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A Quick Guide to College Basketball Rules

College basketball is governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which has its own set of rules that differ slightly from professional leagues like the NBA. Understanding these rules can enhance your enjoyment of the game, whether you’re a dedicated fan or new to the sport. This comprehensive guide covers all the essential rules of college basketball, from gameplay basics to specific regulations.

The Basics of College Basketball

The Court: A college basketball court is 94 feet long and 50 feet wide, similar to an NBA court, with a basket at each end.

Objective: The objective of the game is to score more points than the opposing team by shooting the basketball through the opponent’s hoop.

Halves: College basketball games are played in two 20-minute halves, unlike the four quarters in NBA games. If the game is tied at the end of regulation, it goes to overtime periods of five minutes each until a winner is determined.

The Gameplay

Teams: Each team has five players on the court at a time. Substitutions can be made during stoppages in play.

Starting Play: The game begins with a jump ball at center court, where the referee tosses the ball up between two opposing players who jump to tip it to their teammates.

Dribbling: Players must dribble the ball while moving. Double dribbling, or starting to dribble again after stopping, is a violation.

Shooting: Players score by shooting the ball through the opponent’s hoop. A field goal is worth two points, or three points if shot from beyond the three-point line.

Violations and Fouls

Traveling: Moving with the ball without dribbling, resulting in a turnover.

Three-Second Rule: An offensive player cannot remain in the key (the area under the basket) for more than three seconds.

Backcourt Violation: Once the ball crosses the midcourt line into the frontcourt, it cannot be passed or dribbled back into the backcourt.

Personal Foul: Contact with an opponent that impedes their movement or play. Players are disqualified after committing five personal fouls.

Technical Foul: Unsportsmanlike conduct or violations by players or coaches, resulting in free throws and possession for the opposing team.

Free Throws

Free Throws: Awarded after certain fouls, each successful free throw is worth one point.

Bonus Situation: After a team commits a certain number of fouls in a half, the opposing team is awarded free throws for each subsequent foul.

Time-Related Rules

Shot Clock: Teams have 30 seconds to attempt a shot that hits the rim. Failure to do so results in a shot clock violation.

Game Clock: The clock stops during dead balls, fouls, and timeouts, and runs continuously during live play.

Timeouts: Each team is allowed a certain number of timeouts per game, used to stop the clock and strategize.


Overtime: If the game is tied at the end of regulation, a five-minute overtime period is played. The process repeats until a winner is determined.


Games are officiated by a crew of referees who enforce the rules, call fouls and violations, and ensure fair play.

Understanding these rules is crucial for fully appreciating and enjoying college basketball. As you watch or play the game, keep these guidelines in mind to deepen your understanding of this exciting sport.

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