Updated Feb. 2023
College and professional basketball games are similar in structure. They are crowded with dedicated fans, intense competition, and exciting to watch. Although the game of basketball is pretty much the same for college athletes and the pros, there are a few rules to look out for the next time you watch an NCAA or NBA basketball game.
NBA: four 12 min quarters
- NCAA: two 20 min halves (both leagues have a 5 min overtime)
- NBA: 24-second shot clock, resets to 14 seconds after an offensive rebound. Teams have 8 seconds to cross half court
- NCAA: 30-second shot clock, resets to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound. Teams have 10 seconds to cross half court
- NBA: 23’9’’ from the hoop at the top of the arc and 22′ from the hoop in the corners
- NCAA: 22′ 1 3/4″ from the hoop at the top of the arc and 21′ 7 7/8″ from the hoop in the corners
Width of paint under the hoop
- NBA: 16 feet wide
- NCAA: 12 feet wide
- NBA: 6 personal fouls before fouling out. After 4th team foul in a quarter, opponents get 2 free throws.
- NCAA: 5 personal fouls before fouling out. After 7th team foul in a half opponents get 1-1. After 10 team fouls, the opponents get two free throws.
- NBA: Jump ball for possession
- NCAA: Possession arrow directing whose ball it is
- NBA: each team is allowed six timeouts per game and coaches can call timeouts during live ball situations
- NCAA: each team is allowed up to four timeouts per game and coaches are not allowed to call timeouts during live ball situations
Both jerseys must be tucked into shorts and shorts can’t be below knees.
- NBA: If the uniform isn’t correct the player is fined.
- NCAA: If the uniform isn’t correct, the whistle is blown and the player must fix it.
Besides rules, there are some other minor differences. The NBA consists of only 30 teams who play 82 games a year, whereas the NCAA has about 200 teams who play about 30 games a year.
Although it might not seem like it, these little disparities make a big difference in the game. Restricting time on offense forces players to shoot earlier or from further away. Shorter shot clocks and more athletic players make NBA games much quicker and explain why games are usually higher scoring.
The biggest difference is in the NCAA you’re going to school. There are certain eligibility requirements for student-athletes. However, in the NBA, players only have to play basketball and are paid to do so.