Basketball is one of the most popular sports in America, with millions of fans from around the country tuning in every week to watch professional and collegiate leagues compete. American college basketball is particularly fascinating, from the new young talent consistently showcasing their elite skills on the court to the immense excitement of March Madness every year as 68 teams go toe to toe to see who’s the best college in the country. In this article, we will break down everything you need to know about basketball in the American collegiate system and provide some crucial insights into the various sectors of the college sport.
Seasons and Divisions
NCAA basketball is split into three separate divisions, with 32 conferences in Division I, 24 in Division II, and 43 in Division III. Every division’s teams compete in between 25-35 regular season games, depending on the division, often running from November through to March. Regular season games are crucial as teams compete to earn wins, improve their rankings and qualify for the post-season tournaments. Once the regular season is concluded, the post-season begins, which in Division I is also referred to as the highly coveted March Madness. March Madness often runs from March 17th until April 4th and is a 68-team single-elimination tournament which determines the national champion. The timeframe of the Division II post-season is similar, but the tournament features 64 teams rather than 68, while Division III also has 64 teams competing in its post-season tournament, the tournament runs from early March through to mid-March. The NAIA regular season is roughly in the same time frame as the NCAA divisions, and the post-season often begins in late February to early March; however, only 32 teams play in the post-season tournament. Finally, the NJCAA’s timeframes in regard to regular and post seasons are similar to both the NCAA and NAIA; however, NJCAA Division I only has 24 teams which qualify for the championship tournament, division II has 16 teams, and Division III has only eight eligible teams.
Whether you’re a college basketball fan or an easy-going spectator, March Madness might just be the most exciting time in college sports. From the hotly debated matchups, buzzer beaters, and screaming fans, it sure lives up to its name. In 2022, the NCAA earned a pretty penny thanks to the tournament. The organisation made over a billion dollars in revenue entirely from March Madness. With the 68 absolute best teams in the NCAA roster of that given year, March Madness is the culmination of the entire season and winning the tournament can massively impact a program’s reputation and recruiting efforts. March Madness brackets are also a massive part of the occasion, with fans creating their own brackets and predictions for the tournament. Unfortunately, odds aren’t in their favour though, as the chance of correctly predicting a bracket is 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808! March Madness always has and will continue to captivate audiences and serve as a significant highlight of the sporting calendar year.
It’s no secret that the competition is fierce, as less than 1% of high school athletes will ultimately make it to the NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball level. But divisions 2, 3, NJCAA and NAIA stand as great alternatives which can still bring an abundance of resources. Here are some rules and regulations surrounding scholarships in Men’s and Women’s basketball in the American collegiate system:
More than just Basketball
With basketball being the third most popular sport in America, playing for a specific college will come with a lot of fans and pride. Successful college basketball teams work to instil a true sense of fulfilment in their communities as fans rally behind their local teams and feel a sense of true camaraderie with their fellow supporters. College basketball also helps to provide immense economic benefits for communities. Hosting college basketball tournaments brings in a significant amount of visitors from outside the local area where the college is located. Also, it may require improvements to local facilities such as convention centres or arenas which can also help attract other events and activities to the community, further supporting economic growth. This beautiful thing we call basketball not only serves as a form of entertainment for millions of fans around the world but can also play a significant role in the promotion of community development and bringing fans together for a common cause.
Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL)
Becoming a college basketball athlete is also a fantastic opportunity to learn and understand how to effectively brand yourself as an athlete and ensure that your image is as you desire it to be. Name, image, and likeness refers to the ability of a college athlete to profit off their own name, image, and likeness. Prior to recent policy changes, the NCAA prohibited any athlete from receiving any compensation apart from their scholarships which stopped them from earning any money from sponsorships, endorsements, etc. Since the college landscape has shifted to a more equitable and fair system which prioritises athletes by allowing them to profit off their NIL, they are able to capitalise on their talent and hard work. For example, the Cavinder twins, who currently play for the Miami Hurricanes, have taken the idea of NIL to an all-time high, partnering with companies such as Six Star Pro Nutrition, Boost Mobile, and Cameo. With over 3 million followers on TikTok, they have effectively leveraged their popularity and created a brand to monetise with their NIL.
When arriving in the States and playing your first game of basketball against a team that is as good as any team you’ve ever played before, or you’re guarding someone who you can’t seem to figure out, that is the only thing that is going to improve you as a basketball player. Playing college basketball will expose you to so many different play styles and levels of playing that you are bound to feed off of. Another benefit is getting out there on the court with like-minded people and doing what you love. It is guaranteed that you will build some awesome life-long connections with your teammates and peers. Playing alongside fellow basketball athletes who share the same passion for the sport that you do is bound to be a direct source of inspiration and motivation. Training rigorously for three years and consistently getting yourself into a competitive mindset will undoubtedly improve your game, but it will also allow you to develop teamwork and leadership opportunities that can be useful in all walks of life. Finally, the NBA Draft Combine is an extraordinary opportunity for college basketball players and international prospects eligible for the NBA draft. This multi-day event consists of athletic testing, drills, and scrimmages. Allowing NBA teams to evaluate their various basketball skills and discuss their potential to fit into the team. The combine provides data for NBA teams to further inform their draft decisions, which coincides with improving a player’s draft stock and making it a precious chance for athletes to improve their odds of being drafted.
John Dibartolomeo was an incredibly successful Division III basketball player who attended the University of Rochester. Finishing his college career as one of 5 players to ever be named the UAA Player of the Year twice, he now plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague and is a four-time Israeli League champion.
Another very recent example is the exceptional performance put on display by Angel Reese during the 2022-23 season as she led her LSU team to win the NCAA women’s basketball finals. With their recent win, Reese’s NIL has skyrocketed as she landed another deal with an artificial intelligence company, Caktus AI. Her social media following has nearly tripled to 3.6 million followers in recent weeks! She has also received countless words of praise from various current and former athletes, including Shaquille O’Neal, who made the bold claim that Reese is the greatest athlete to ever come out of LSU and insisted she is “way more athletic” than the LSU legend and current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, Joe Burrows. It’s clear that Reese is a top prospect in becoming a professional women’s basketball player, and her recent success has only cemented her further into that conversation.
During his freshman year, Kyle Lowry played all 33 games for Villanova, averaging 7.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game and helped lead Villanova to the NCAA Tournament, but they were eliminated in the Sweet 16. In his sophomore year, he became one of the top players in the Big East Conference. He averaged 11.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game and aided in leading Villanova to the NCAA Tournament once again before being drafted in by the Memphis Grizzlies after just two years. Lowry helped Villanova establish itself as a competitive college in the Big East Conference and became an NBA champion in 2019.
Whilst you have read about fantastic success stories of top-end student-athletes, the college system caters to all levels! With three sporting associations and multiple divisions, any athlete who plays competitively can find themselves a college opportunity in the American system. If you want to know what your chances are, we have free consultations. This is where we evaluate your academics and sporting levels and provide information on the possible scholarship you can earn!