The Differences Between NCAA Basketball and the NBA

Although NBA and NCAA basketball are the same sport, there are some major differences between the two levels of competition. From the skill level and money to the different rules, there are a lot of things that are different.

Today, we'll go through both leagues and examine the biggest and most noticeable differences.

Too Much Talent

While you might think that Kentucky has a fighting chance against the Philadelphia 76ers, they probably don't. What you have to remember is that all NBA teams, even the worst ones, are comprised of the top-tier college players.

Yes, most of the Kentucky roster would end up in the NBA anyway, and yes, they would be some of the first picks off the board, but college teams simply aren't accustomed to the NBA rules, pressure or the gameplay. They don't have the same depth either.

The NBA players are the best in the business-the cream of the crop from the NCAA-and there's a reason that most of the top players in the NBA didn't necessarily go to the top schools in the NCAA. LeBron James didn't even go to college, Kevin Durant went to Texas, Stephen Curry went to Davidson and Chris Paul went to Wake Forest.

The NBA players are light years ahead of most college players. There will certainly be some exceptions; Lonzo Ball is already better than Steph Curry according to Lavar, and there are certainly rookies like Anthony Davis who have been imposing ever since they arrived on the big court, but the vast majority of college players don't cut it in the NBA.

Every year in the draft, there are only 60 players who get selected, two for each team. Considering the fact that there are hundreds of college teams out there and thousands of college players, it is quite a small percentage that actually does get the rare opportunity to compete on the biggest stage.

If you watch NCAA basketball and NBA basketball, then you'll notice some key differences. The game is much faster and much more explosive in college; defense is much poorer in the college game, and it's often ridden with stupid turnovers and some easy misses.

In the NBA, it's a completely different story. The game is slower, the build up play is more strategic. Tactics are implemented, and overall, the game gets much more complicated. It's no longer as easy to score, and the disparity between the best team and the worst team is much less noticeable.

Sure, the Golden State Warriors would still absolutely crush the Suns, but it would still be much more competitive than if Kentucky and some lower conference team were to face off. The professional game is completely different from the college game; whether it is the pace, the tactics, or just the players in general, it's almost a completely different sport.

If you think that college basketball can even come close to the level of the NBA, think again. The pros are simply on a different level than the college players. They have the experience, the physicality and the skills to compete with the best of the best that college players lack. There's a reason that the NBA is home to the best players in the world, and it's because of the selective nature of the draft.

How About the Players

College basketball certainly generates a lot of money. From sponsorships to ticket revenue, especially during March Madness, the NCAA generates hundreds of millions of dollars, even as much as a billion dollars during the incredibly popular period in March.

As much money as the NCAA makes, it's nothing compared to the revenue of the NBA. Estimates for NBA revenue in the coming years reach as high as eight billion dollars-money that is reinvested into the league and used to pay all the people who manage the organization.

Another huge difference between the two competitions is the lack of financial compensation for the players. All collegiate players play for free, and while the schools and the NCAA profit off of them, players must devote their lives and often disregard their schoolwork in order to play for their respective teams. This has sparked a major debate in the collegiate sports world. People are arguing that profiting off the collegiate players is wrong, and that the players should be rewarded with money outside of scholarships.

On the other hand, the lucky few who do manage to reach the top tier and play in the NBA are rewarded quite well for their accomplishments. The average salary for a professional basketball player in the NBA is around 6.6 million dollars, an amount that would leave the average person set for life. This also makes the NBA the sports league that pays its players the most.

Even if you are one of the worst players in the NBA and ride the bench, you are still guaranteed around a million dollars per year, the minimum going up for each year you remain in the league.

There is also no trading in college basketball. As it is still considered an amateur sport, teams don't necessarily own the rights of their players, meaning that there will be no free agents or trades that go on-a feature that makes the NBA much more exciting. Sure, players can still transfer from university to university, but lineups will remain pretty consistent for the majority of teams, and there are fewer fluctuations in dominant teams and such.

Those who are good enough in college and who are fortunate enough to make it to the NBA can rest knowing that they will be financially secure for the rest of their lives. Those who don't make it will exit college with a poor education and little idea of what to do. Regardless of which side you are on regarding collegiate players and financial compensation, money is a huge deal in basketball, and it is one of the major differences between the two levels of competition.

Where Are All the Fans

Another significant difference between the NBA and college ball is the number of people that watch. Typically, viewing trends for college basketball are How regional. What I mean by this is that, those who watch college sports usually only watch the teams near them.

One key exception is when March Madness comes around. During this time, fans from all around the nation watch college basketball for the thrill of the playoffs. Other than that, views are mostly regional.

Professional basketball, however, has a much larger viewing base with fans around the world. This is because the NBA and its teams focus heavily on advertising. Also, fans are naturally compelled to watch the NBA due to its higher level of talent, which can make it a great deal more entertaining, although college basketball can be just as entertaining depending on the two teams involved.

Just as the NCAA's views surge during March Madness, the NBA's increase even more during playoff time. This is because playoffs are usually when the casual fans and bandwagoners begin keeping up with their team again. After all, the only point of the regular season is to qualify for the playoffs and earn a good seeding. You never know what could happen in the playoffs, which makes it much more interesting and exciting, although it can also reward the more undeserving teams.

While the NBA certainly has more dedicated fans, they don't necessarily have more fans than the NCAA. Most college teams will have the support of their entire student body as well as anyone who lives in their surrounding area. Even if you're not truly a basketball fan, chances are you have been to a basketball game before, whether it was in college or afterward.

In fact, the average attendance figures for college teams regularly outnumber those of the NBA teams. While this is partly because of the larger stadiums for some schools and the higher ticket prices for NBA matchups, NCAA fans also have their own respectable fan base, whether they are actual basketball fans or not.

The TV figures still skew in favor of the NBA, however, with the NBA Finals averaging around four million more viewers than the FInal Four. On average, TV viewership is higher for the NBA during the regular season than it is for college basketball, the numbers coming much closer when the playoffs arrive for both competitions.

Some could argue that NCAA basketball actually has more fans than the NBA, but you have to take into account the massive boost that they get from their own students. They might have more viewers, but the NBA is a more serious league, and that's also where you'll find the more dedicated basketball fans.

What's With All the Rule Changes?

With a difference in the level of play comes a difference in rules. From an extended 3-point line to a shorter shot clock, the NBA has some rules that change the game up a bit from college ball.

First off, we have debatably the most noticeable difference in rules -- the 3-point line. At the college level, the 3-point arc is 20 feet and 9 inches long, while the 3-point line in the NBA is a good bit longer at 23 feet and 9 inches. This requires players to hone their shooting skills before entering the league if they wish to be a dominant force. It also makes shooting from behind the arc less common with most NBA teams preferring to dominate from inside the paint and shoot jumpers.

Next, we have the game time format. In the NCAA, the game is split into two halves with 20 minutes each. The NBA, however, has a longer playtime with four quarters of 12 minutes. This means that the big league requires the game to go on for a whole eight more minutes. While this might seem like an obscure difference, a lot can actually happen during that time. Also, this means that players should be in great athletic shape to be able to grind for those last few, crucial minutes of play.

Another game-changing difference from both levels is the shot clock. In the NCAA, there is a 30-second shot clock while the NBA's is shorter at 24 seconds. This means that teams in the NBA must focus on having a better and more efficient offense in order to get a shot off in a lesser amount of time. Also, the shot clock difference makes the big league faster-paced, which overall makes it a good deal more entertaining.

NCAA competitors can't really afford to play as aggressively as NBA players can, due to them being ejected from the game after five personal fouls. Professional players can play a bit more freely thanks to them being allowed six personal fouls until they're kicked out. This makes the NBA game a bit more physical. An example of where this rule is taken advantage of is with big players like DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard dominating the paint with their size and athleticism.

Another huge difference between the NCAA and NBA is the defensive zoning rule. In the NCAA, there is no violation for those standing in the post for more than three seconds. This changes the defensive aspect of the game a good deal from the NBA, where you are penalized for doing so. The complications of zone defense and their rules are heightened in the NBA, making defense a much more complex affair than it is in college ball.

As the NBA is on an entirely different level from the average college ball, the rules also make it harder for the players. Stricter shot clocks, an extended three point line, and some extra violations and rules all make it harder for the pro players to execute their game. Whether this makes the NBA more or less entertaining is up to you.


NBA and college ball are still the same sport, but there are some huge differences between the two. Overall, the NBA is on a much larger scale than the NCAA; they have more fans, more money, and better players.

Still, both are incredibly exciting to watch, and they each entertain millions of people each week. Which one do you like best?