College v. Pro: Do You Know the Difference in Basketball?


By: Jonnathan Chadwick

6 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons by Keith Allison

About This Quiz

Basketball has been one of the world's most popular sports for decades. Although it's not as popular as the NFL and MLB in America, it ranks ahead of both baseball and football in terms of worldwide numbers. It's played all over the globe at every age and skill level. In the United States, most basketball fans are fans of the NBA or the NCAA or both.

Each league has its pros and cons and basketball fans are aware of them. There's no denying the NBA is filled with the best basketball players in the world, but an argument can be made that the NCAA is filled with the world's hardest-working basketball players. They're all playing for free in hopes of making a name for themselves.

The biggest difference between the NBA and NCAA is that NBA players are paid and college players aren't supposed to be. Both leagues rake in tons of cash but the NCAA pales in comparison to the NBA. Every NBA team is worth at least a billion dollars. Only a handful of college teams generate even $30 million a year and there are more than 350 basketball programs in NCAA Division I basketball.

Other than the pay gap, there's a bunch of rules unique to each league. If you're a fan of basketball, you probably know most of the rules., but do you know all the differences between college and professional basketball?

It's not unusual for an NBA game to last a few hours, but how long is the actual gameplay?

All NBA games are divided into four 12-minute quarters to equal 48 minutes of gameplay. College basketball games are divided into two 20-minute halves to total 40 minutes of gameplay. Both games take a lot longer because of game stoppages.


Before the invention of the shot clock, there were a lot of low-scoring basketball games. What's the shot clock duration in college basketball?

The NCAA didn't implement the shot clock until 1985 and it initially ran for 45 seconds. Its duration was shortened to 35 seconds in the mid '90s and today runs for 30 seconds. The NBA shot-clock duration is 24 seconds.


It seems like basketball games stop every few minutes. How many timeouts does each NBA team get per game?

Each NBA team gets seven 75-second timeouts per game and there are two mandatory stoppages per quarter. If no team calls a timeout by a certain time, the ref will stop the game and charge a timeout to the home team first, and then the visiting team.


How many timeouts do college teams get per game?

The college game is slightly shorter than the NBA game so each team is only given four 75-second timeouts and two 30-second timeouts per game. If the game is televised, there are an additional four stoppages per half for commercial breaks.


How many fouls does it take to get fouled out of an NBA game?

High school and college basketball players only get five fouls before getting fouled out of the game and NBA players get six. Although NBA players are more skilled, they get more leniency because nobody wants to see their favorite star fouled out of the game.


There are dozens of defunct teams in the NBA's history. How many teams are currently in the NBA?

The newest NBA team is the New Orleans Pelicans. The team joined the league in 2002, giving the NBA 30 teams across the country. The Toronto Raptors are the only Canadian NBA team since the Vancouver Grizzlies moved to Memphis in 2001.


The NBA is split into the Eastern and Western conferences. How many conferences are in NCAA Division I basketball?

There are more college basketball conferences than there are NBA teams! More than 350 basketball teams are spread across 32 Division I conferences in America. Conference champions are rewarded with a spot in the March Madness tournament.


Intensity ramps up during the postseason. How many teams make the NBA playoffs?

The top eight teams from each conference advance to the NBA postseason. Every round of the NBA postseason is a best-of-seven series and the highest-ranked seed begins by playing the lowest-ranked seed.


How much time does an NBA player have to get the ball across half court?

College players have 10 seconds to advance the basketball across half court and NBA players only have eight seconds. The 10-second rule was uniform across all basketball leagues in the country until the NBA changed its rule in 2002.


How far away is an NBA three-pointer?

The three-point line wasn't implemented across the NBA and NCAA until the 1980s. The line's distance changed over the years, but today is 23 feet and nine inches from the center of the basket. The line is only 22 feet from the basket at the corners.


What popular sporting goods brand provides the official basketball for the NBA?

The game of basketball was invented by James Naismith in Springfield, MA. Naismith asked A.G. Spalding to create the game's first official basketballs and the NBA has used Spalding basketballs for decades. Today it's the official NBA game ball. Wilson makes the official game ball for the NCAA March Madness tournament.


College basketball referees wear the common black-and-white uniform. What colors do NBA officials wear?

Referees from many sports leagues are known for their zebra-patterned uniforms, but NBA referees wear a grey shirt and black pants while officiating games. Referees in the NFL and NHL also wear black-and-white uniforms.


How are jump ball situations resolved in college basketball?

The NBA resolves jump ball situations by having the involved players jump for a tossed ball. The NCAA uses a possession arrow. The possession arrow points to the team that lost the opening tip and then alternates after every jump ball situation.


If a college basketball team commits its seventh foul of the half, how is the opposing team rewarded?

College basketball teams can commit six fouls a half before the opposing team enters the "bonus." Teams in the bonus get one free throw and another free throw if the first is made. After ten fouls, the bonus team is awarded two free throws for every foul.


How many fouls does it take to enter the bonus situation in the NBA?

An NBA team enters the "bonus situation" after being fouled five times per quarter. The foul count resets every quarter. If the quarter is coming to an end, a team enters the bonus after being fouled twice in the last two minutes.


Millions of people around the world watch college basketball. How much money does the March Madness tournament make each year?

The NCAA March Madness tournament generates about $1 billion a year. The NBA generates more than $7 billion dollars per year, and the average NBA team is worth more than $1.5 billion. The most valuable NCAA basketball teams generate about $30 to $50 million per year.


Every sports league has its own trophies. What's the NBA championship trophy?

The NBA championship trophy was named after the founder of the Boston Celtics (Walter A. Brown) until it was renamed after the NBA commissioner in 1984. The March Madness trophy isn't named after anyone. The trophy is made of wood and features gold plating.


The maximum amount of players allowed on an NBA team is 15. What's the maximum amount of scholarship players allowed on a college basketball team?

College basketball relies on recruiting and the NCAA implements strict recruiting rules. There can only be 13 scholarship players on a college basketball team at once. Most college teams also have a few walk-ons on the roster.


If an NBA player runs the shot clock down to one second, shoots a brick and gets his own rebound, what does the shot clock reset to?

The shot clock resets to 14 seconds on second attempts in the NBA and it resets to 20 seconds in college basketball. Both leagues shave 10 seconds off the clock on offensive rebounds since that's the amount of time allocated for crossing half court.


A technical foul isn't as bad as a flagrant foul but it's worse than a personal foul. What's the penalty for a technical foul in the NBA?

The rules surrounding fouls in both the NBA and college basketball have evolved over the decades. Today there are many different types of fouls in both leagues and some come down to the referee's discretion. Flagrant fouls are the most serious and personal fouls are the least serious.


The rectangle from the foul line to the baseline is known as the key. How wide is the key on an NBA court?

NBA and official NCAA Division I basketball courts are both 94 feet long and 50 feet wide, but some of the lines on the court differ slightly. One of the biggest differences is the restricted area known as the key. NCAA keys are 12 feet wide.


What NBA team has won the most championships?

As of 2020, the Boston Celtics have 17 NBA championships and the LA Lakers have 16 championships. The Lakers are favorites to win the NBA championship in 2020 and could tie the Celtics. The two teams last faced off in the 2010 NBA Finals when the Lakers won.


The Boston Celtics have 17 NBA championships. Do you know what college team has the most championships?

Coach John Wooden and the UCLA Bruins won 10 March Madness championships from 1964 to 1975. That team went undefeated in four seasons and set the longest win streak in NCAA men's college basketball with 88 consecutive wins. The team has a total of 11 championships.


There are more than 350 college basketball teams. How many of them make the March Madness tournament?

The 32 conference champions automatically get invited to the March Madness tournament. The NCAA then awards bids to 36 teams based on regular-season performance. The teams are divided into four regions and ranked one through 16 in each region.


Basketball is played all over the world at all different levels. Which league started first?

It's unknown exactly when the first basketball game was played, but colleges were playing basketball games in the 1890s. The first March Madness tournament was in 1939 and the first NBA game was played in 1946. The Oregon Webfoots won the first March Madness championship.


The most points scored by a single player in an NCAA basketball game was 138. What is the most points scored by a single player in an NBA game?

Wilt Chamberlain famously scored 100 points against the New York Knicks in what's considered one of the most unbreakable records in all of sports. Division III player Jack Taylor scored 138 points in a game in 2012, which is the NCAA record. He also scored 109 in a game the next season.


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored the most points in NBA history. Who's scored the most points in NCAA Division I basketball history?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 38,387 points in the NBA and also set a bunch of NCAA Division I basketball records, but he didn't score the most points in college basketball. "Pistol" Pete Maravich averaged more than 44 points per game for LSU over three seasons and scored a total of 3,667 points in his career.


Pete Maravich averaged the most points per game in NCAA Division I history. Who averaged the most points per game in NBA history?

Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game in the 1961-62 NBA season, which is the same season he dropped 100 points in a game against the New York Knicks. Pete Maravich averaged 44.2 points per game for LSU for three seasons from 1968 to 1970.


Only four players have recorded a quadruple-double in NBA history. How many players have recorded a quadruple-double in NCAA Division I basketball history?

Lester Hudson is the only player in NCAA Division I basketball history to record a quadruple-double, which he did in 2007. The last quadruple-double in the NBA was in 1994 when David Robinson accomplished the feat.


Bill Russell won 11 NBA Championships. Who won the most NCAA Division I basketball championships?

There are dozens of NBA players with both an NBA championship and an NCAA championship, but Kareem has the most NCAA championships with three. The UCLA Bruins won 10 championships in 12 seasons and Kareem wasn't the only player who won multiple rings during that run, but he's the most famous.


Why is it difficult for NBA teams to play zone defense?

College basketball teams like Syracuse are defined by zone defenses, but NBA teams rarely use the technique. Zone defense was once outlawed in the NBA. Today it's legal, but no defensive player can stand in the key for three seconds or more without guarding a specific player, so it makes it difficult. College basketball doesn't have a defensive three-second rule.


How many games are in an NBA season?

The NBA season consists of 82 regular-season games and a four-round post-season. The most games a team can play is 110. A team would have to make the playoffs and then play a game seven in every single round to achieve 110 games.


How many March Madness games does a team need to win in order to win the championship?

Unless you're one of the "First Four" teams, you have to win six March Madness games to win it all. If you play in the very first round, you'll have to win seven games to win it all. An NBA team needs to win 16 games to win the post-season.


Every college basketball team plays a different number of games. About how many games does each team play during the season?

An NCAA Division I basketball team plays a standard schedule of 27 or 29 games a season plus any tournaments the school participates in. Most schools play about 30 games a season. The maximum games a college team can play is about 43.


The NCAA is filled with student-athletes. How many hours per week can college athletes play sports?

The NCAA limits student-athletes to participate in athletics no more than 20 hours per week, but there are exceptions to the rule. Professional basketball players are expected to dedicate their lives to basketball and spend more than 20 hours a week on the sport.


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