Basketball is played at several different levels. Depending on the level of basketball, the rules and time frames may vary.
The average NCAA Men’s basketball game takes two hours or more. Meanwhile, an NCAA Women’s basketball game usually concludes in two hours or less. The length of each game depends on how many timeouts coaches use, the number of player fouls, and the flow of the game.
Why do basketball games vary so much? Depending on who is playing, different time rules apply. Keep reading to learn about how long NCAA basketball games are.
NCAA Men’s Basketball
To understand why NCAA Men’s basketball games take two hours or more from start to finish, we first have to begin by learning the rules of the game.
If you played basketball in Middle School, you may remember that there were four quarters, each of which was eight minutes long with a 15-20 minute half time in the middle. The same does not apply to NCAA Men’s college basketball.
Men’s college basketball consists of two halves, each 20 minutes long. These longer periods give the players more time to run their plays. Between the two halves is a 15-minute halftime. But wait, with only 40 minutes of playtime, how does the game extend to over two hours? Even with the 15-minute halftime, that is still less than an hour.
The length of the college basketball game is extended by timeouts, fouls, free throws, and the number of times the ball goes out of bounds.
College basketball coaches get four timeouts each game. One of the timeouts lasts for a full minute (usually reserved for the second half) and the other three are only 30 seconds. If both coaches use all their timeouts, this brings us to a total of 60 minutes, including playtime and halftime. That’s still far from two hours.
Well, the coaches are not the only ones who get timeouts. The median age in which we live has influenced the rules of basketball, so now the TVs get timeouts too! However, the rules of these timeouts are a bit more complicated than the coaches.
There are eight TV timeouts per game (four in each half). A TV timeout only takes place if there is a stop in play after the clock hits 16 minutes. TV timeouts cannot be within the same four-minute stretch of each other. For example, say the ball goes out of bounds at the 15-minute mark. If play does not stop again until after the four-minute mark, there will only be two TV timeouts in that half of the game.
Each TV timeout is one minute long during the normal season. During the semifinals and finals of the season, the timeouts are extended to two minutes. This adds at most eight minutes to normal season games and 16 minutes to semifinals and final games. Counting the TV timeouts, coach timeouts, playtime, and half time, that brings the total time to 68 minutes during the regular season and 76 during the semifinals and finals.
Where does all the extra time come from? When the ball goes out of bounds the clock stops until play resumes. However, this only adds a few seconds each time (usually). Most of the remaining time is accumulated through fouls and free throws.
When one player fouls another, the clock stops, and the player affected by the foul gets to shoot one or two free throws. Most players take their time with these shots, adding significant amounts of time to the game’s length. The majority of the basketball game is spent on these moments.
NCAA Women’s Basketball
In total, NCAA Women’s Basketball games last for two hours or less. NCAA Women’s Basketball does not follow the same time rules as the Men’s division, even though they are at the same level. So how does the women’s time structure vary from the men’s?
The men’s and women’s basketball gams used to follow the same structure; however, in 2015, the NCAA announced that they would transition women to a different format. This announcement also created an exception to the 10-second backcourt counting rule, as well as other rule changes.
NCAA Women’s Basketball follows the structure we are most accustomed to. Each game is comprised of four quarters. Each quarter lasts for 10 minutes. But, that means each half is 20 minutes long just like the men’s games. So then why are the women’s games shorter?
In between the second and third quarters, there is a 15-minute long halftime. Additionally, in between the first and second, as well as the third and fourth quarter, there is a brief intermission. However, each break lasts for only about a minute. Before accounting for gameplay or timeouts, a women’s NCAA basketball game is just about 57 minutes long.
In an NCAA women’s basketball game, each coach receives a timeout of one full minute and three 30 second timeouts. If all the timeouts are used, this adds five minutes to the game time. However, if a team takes longer than the allotted time it could increase game time slightly. This occurrence is rare and usually results in a penalty.
Like the men’s games, NCAA women’s basketball games also account for TV timeouts. After the clock hits five minutes in each quarter, the first dead ball will trigger a TV timeout. (Occasionally, the TV timeout will take place during a team timeout when taken before the first five minutes of the quarter are over. This brings us to a total of 66 minutes.
Remember, TV timeouts are longer during the semifinals and finals of every season. This brings the game to a total of 70 minutes. From this number, it is easier to see how the women’s games are two hours or less. Team fouls reset after each quarter. For this reason, the women usually spend less time than the men shooting bonus free throws. This greatly reduces the game time compared to the men’s. When there is less stopping and restarting, it makes sense that things would move along faster!