Basketball is a sport that is loved all over the world, and there are many versions of the game. However, the most popular basketball return system are the ones seen in colleges and universities and in professional leagues. 

If you’re an avid basketball fan, you can’t help but wonder if there are major differences between college basketball and professional basketball. For one thing, in professional basketball, you’d get the chance to test your skills against some of the best basketball players in the world.

But what about the other differences between college basketball and professional basketball? We’ve highlighted them in this post.

What is college basketball?

College basketball is a sport played by student-athletes who are also enrolled in a college or university. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the organization that is in charge of regulating college basketball. 

There are three levels of competition in college basketball: Division I, Division II, and Division III. The most common level of college basketball is Division I. Each college and university determines which level of competition their teams will be in.

What is professional basketball?

Professional basketball is a sport played by professional athletes who are paid to play the sport. The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the organization that is in charge of regulating professional basketball. 

Professional basketball teams have a regular season from late October to mid-April. There are 30 teams in the NBA. At the end of the regular season, the teams with the best 16 records advance to the playoffs, which are held every year from mid-April to mid-June.

The Differences between College and Professional Basketball 

1. Participating teams

In college basketball, hundreds of teams play the sport all over North America. The NCAA is responsible for ensuring that each team is eligible to play in their conference and division. 

In professional basketball, thirty teams play in the NBA. There are also teams in the NBA G League that play in the same geographical area as NBA teams and some in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). 

2. Shot clock

In college basketball, the shot clock is 30 seconds. In NBA games, the shot clock is 24 seconds. The shot clock is reset to 24 seconds after a foul is called, when the ball goes out of bounds, or when the ball is awarded to another team.

3. The length of the match

In college basketball, the time length of a match is 40 minutes. In the NBA, each game is 48 minutes long. The length of a match in professional basketball also varies depending on the time of year, time of day, whether or not the match is televised, and which half of the season it is.

4. Paint width under the hoop.

In college basketball, the paint area under the basket is 10 feet. In professional basketball, this space has been decreased to an 8-foot width. This decrease was designed to increase scoring in sets and quarters during minutes of play, such as bonus periods or 4th quarter situations when teams are ahead by a maximum of 15 points with less than 6 minutes left on their game clock (a similar situation that occurs at many high school varsity games).

5. Fouls

In college basketball, technical fouls are limited to two per game. Such a limit was put in place at the request of many coaches, athletic directors, and referees so that teams are not penalized for continually running up their total number of permissible team technical fouls when it does not affect play on the court or adversely impact either team’s chances at victory.

However, in professional basketball, the number of technical fouls is increased to 5. In both college and professional basketball games under FIBA rules, when a personal or flagrant foul is committed against an opposing player(s) and goes uncalled by official on-court referees in such a game (either intentionally or unintentionally), possession will be awarded automatically to that team’s opponents at their next offensive set after the opponent’s first time being granted free throws for the said infraction.

6. Value-for-money 

The NBA generates more revenue than the NCAA. Television deals in the NBA bring in revenue that is much greater than the revenue generated by the NCAA. The revenue generated by the NBA is distributed to its teams and its players. In the NCAA, the revenue generated is distributed to the schools, their players, and their coaching staff in salaries.


So there you have it! This was our comparison between college basketball and professional basketball. Whether you’re coaching basketball shooting, or you’re a college player or a professional player, you need to know the differences between college and professional basketball; you need to know the nuances in the basketball hoop return and the respective rules.