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NBA Vs. NCAA Basketball: How Are They Different?

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[3] (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.


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