NCAA vs NBA: The 5 core differences between college and NBA basketball

To most casual fans, the NCAA and NBA may seem similar on the surface, and it’s true they have more in common with one another they they do have differences. However when you dig deeper into both, there are several stark differences between the two basketball leagues. From eligibility to rules to team size to culture, pitting the NCAA vs. NBA shows that there’s a lot of variety between the two. 

Teams The most obvious difference is the amount of teams in each. The NBA has 30 teams while Men’s NCAA basketball has 353 teams in Division I alone. Though both divide their teams into multiple divisions (NBA) or conferences (NCAA) even the amount of teams featured in their post season playoffs is different. Technically only sixteen teams make the NBA Playoffs while there are 68 teams that make it into the annual March Madness bracket.

Eligibility One of the major differences between NCAA and NBA basketball lies in the eligibility requirements for players. To be eligible to play college basketball, a player must be enrolled in an accredited institution of higher learning and must maintain satisfactory academic progress throughout their collegiate career. Additionally, all NCAA athletes are subject to specific amateurism rules and regulations, as well as certain age, academic, and amateurism requirements. On the other hand, to be eligible for NBA basketball, a player must be 19 years old and at least one year removed from high school graduation.

In order to be eligible for NCAA basketball, a player must demonstrate academic excellence and dedication. All incoming student-athletes must prove that they are academically qualified by meeting established benchmarks in four core courses. In addition, a prospective student-athlete must also meet the minimum grade-point average (GPA) required by their institution in order to remain eligible.

Prospective NBA players, meanwhile, do not have to meet any academic requirements in order for them to be eligible for the draft, but do have to meet certain age or experience requirements.

Popularity The popularity of NBA basketball is vastly greater than that of NCAA basketball. While both leagues have a large fan base, the NBA enjoys a much wider and more global reach. This can be attributed to the fact that NBA teams feature some of the best professional athletes in the world, while college teams are made up of mostly amateur players. Additionally, the NBA has been more successful in marketing their product worldwide, resulting in higher ratings and viewership.

The NBA has become one of the most profitable sports leagues in all of professional sports. In 2019, they generated an estimated $8 billion in revenue, making it the second-most lucrative league behind only NFL football. Furthermore, many major American cities now have their own NBA teams and stadiums, giving fans easy access to watch games live. The NBA also holds several annual events, such as the All-Star Game, which attract millions of viewers worldwide.

In contrast to the sheer size and scope of the NBA, per capita NCAA basketball cannot compete when it comes to popularity and revenue-generating potential. Though the NCAA makes a lot of money throughout the season and rakes in billions during March Madness, the players don’t get a paycheck to play.  Furthermore, NCAA basketball does not benefit from international marketing campaigns for its events like its big brother does, with their very popular post season tournament March Madness, it’s still pales in comparison to the reach the NBA has. 

Despite this difference in popularity between these two entities, both leagues continue to see success in various ways and generate significant profits for their investors and sponsors. Fans can enjoy watching both types of basketball depending on what they are looking for – whether it be high-level professional play or young student-athletes taking on college rivals with dreams of playing professionally one day – there is something for everyone when it comes to basketball!

Betting on Both Leagues Using Sportsbooks

Online sportsbooks typically let you bet on both NCAA and NBA basketball. While the two leagues differ in terms of eligibility requirements, popularity, and marketing potential, they are both fair game when it comes to betting. 

In order to place a bet on either NCAA or NBA basketball, you will need to find an online sportsbook that is licensed and regulated by your local government or jurisdiction. Once you have found a reputable online sportsbook, you can then create an account and make a deposit in order to start betting. 

When placing bets on NCAA basketball, it is important to note that many amateur athletes do not follow the same level of consistency as professional players due to their lack of experience. As such, it is often advised that bettors take into consideration factors such as team records, coaching staffs, and individual player performance when placing their bets. 

On the other hand, betting on NBA basketball is a bit more straightforward, thanks to the higher level of consistency among professional players. Bettors can take into account team records and performances but should also focus on star players’ track records as well as team strategies in order to make informed decisions. 

Be sure to use a reputable sportsbook when betting online. Sites such as Fanduel Massachusetts are great options for betting on both NCAA and NBA basketball thanks to their wide selection of markets, competitive odds, and generous bonuses. Draftkings and BetMGM are also viable options. 

Program vs. Player When it comes down to it, both leagues are businesses that generate a lot of money. One of the core differences is how that money is distributed. In the NCAA, it’s most-certainly program-first meaning that the college or university stands to take in the vast majority of the revenue. In very rare cases, NCAA college basketball coaches can make in upwards of six figures and even millions for the most-coveted Blue Chip head coaches. Taking the name recognition out of the mix, salaries for NCAA head coaches can range from $30,000 to $60,000.  What about the NCAA players? For those with basketball scholarships, much of their livelihood is covered when they’re on campus, but they get zero money from the program itself. Recently, college players have been allowed to make money off their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) and many have taken advantage of that.

In the NBA, it’s player-first and has been for many years now. NBA players have significant amount of control and influence on their careers while making millions upon millions in salary and endorsements.


The differences between NCAA and NBA basketball are plentiful and have many implications when it comes to both entertainment value of betting. The two leagues have starkly different eligibility requirements for players as well as varying levels of popularity amongst fans worldwide. 


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