How many quarters in college basketball? Basketball fans may be used to seeing action split into four quarters but that’s not how it works in the world of men’s college basketball. The NCAA Tournament does a great job of bringing eyes to the sport of college basketball each year.
The excitement of filling out a bracket and watching it go bust is universal, regardless of if you’re a super fan or someone who just loves the madness.
For fans who are used to watching pro basketball or seeing it played in other forms, it can be slightly strange to catch a college game and see 20 minute periods on the clock.
How many quarters in college basketball?
In fact, there are no quarters in college basketball. There are only two halves.
Each half is 20 minutes long and separated by halftime.
Within those 20-minute halves, there are some regular stoppages for games shown on television. Media timeouts are called at prearranged intervals depending on the agreement with the broadcaster.
So if you see a “2nd” on the score bug while watching the NCAA Tournament, don’t get tricked into thinking the game is still in the early stages. The “2nd” means “2nd half” and the game is actually almost over.
How Many Quarters Are There In College Basketball?
The answer here depends on whether or not you’re talking about men’s or women’s college basketball.
Women’s college basketball plays true four-quarter basketball, with each period lasting 10 minutes; men’s college basketball has two 20-minute halves instead of the traditional quarters setup.
Timing in Other Levels of Basketball Beyond College
Most college basketball levels outside of college – including high school leagues and the NBA – play quarters. The difference is generally in how long those quarters actually last.
For most high schools, quarters last eight minutes, or two minutes shorter than the college game.
For the NBA, quarters last 12 minutes, or two minutes longer than the college game.
How Long Does a College Basketball Game Last?
Regardless of whether it’s two, 20-minute halves or four, 10-minute quarters, a college basketball game usually runs about two hours of real time.
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Why NCAA Men’s Basketball Games Have Two Halves
After Naismith created the game, it was easy to see that two fifteen minute halves simply weren’t long enough for a high scoring, competitive game. In 1905, the rules were adjusted to what we now see in Men’s NCAA basketball – two twenty-minute halves.
In 1951, the rules were changed again, resulting in each contest having four ten-minute quarters of basketball for both the NBA and NCAA. But in 1954, the NCAA went back to playing halves while the NBA simply kept the new four-quarter rule and added two minutes to each – resulting in the current twelve-minute quarters that still exist today.
Basketball writers and Twitter commenters alike have many theories as to why the NCAA switched back to the original two halves of basketball. The most prominent theory is simple, though…
It makes the game more competitive.
Longer halves means less stoppages during a game, leading to more scoring opportunities, a steady pace and flow, and closer games between a wider range of teams. Even in 1954, they were trying to help make the “Cinderella Stories” happen.
That rule has led to more excitement spectators and a more competitive atmosphere among the 1,000+ colleges competing at the NCAA level. All of these factors have contributed to larger viewership for individual games and one of the most lucrative tournaments in all of sports: March Madness.
Halves vs. Quarters: How They Effect The Rules
The largest effect the Halves vs. Quarters debate has in the game of basketball is related individual and team fouls, and the free throws offered from bonuses.
At the NCAA collegiate level, a team reaches the “1:1 Bonus” when their opponents reach 7 fouls per half. The 1:1 Bonus means with each subsequent foul, the fouled player gets one free throw – or two free throws if they make the first.
Once a team reaches ten fouls, the opposing team moves to the “Double Bonus” – meaning with each subsequent foul, the opposite team gets to shoot two free throws, instead of the single free throw guaranteed with a 1:1 bonus.
In the NBA, the team shoots two free throws after five fouls that reset at the end of each quarter. The simple change in team fouls and bonus free throws has a large effect on the game’s momentum and scoring.
The only other real consequence of halves vs. quarters falls on media timeouts that directly translates to overall revenue for an organization.
When playing two halves basketball is able to have four TV timeouts, with quarters it is reduced to three TV timeouts. While this doesn’t affect the rules of the game directly, we all know that revenue and dollar signs are a driving force behind many decisions in professional and college sports.
Basketball Fans Weigh In On The Debate
The debate of halves vs. quarters in NCAA basketball wouldn’t be a true debate without feedback from loyal spectators, but it is not as black and white as one might think. NCAA fans are truly divided on their feelings of watching four quarters of basketball or two halves.
In terms of flow of the game, fans are cut down the middle on whether moving to quarters will increase or decrease the flow of the game. While it might cut down on foul calling and bonus opportunities with free throws, having more breaks in a four quarter game seems counterproductive when addressing less stoppage time.
There was a large debate at the 2021 committee meeting for rule changes to NCAA Men’s basketball, including “Introduce quasi quarters by resetting team fouls at 10-minute mark of each half. Begin double bonus on fifth foul within each 10-minute segment. This eliminates the one-and-one free throw”.
Only time will reveal the true nature of how these proposals play out.
The Future Structure of Basketball Games
Committees meet regularly to discuss new rule proposals and current rule changes to ensure that the game we all love so much stays that way. Members of the committee are passionate about optimizing player abilities, increasing viewership, and overall interest in the game of basketball.
Based on the historical track record of halves vs. quarters in basketball, it seems that this debate will continue to fuel the opinions of fans in all organizations of the game.
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