NCAA Hoops: How Long Is A College Basketball Game?

We know that college basketball is exciting and fun to watch. We know that we’re often seeing the future of basketball every time we tune into a game. Yet some might be newer to the sport or they may not know the differences between college basketball & what you might see in the NBA. Perhaps, they may not be able to answer the question “How long is a college basketball game?”

We wanted to settle this issue and make sure everyone understands the factors that determine how long college basketball games last. Keep in mind as well that NCAA basketball is not just about the men, as women also play the sport in college. Therefore, we plan to touch on college basketball entirely, both the men’s and women’s games. With that said, let’s get started!


The average length of college basketball games can last anywhere between 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours and 15 minutes. The specific “time of play” is set at 40 minutes. However, those 40-minute games are not just a continuous 40 minutes of play. The 40 minutes of play are interrupted and drawn out by timeouts, fouls, free throws, halftime, dead balls, the last 60 seconds of regulation and overtime. Most networks that are showing a game tend to carve out 2 to 2.5 hours of time just in case a game goes longer than expected.

Televised College Basketball Games:

Televised games are slightly longer than non televised games due to media timeouts. Men’s media timeouts are triggered after a stoppage of play at the under 16, 8, 12 and 4 minute mark in each half. Women’s media timeouts are triggered at the under 5 minute mark of each quarter. Media timeouts cannot be any longer than 60 or 75 seconds (as determined by the media agreement) maximum! You might see one occur as a player is fouled, the ball goes out of bounds, or pretty much any stoppage point in which there is a dead ball during a game.

Non-Televised College Basketball Games:

Most games are televised in some form when it comes to Division-1 basketball. During broadcast games teams are allowed three 30-second timeouts, one 60-second timeout plus media timeouts. However, let’s say there is no media coverage.The under 16, 12, 8, 5, 4 minute rules regarding media timeouts are not present.

Instead, a team has a total of 6 timeouts overall during the entire regulation point. This consists of four “full timeouts” at 75 seconds each. They also have two timeouts at 30 seconds each.

Televised or not there is a 40-minute time of play for normal regulation in men and women’s college basketball. However, there is a major variation in the way the regulation of time is played out. It’s a difference of basketball quarters and basketball halves.


In women’s college basketball, there have usually been 2 halves. However, in 2015, the NCAA approved the idea of women’s college basketball quarters being changed to 4 quarters just like in the professional WNBA. The quarter method only applies to women’s college basketball.


If you check the professional game in the NBA & WNBA, you’ll see a cool 4 quarter system. They play a bit differently with women having 10-minute quarters while the men have quarters at 12 minutes each. In the international basketball scene, such as in a lot of European leagues or FIBA, the quarter length is set at 10 minutes. You’ll likely see this used in the Summer Olympics or World Championships too.

In women’s college basketball, they observe the same WNBA and FIBA length, as they only do 10-minute quarters. This seems to work for the women’s game, and it makes sense. It is what all the professionals use and therefore, the transition from college to professional is relatively seamless at least from a game length perspective. If only women are given the quarter system in college basketball, what do the men use?


For men, things operate a bit differently. Around 1891, when James Naismith formed the game and it translated into college, they played two halves. This method was used in the college and even professional levels. The pros later changed things up heavily, especially the NBA. They moved to 4 quarters yet college basketball never changed the half-method for the men’s game.

This college basketball halves method has been in play since college basketball began. In spite of what we see in the women’s college basketball scene, the NCAA seems to be against changing the men’s college basketball game at all. It could be due to sponsorships or possibly the television deals they have signed. As of now, the two half method is not going to change.


When Naismith originally used the half to half system, he set them each for 15-minutes. There would also be a 5-minute break in-between. This changed up a bit several years later. For example, the men use the half method but moved to 20 minutes per half.

This added more time to help extend-out games, which people wanted. Yet it also did not stress out the players to have 5 more minutes per half and 10 minutes added overall. In fact, men liked this new college basketball quarter length or, well, half-length. Most feel it prepared them for the 4 quarter play in the NBA.

In the NBA however, they use the 4 quarter system with 12 minutes used in each quarter. This totals just 8 extra minutes more in the time of play compared to college. Of course, the speed of the game also has a lot to do with the “exact length” a game will go. However, as far as “time of play” is concerned, the difference is exactly 8 minutes.


Ah yes, halftime. The time players get to rest in the game and/or game plan for the next half. Of course, women’s college basketball takes their halftime after the second quarter. Men naturally take their halftime after the first half.

The length of time halftime happens to be has been changed up a lot. As mentioned beforehand, it was once all of 5 minutes long. Today, you’ll see men get a halftime break at around 15 minutes in length. However, during the big NCAA Tournament or “March Madness” Tournament, they are given 5 minutes longer. Thus bringing them to 20-minute halves during the tournament ONLY.

The same halftime length is also observed by women’s college basketball as well. This is not too far off of the pros in the NBA & WNBA.


Ties at the end of regulation are not uncommon in college basketball. This is why the NCAA instituted the overtime rule. If a game ends in a tie during regulation, overtime of 5 minutes will be added. The players will have a one-minute intermission between regulation and the first overtime, and other one-minute regulations should the game continue to go into overtime.

While there had been a length on how many overtimes were allowed, this does not seem to be the case any longer for NCAA Basketball OT. The NCAA said in their rulebook that: Players will play “as many overtime periods as necessary are played until, at the end of any extra period, the score is not tied.”

It is not unheard of to see more than one overtime during a game, but usually, teams do not go beyond two. Although this has happened in the past, the average is simply one to two overtimes at most. Both men and women observe this rule in college basketball.

In a nutshell the actual length of college basketball game or any basketball game in general comes down to how frequent the game clock is stopped!

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