Online NCAA Basketball ⛹️‍♂️

You don’t have to visit many online sportsbooks before noticing that some allow you to bet on college basketball games. Betting on NCAA basketball isn’t permitted in all states. However, the fact that it is allowed in several reflects the popularity of the sport.

NCAA Basketball is so-called because it is the game that is governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It is most famous for its annual Division I tournament, which is known as NCAA March Madness. It is this competition which attracts the most interest from online basketball bettors.

NCAA Basketball Rules and Gameplay

Many people assume that the rules of NCAA basketball are exactly the same as those of the NBA (National Basketball Association). That is a false assumption. Although the aim of the game is the same, there are several rule differences that are worth noting. We will highlight those key differences as we explain the basic rules of NCAA basketball below.

An NCAA Basketball game is played between two teams, each of which has five players. The court measures 94 feet in length and is 50 feet wide. One basketball hoop stands 10 feet above the ground at each end of the court.

The aim of the game is for a team to score more points than their opponents. Two points are scored by getting a basketball through the hoop of the opposing team. If a basket is made by a player from behind a three-point line on the court, it is worth three points. The three point line on an NCAA court is 22 feet 1¾ inches from the centre of the hoop. This is closer to the basket than the 23 feet 9 inch distance in the NBA.

A basketball match comprises two halves, each of which is 20 minutes in length. This is different from an NBA game, which has four quarters of 12 minutes each.

In an NCAA basketball game, a player has 30 seconds to take a shot. This is more than the 24 seconds in an NBA match. 

Should there be a tie at the end of regular time, overtime can be played until there is a winner. Overtime is added in five minute increments.

How the Teams Work

We have said that an NCAA basketball team has five players. Each player has a different role, and therefore a different designation. Those traditional designations are as follows:

  • Center
  • Power Forward
  • Small Forward
  • Shooting Guard
  • Point Guard

The Center and Power Forward designations are often taken by the tallest players on the team. Those players focus on occupying the area between the free-throw line and the hoop. This area is colloquially referred to as ‘in the paint’ due to its court markings.

The Small Forward, Shooting Guard and Point Guard focus on the rest of the court. They help to set things up for the Center and Power Forward. At the same time, they protect their own basket from the efforts of the opposing team.

Although these designated positions are traditional, they aren’t always stuck to like glue. Players can and do mark up their adversarial opposites, but they can also mix things up from time to time. This is also the case - and even more so - in NBA games.

The game begins in the middle of the court, where a referee stands with two opposing players. The referee tips the ball into the air so that the players can fight to gain quick possession of it. This is often referred to as the ‘opening tip’ or ‘tip off’.

Strategy and Tactics

Someone could easily watch an NCAA basketball game and see little more than ten guys frantically running around the court in an effort to score points. NCAA basketball games are certainly fast and furious. But they aren’t frantic in any sense of them being out of control. Every game is actually a competition between teams that are playing according to carefully developed strategies and tactics.

Those strategies and tactics aren’t usually devised by the players themselves. Instead, they are devised by the coaches who guide the teams through the season. Every NCAA basketball game is different, and every team that plays the game has its own strengths and weaknesses. 

The role of the Head Coach and his associates is to look at each game as an independent event. They must assess the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents. This helps them to devise an approach for their own team. One that maximises their chances of winning and minimises their chances of losing. 

Imagine that a team will face a much superior opponent that likes to attack. Here the coaches may decide to adopt a primarily defensive strategy and score in the moments following an attack. Or, if the opponent is equally matched, the strategy could be to attack aggressively themselves.

As well as having an overarching strategy, the coaches will talk tactics with individual players. This might often include pointing out the dangers of each opponent and the best way of neutralizing them.

Finally, the coaches will adopt their own strategies and tactics. They will be very deliberate about when they call time outs, for example. This will help them to disrupt the mood of the opposing team or give their own team space. It can also help to simply slow down the pace of the game.

A Brief History of NCAA Basketball

Basketball was born as a college game. It was invented in 1891 by James Naismith, a Phys Ed. teacher at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. He had been asked to come up with something that would help track athletes to stay in shape. His response was basketball.

The sport caught on quickly, and before long plenty of colleges and universities had basketball teams. Of course, it wasn’t the only sport that college teams played, and football was also very popular. The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States was founded in 1905 primarily to bring about rules changes in football. It was that association which became the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, in 1910.

In 1939, the NCAA founded its own national college basketball tournament. The difference between this tournament and others was that its games were played in a variety of locations. This made it particularly popular with spectators, who didn’t necessarily have to travel too far to catch a game. 

By 1975, the NCAA tournament involved 32 teams from across the nation. That number was increased several times over the next few decades, and by 2011 there were 68 teams taking part.

NCAA March Madness

There are three divisions of conferences in NCAA basketball, known as Division I, Division II and Division III. The tournament for Division I is known as March Madness. This is the same tournament that the NCAA founded in 1939. It takes place every spring, and a total of 68 teams participate. The champions of 32 Division I conferences qualify automatically, and the remaining 36 teams are selected by the NCAA.

The March Madness tournament begins with a First Four stage, which effectively reduces the field from 68 to 64 teams. A First Round then reduces the number of teams left to 32, and a Second Round to 16. This ‘Sweet Sixteen’ is further reduced to an ‘Elite Eight’ and then a ‘Final Four’. Two semi-final games then take place before the two remaining teams face each other to determine the overall winner.

NCAA March Madness Winners

Some 36 teams have won the NCAA March Madness tournament since it began. 21 of those teams have won just once. This includes the Virginia Cavaliers of the University of Virginia, who won for the first and only time in 2019. 

Seven teams have won the tournament on two occasions. However, that includes the Louisville Cardinals, who also achieved a third win in 2013. But that title was vacated by the NCAA following a sex scandal. The Cardinals appealed against having the 2013 title stripped from them, but that appeal was not successful.

That means just two teams have officially won the March Madness tournament three times. Those are the Kansas Jayhawks and the Villanova Wildcats. The UConn Huskies, of the University of Connecticut, have won four times. Going one better, the Indiana Hoosiers and the Duke Blue Devils have each won five times.

March Madness has been won on six occasions by the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Kentucky Wildcats have won eight times. The most successful team of all are the UCLA Bruins, who have won no fewer than eleven times. Their first success was achieved in 1964, and their most recent in 1995.

Distinctive Features

There are many different basketball leagues and organizations in the world. However, NCAA basketball has a particularly special place in the heart of Americans. It is a game that many people grow up with. Loyalty to a particular college or university team can therefore last a lifetime.

NCAA basketball is also distinctive because it produces a good number of players who go on to enjoy successful careers in the NBA. For example, Michael Jordan played for the Tar Heels before becoming one of the biggest names in NBA history. Other big NBA names that you might recognize are Anthony Davis, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Wilt Chamberlain. Those three stars played for the Kentucky Wildcats, the UCLA Bruins and the Kansas Jayhawks, respectively.

NCAA Basketball Statistics

Betting on NCAA basketball games, where permitted, is much like betting on NBA games. That’s because the games themselves are virtually identical. Subsequently, so are the statistical measures that are used to quantify past performance.

You can find statistics that will help you see how both teams and individual players have performed in previous games and seasons. For teams, look at the percentage of wins overall, when playing at home and when playing away. Also consider the number of points scored and conceded in those three scenarios.

When assessing individual players, the stats to focus on should include how many points were scored per game and how many fouls were committed. Again, you can look at those stats from an overall perspective as well as breaking them down to see how they relate to home and away games.

Popularity and Cultural Impact

Because NCAA basketball plays such a big role in the lives of college and university students, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the impact of the game goes far beyond the campuses themselves. The number of popular television shows and movies that have featured a college basketball game over is too big to count. And now that the internet has made it possible to access news, sports and video feeds from anywhere in the world, NCAA basketball is getting a following in many other countries apart from the US. We can therefore expect the popularity and cultural impact of NCAA basketball to increase even further as the years and decades progress.


About Oscar Cooper
Oscar Cooper author profile

Oscar is a keen sports fan with an even keener eye for advantageous betting odds. The only thing he enjoys as much as watching his favourite teams win is being able to land sportsbook winners at the same time. He takes a strategic and mathematical approach to betting and he encourages others to do the same.

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