour duration owners felt ticket buyers expected. In addition, in the world of television advertising, this means that more commercial ad income can be made,

Shot Clock

The shot clock is used to speed up the game and improve scoring. The offensive team must try to make a shot before the shot clock runs out. The shot clock is 35 seconds in the NCAA, whereas in the NBA it is just 24 seconds. As a result, it’s no wonder that NBA games feature substantially higher score stats. When compared to the NCAA, where games are played at a significantly slower pace, these are frequently in the 80s, 90s, and 100s. As a result, college games are lower in scoring.


Despite the court proportions, the basket height and the space between the backboard and foul line are all the same in college hoops and the NBA, there are a few key distinctions. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see that the three-point line in the college version of the game is a little closer to the hoop (19″9 vs. 23″9 in the NBA). There are also changes in the lane width, often known as the “paint,” with the lane width in college games being 12 feet against 16 feet in the NBA.


When it comes to resolving possession issues, there is a stark distinction between college basketball and the NBA. A jump ball is used to resolve all such scenarios in the NBA. In college basketball, on the other hand, possession is simply passed back and forth between teams. In such a case, a possession arrow is placed on the scorer’s table to indicate who will get the ball next.

So as you can see, there are some minor and major differences when it comes to the NCAA and the NBA. Nonetheless, all the games played are exciting and interesting to watch, and just like the NBA, it’s fun to bet on college basketball. Now that you know these things, you can make more of an informed wager, and who knows? Luck may just be on your side. 

Ellen Hollington

Ellen Hollington is a freelance writer who offers to ghostwrite, copywriting, and blogging services. She works closely with B2C and B2B businesses providing digital marketing content that gains social media attention and increases their search engine visibility.