The NCAA Basketball Tournament is one of the most watched and awaited sports fixture in the US. It whips up a frenzy that is incredible. Almost the whole nation turns to basketball when the NCAA tournament starts.
The tourney is conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which lays down the rules for the 1,200-odd participating colleges and university members. Out of the 1,200 colleges and universities, 1,006 are active members and can participate in the NCAA tournament.
These colleges are organized into three divisions. Division I includes those colleges that sponsor at least seven sports each for men and women, or six for men and eight for women, with two team sports for each gender. Division II colleges are those that sponsor at least four sports each for men and women, with two team sports for each gender. Division III, which makes the bottom of the ladder, sponsors at least five sports each for men and women, with two team sports for each gender. The NCAA also lays down how many basketball matches each member is required to play in its Division.
The Division 1 tournament grabs the maximum public attention because the winners of this tournament qualify for what is known as March Madness. NCAA has laid elaborate rules for the selection of 64 women's teams and 65 men's teams that qualify for this grand event.
Thirty-one teams, both in men and women's division, get an automatic entry, because they are the winners of their respective conferences. A selection committee decides the remaining teams, 34 for men and 33 for women. The whole nation waits with bated breath to learn of the names of these teams that are announced on television.
The field of 64 teams is divided into four geographical regions, and seeded according to their performance in the elimination tournament. The team that is seeded one is the best is its group, while the team that is seeded 16 is considered the weakest in that group. Generally, the teams perform according to their seeding. But sometimes, a low-seeded team may create an upset. Such a team then gets to be known as the tourney Cinderella.
The tourney itself is played over a period of three weeks, beginning usually on the third Thursday of March. The first two days have packed schedules, and as many as 32 teams make an exit. The excitement continues over the next two days when the teams are reduced to Sweet 16. A four-day break ensues for the next round that leaves the top four or the Final Four to battle for the crown.
The winners of this grueling tourney are crowned college basketball champions, and become the toast of the nation.
To the untrained eye, a game of pro basketball and a game of college basketball can appear very similar, if not pretty much the same. Flip from game to game, and you see pretty much the same thing: a standard size ball, players on the court, a 10-foot hoop and the foul line 15 feet away from the backboard. Take a closer look, though, and you'll start to see differences in college and professional play.
There are quite a lot of differences given that the history of the sport. According to Wikipedia, basketball was invented in December 1891 by Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian-born physical education professor and instructor at the International Young Men's Christian Association Training School (YMCA) (today, Springfield College) in Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, was trying to keep his gym class active on a rainy day sought a vigorous indoor game to keep his students occupied and at proper levels of fitness during the long New England winters.
First off, in the NBA, the game is divided into four 12-minute quarters. In the NCAA, there are two 20-minute halves. The length of the game is different, but they both share an overtime period that lasts five minutes.
The clock is different between college and pro as well, where the NBA has a 24-second shot clock, and the NCAA shot clock lasts 35 seconds. This is the primary reason that the scoring in NCAA games can differ so greatly from team to team, and game to game. Teams who employ a strong defense strategy with respect to the shot clock end up with games that score in the 50 to 60 point range. Using a more aggressive offensive strategy, you'll see higher scores in the 80 to 100 range - similar to the scores posted in most NBA games.
NCAA teams have 10 seconds in order to get the ball half-court after a basket; NBA teams are limited to just 8 seconds.
The court is the same size in both organizations (94 feet long by 50 feet wide), basket height, backboard distance and the foul line are all the same, as well. Look closer, though, when college and pro teams take a 3-point shot. NBA players take a 3-point shot from 23'9" (22" in the corners) and the NCAA's 3-point shot is from a distance of 19'9". The lane width in the NBA is 16 feet wide, and at the collegiate level it's 12 feet.
Further differences exist between pro and college basketball beyond variation in the shot clock length and the distance for 3-pointers. The differences discussed here are just the beginning; read and research more to get a grasp of all the intricacies of NBA and NCAA play. Getting a handle on the differences between college and pro basketball rules can help you gain a better understanding of the strategy and action going on during any given game.
March is the best month of the year to get acquainted with basketball as the NCAA tournament is just around the corner, leading to lots of availability of analysis as well as fan passion for the sport.
A lot of families ask me, "When should I sign for the NCAA Clearinghouse?" The BEST time to sign up for the NCAA Clearinghouse is once you have completed your Junior year in high school.
Now, if you are asking yourself, "What is the NCAA Clearing house?", a good definition is below from the NCAA website:
NCAA Clearinghouse - Students who plan to play Division I or Division II sports during their freshman year of college must register with the NCAA during their senior year of high school. This registration process certifies that the student has met certain academic and other standards, as required under NCAA guidelines in order to compete and receive athletic-based financial aid.
The Clearinghouse allows NCAA D I and D II coaches to quickly and easily sort through athletes so they know that you are academically eligible to compete at their University. It saves them time instead of having to deal directly with your high school counselor.
You can sign up for the Clearinghouse at: www.ncaaclearinghouse.net
REAL CLEARINGHOUSE STORY
I know of a student-athlete that had a full-ride basketball scholarship to a school in Northern California, and the coach assumed he was cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse because the student-athlete came from a prestigious high school. The student-athlete started his fall semester on campus, he was getting ready for his upcoming basketball season, and the coach just happened to find out that the student had not registered with the NCAA Clearinghouse. It nearly cost him his scholarship, even though he was a "qualifier."
I share that story with you because it is IMPERATIVE that you register with the NCAA Clearinghouse. It does cost some money, and if you need financial assistance with it the NCAA has a way of subsidizing your costs.
As you can see, it is very important to get yourself registered with the NCAA Clearinghouse at the end of your Junior year. Study hard and keep your grades up...that is the KEY!