How Long Is a College Basketball Game? (NCAA)

I’ve seen many people asking in online forums about the duration of a college basketball game (in NCAA). On average, an NCAA basketball game is a bit shorter than an NBA game. Exactly how long a college basketball game depends on many factors.

How long is a college basketball game in the NCAA? A typical college basketball game (NCAA) lasts around 2 hours. Each game has two 20-minute halves and a 15-minute halftime break. There are also many other factors that make the game go longer such as fouls, free throws, and timeouts.

Certain unforeseeable circumstances in a basketball game are often the reasons why a basketball game stretches for hours. Read on to learn more about how long a college basketball game is and the factors that affect its length.

How Long Is a College Basketball Game?

Next to the NBA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association or NCAA is another basketball organization in the United States. This organization is the major provider of basketball talents for the NBA and other professional basketball leagues abroad.

With only two halves and one 15-minute break at halftime, an NCAA basketball game should only last for 55 minutes. However, this is not often the case. Most NCAA basketball games take about two hours to finish.

Longer games are due to several unforeseen but expected factors that happen during a game. One of them is foul calls. Additional time is also consumed when the ball goes out of bounds. Also, there is the usual fluffing of the foul shooters while on the free-throw line.

When you are watching college basketball on TV and not live on the court, you might spend two hours and 10 minutes before you hear the buzzer at the end of the game. If you are lucky, the game could go on overtime with an additional five minutes. But what if there are two or even three OTs?

The shot clock in men’s NCCA basketball games is 35 seconds. But team coaches have a way of stretching that short time to more than a minute if they want to. It is one of the many unforeseeable but expected things, which can come up in a particular ball game. These events can stretch the time to more than 55 minutes.

How Long Does a College Basketball Game Last on TV?

The typical time consumed by an NCAA ball game on TV is about 2 hours and 10 minutes. This time is broken down into 40 minutes of actual playing time, two 30-second timeouts for each team, and three full timeouts, giving a total of 48 minutes.

1. TV Timeouts

Since we are talking about TV coverage, you need to add TV timeouts. Televised coverage of an NCAA ball game allows two TV timeouts. Each TV timeout can take several minutes. If you allocate two minutes per TV timeout, that will add another eight minutes to the ball game, making the total time 56 minutes.

2. Free Throws

Statistics show that the average number of free throws in a ball game is 15 per team. On average, two free shots can take about 30 seconds to complete. On both sides of the court, each NCAA ball game could have 30 FTs.

At 30 seconds per FT, the total FT time could be somewhere around 15 minutes. You’ll have a total of 71 minutes if you add this time to the 56 minutes we have computed above. That is equivalent to one hour and 11 minutes.

Now, that is not the total overall time of the ball game yet. We still have to add the minutes allotted to the halftime break.

3. Halftime Break

To answer our question: “How long does a college basketball game last?” we have to factor in the halftime break. In college basketball, the halftime clock is set to 15-20 minutes. Add this time to the one hour and 11 minutes we have before, and you’ll have a total time of one hour and 31 minutes.

4. Overtime

The games could also go overtime. If the teams are neck and neck, expect more hacking fouls for each team. These fouls will result in more free throws and extended game time. So, the game could go on and on for hours.

5. TV Commercials and Interviews

When we are talking about TV coverage, there is also additional time allotted for TV commercials, including mandatory pre-game and post-game interviews. So, it is not unusual to expect two hours or more when watching an NCAA ball game on TV.

Furthermore, we still need to consider other things that usually happen in college basketball games. You can expect a lot of turnovers, running on and off the court, inbounds, change of possessions, and many more.

What Factors Affect the Length of NCAA College Basketball Games?

how long does a college basketball game last
How long do college basketball games last?

Below is a list of factors that affect how long a college basketball game lasts:

  • Two Halves – A game is played in two halves with 20 minutes allotted for each half.
  • Halftime Break – There is a halftime break, which is 15-20 minutes long.
  • Team Fouls – These fouls are allowed for the entire halftime period, unlike in the NBA, where there are team fouls for every quarter. College basketball does not have quarters, only halves. It could mean that more time is consumed due to more foul shots. Fouls will also slow down the pace of the game.
  • Timeouts – Each team is allowed four timeouts per game. Every time out is equivalent to 30 seconds. A team must use one timeout per half time because it is allowed to carry over three timeouts to the second half of the game. A lot of timeouts can consume nearly half an hour.
  • Ball Possessions – When there are changes in ball possession or when the ball hits the rim, the 30-second shot clock kicks in. The previous 35-second shot clock was scrapped to improve the game flow and increase ball possessions.
  • TV Timeouts – There are four TV timeouts scheduled for each half of the game. They come in when there is a break on the play after the 16, 12, 8, and 4-minute marks of every half. In case there is no stoppage in any of the 4-minute mark, the scheduled TV timeout will be skipped.
  • Strategic Fouls – It is common for a team running behind to commit fouls to stop the 30-second shot clock. Fouls will give the lagging team more time to strategize and catch up. However, these strategic fouls will also stretch the overall game time.
  • In-game Reviews – There would be typical in-game reviews any time during the game. Such is needed when there is doubt about the referee calls. The referees and game officials will review the footage of the call to confirm if a referee call is correct or incorrect. It is done to maintain the integrity of the game.

No wonder many observers have commented that NCAA basketball games are running far too long. Each time that any of the above events take place, the clock stops counting down. It means that if there are 10 or 12 seconds left, these remaining seconds will remain until the play starts again.

What Is the Actual Average Length of a College Basketball Game?

So how long are college basketball games on average? Usually, college basketball games last around one and a half-hour minimum. That includes the actual playing time of 40 minutes. The other time-consuming elements in a typical NCAA game, which should be added to the regulation time, are the following:

  • Coach Timeouts – Up to five timeouts for each coach. Each coach’s timeout lasts for 30 seconds (minimum). With two coaches, that brings up the total to 300 seconds or five minutes.
  • Halftime Breaks – One halftime break takes exactly 15 minutes for regular games, and 20 minutes for championship games.
  • Media Timeouts – Each of the nine media timeouts consumes at least 2-3 minutes. These timeouts add up to a total of 18-27 minutes.
  • Overtime – Overtime periods happen if the score is tied at the end of the regulation time. An additional five minutes is added until a team wins the game. If the score is still tied at the end of the first OT, another OT is added, and on it goes until one team wins. Winning teams on NCAA games can have as many as five OTs. On record, one team won after seven OTs. That game took four hours to complete.

What Is the Longest NCAA Game on Record?

Bradley Vs. Cincinnati (1981)

The longest NCAA basketball game on record happened on December 21, 1981. It was the game between Bradley and Cincinnati. The two teams were still tied after six OTs. It was only in the 7th OT period that Cincinnati prevailed over Bradley.

Interestingly, it was a low-scoring game at 75-73. The game started at about 7:30 p.m. and ended at approximately 11:20 p.m. That game was close to four hours.

Connecticut Vs. Syracuse (2009)

The second-longest NCAA basketball game on record was the game between Connecticut and Syracuse. It was a quarterfinal game of the 2009 Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament. The game was played on March 12, 2009.

It took the winning team six overtimes to beat the other team. The final score of this basketball game was 127–117 in favor of the Syracuse team. The game started at 9:36 p.m. on March 12 and ended at 1:22 a.m. on March 13. That game lasted for a total of three hours and 46 minutes.

Stats from the game showed 211 field goal attempts, with 103 of them in overtime. There were also 66 fouls committed, 93 free throws attempted, and eight players fouled out (four from both teams).

Who Establishes How Long an NCAA Basketball Game Should Be Played?

The game of basketball is managed and controlled, all over the world, by the International Basketball Federation or FIBA. Being in control of everything about basketball, this organization has the final say on how long a basketball game should be played.

This sports association can shorten or even lengthen the duration of the game. It can also hand down and implement corrective measures if rules are violated. The NCAA is one of the athletic organizations that are under the supervision of FIBA.

How to Understand the Length of an NCAA Basketball Game

how long are college basketball games
How long are college basketball games?

I have given you a lot of details about the length of a college basketball game, particularly in the NCAA. The details provided above may seem confusing to some, but they should not be. The challenge in measuring the length of a college basketball game stems from understanding the degree of competition between teams.

The higher the degree of competition, the longer the game will take. In other words, if it’s the finals that you are watching, be prepared for the long haul.

Always remember that the shot clock stops at every stoppage in play. That could make you wait several seconds before the game resumes. If you are planning to watch an NCAA game live on the court, allot time for at least two and a half hours. That doesn’t include your trip to and from the coliseum gate.

But relax. Although NCAA games take a lot of time to finish, they have a very absorbing nature that quickly passes the time.

Conclusion – How Long Is a College Basketball Game?

So, to recap, how long is a college basketball game? College basketball games often last about two hours. The regulation time of NCAA games is 50-55 minutes. College basketball games are played with just two 20-minute halves. There’s a break at halftime, which exactly takes 15 minutes.

So an NCAA basketball game should only last for no more than 50-55 minutes. However, as in any basketball game, whether it is played by amateur or professional players, the actual length of time depends on several unforeseeable but expected factors.