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How long is a College Basketball game?

ncaa college basketball length

For those unfamiliar with college basketball, there are many differences when comparing the game to the NBA.

To begin with, the NCAA three-point line is closer to the hoop by slightly over 1.5 feet. 

If you want to get technical, the gap is exactly 1 foot, 7¼ inches less from the top of the arc.

Next up is the shot clock. College ball allows up to 30 seconds per possession - a whole six seconds more than the NBA (24s). 

And rather than playing four quarters, college basketball is split into two halves only.

The length of the halves doesn’t even add up to the full NBA game clock. Note that NBA quarters are 12 minutes in length, for a total of 48 minutes.

At least the NCAA shares halftime in common.

But let’s get back to the topic on hand…

How long is a College Basketball game?

The length of a college basketball game is 40 minutes, or 2 halves of 20 minutes. If the score is tied after forty minutes, the game will extend to a 5-minute overtime. The team with the most points at the end of overtime is declared the winner. If the game remains tied another overtime is added and so on.

But this is just time set on the official game clocks.

When you factor in halftime, timeouts and other stoppages such as fouls, turnovers and free throws, the game extends well beyond the 40-minute game clock.

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How long does a college Basketball game last in real time?

From tip-off until the end of the game, you are looking at 2 hours and 10 minutes of game time.

During March Madness, 5 minutes is added to the halftime intermission for a total of 20 minutes. 

As a result, the games may take a bit longer. 

But you wouldn’t notice the difference due to the hysteria surrounding the tournament.

This is when college students sport their team colors, bandwagon fans jump out of the wood works and spring is just around the corner. 

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Did College Basketball games always last 40 minutes?

When basketball was first created, the game started with two halves of 15-minutes, even for college hoops.

The rules were initially changed in 1905, in which the halves were adjusted to two 20-minute halves.

In 1951, the game was split into four 10-minute quarters. But that would be short-lived.

Three years later in 1954, the NCAA returned to the 2x20-minute halves while the NBA adopted the 4x12-minute quarters. 

How long is Overtime in College Basketball?

Just as in the NBA, overtime in college basketball is 5-minutes in length.

If the score remains tied after the first overtime, the game will continue to a second and so on. Just like the NBA, college games must end with a winner in both regular season and playoffs. 

And just like at the start of the game, the overtime period begins with a tip-off to determine who gets initial possession of the ball. 

Still, there are a different set of rules for overtime when comparing college ball with the NBA. 

If you want to learn more about NCAA overtime, make sure to check out my blog post here. 

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Longest College Basketball Ever

The longest game in college history took place back in 1981 between the Cincinnati BearCats and the Bradley Braves of the NCAA Division I League. 

The game ended with a final score of 75-73 in favor of the Bearcats at the Robertson Memorial Field House in Peoria, Illinois.

They played a total of two halves and seven (yes, x7) overtime periods.

In total, the game lasted 75 minutes in playing time.

The main reason may have been because, the NCAA had not implemented the shot clock rules at the time. 

There are three other NCAA games that have reached six overtime periods. Those include Niagara defeating Siena 88–81 in 1953, Minnesota defeating Purdue 59–56 in 1955, with the most recent being Syracuse defeating Connecticut 127–117 in 2009.  

Final Thoughts

The amount of time you need to reserve for a college basketball game depends on whether you plan to attend the event or watch it on television.   

If you plan to attend in person, consider the commute from your current location (i.e. home, work) to the venue.   

If you’re a student and live on campus, then the commute is a walk from your dorm to the stadium. 

There is typically a bottleneck at the venue entrance, where everyone gets their tickets scanned.   

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The walk from the entrance to your seat can add another 5 minutes.   

Did you consider refreshments along the way? 

You might be hungry since the game falls right around supper time.   

But don’t stress if you arrive past the marked time on the tickets.   

First off, the doors are open throughout the first half, probably even the second.   

Moreover, tip-off starts a little past the ticket time.    

The delay is about 7-10 minutes long to allow for the team introduction, lineup, and the anthem(s).     

And as we’ve already discussed, the average NCAA game length is two hours and 10 minutes, or a little extra during March Madness.   

When planning to watch the game on TV, you can wait to flip the channel on after 7-10 minutes past the scheduled start time.   

While the TV station puts together an introduction prior to tip-off, you can always skip it if you want.   

I like listening to the commentators, as they are stoked for the entire month. It’s an elimination tournament – what more can you ask for?

Sit back, relax and get a sneak peek and the up-and-coming NBA stars. 

You’ll be glad you watched them before they get signed to both lucrative NBA contracts and sponsorships.