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NCAA Basketball Teams

How does the NCAA organize basketball teams?

College basketball teams are amongst the world's most popular in sports with dozens of them averaging more than 10,000 fans per home game. A pair of them, Syracuse (21,992) and Kentucky (21,695), garner larger crowds than the most popular NBA teams. Also, the most attended women's NCAA basketball teams, South Carolina (10,406) and Iowa State (9,573), play in front of crowds similar to the top WNBA teams. As expected, it does take a lot to play for the top teams in the NCAA basketball rankings, but that's exactly what several of the nation's best high school players do every year.

So, what does it take to play for the best NCAA basketball teams? Of course, a strong well-rounded skill set is essential. For example, if you're looking to play point guard for one of the NCAA Division 3 basketball teams, you should have a couple of years of AAU experience and have received accolades such as all-conference or all-area. Conversely, women's players looking to be power forwards for one of the nation's NCAA Division 2 basketball teams should have similar experiences and accolades and garner nine points and six rebounds per game.

Although the competition is intense, thousands of college basketball squads are looking to complete their rosters every season. Hundreds of those are NCAA Division 1 basketball teams.

  • NCAA Division 1 basketball teams – 346 men's, 344 women's
  • NCAA Division 2 basketball teams – 289 men's, 290 women's
  • NCAA Division 3 basketball teams – 416 men's, 439 women's
  • NAIA Division 1 basketball teams – 112 men's, 111 women's
  • NAIA Division 2 basketball teams – 148 men's, 148 women's
  • Junior college basketball teams – 434 men's, 397 women's

The NCAA is the most known organization that oversees and regulates college sports in the United States and, in the case of Simon Fraser University, Canada. It's responsible for the Final Fours as well as overseeing hundreds of schools that have more well-rounded views of their athletic departments. Meanwhile, the NAIA is similar to the NCAA, but it doesn't have any top-tier college basketball teams as it’s are similar in skill levels to NCAA Division 2 and 3 squads. The NAIA also sponsors a handful of universities in Canada, the Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Junior colleges are two-year squads that offer playing opportunities too.

How college basketball teams are organized

Whether they're NCAA teams or NAIA squads, basketball schools are disseminated into a number of conferences, which are usually at least 10 teams in size although a few are smaller. In nearly all cases, especially at the Division 1 level, NCAA basketball teams will compete for regular-season championships following by tournament titles, the latter of which guarantees spots in the NCAA Tournament. Some conferences send several NCAA basketball teams to postseason play although at-large berths are especially limited for D3 postseason play.

The breakdown of NCAA teams by state is generally along population lines. In other words, the states with larger populations have more of these squads while smaller states have fewer college basketball teams. For example, 25 D1 schools are located in California and 22 are in New York while Wyoming has one and Alaska has zero, making it the only state without D1 hoops. However, Alaska and Alaska Anchorage do sponsor D2 basketball.

Historically, UCLA has set the pace in NCAAM, claiming 11 national titles. Its most recent one occurred in 1995. Meanwhile, the pace-setter in NCAAW is Connecticut; the Huskies have also brought home the hardware on 11 occasions with the most recent one coming in 2016. A few champions completed title runs as undefeated NCAA basketball teams. The most recent of these undefeated NCAA basketball teams on the men's side were the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers (32-0) while Connecticut's women's team went 38-0 in 2015-16 and 40-0 in 2013-14.

NCAA basketball rankings

Or course, for NCAA basketball teams that compete in D1, NCAA basketball rankings such as the Associated Press poll are ultimately not the focus; earning as high a seed as possible in the NCAA Tournament and then, once there, getting as close to a national championship as possible are. However, these polls do provide a roughly accurate measure by which to compare teams, and, for NCAAM, the NET rankings provide a look at a rating tool that the selection committee values highly when selecting and seeding teams.

Entering the 2019-20 season, the top-ranked teams in the NCAA basketball rankings on the men's side were Michigan State, Kentucky and Kansas while the best squads in the women's preseason poll were Oregon, Baylor and Stanford. This is true for the ESPN college basketball rankings as well. The AP poll takes the opinions of media members into account while the ESPN college basketball rankings are the result of coaches' votes.

During the season, NCAA basketball polls are released every Monday or Tuesday, depending on the poll, while computer rankings such as the NET rankings and the RPI are updated on a daily or, in some cases, minute basis.

College basketball – Season information

College basketball season starts in November. The first D1 men's and women's games of the 2019-20 season were played on Nov. 5, and NCAA basketball teams will play more than 30 games in a campaign that stretches into March and, for the best NCAA basketball teams, April. Conference play generally commences around New Year's Day with conference tournaments taking place in February or March. Some conferences will also schedule a small handful of league games in early December.

Nearly all conference champions, determined by conference tournaments in most cases and by regular-season championships for the rest, qualify for their respective national tournaments. The format for all NCAA basketball postseason play, whether within a conference or on the national level, is simple. Wins move the team to the next round while a loss ends that squad's run at that particular event.

How are NCAA basketball teams organized?

For the 2018-19 men's season, the Virginia Cavaliers entered the ACC Tournament with a 28-2 mark before exiting that tournament at the semifinal stage, following a 69-59 loss to Florida State. However, that would prove to be the team's final setback as they then ran through the NCAA Tournament with a 6-0 mark, defeating Texas Tech, 85-77 in overtime, in the championship game.

Meanwhile, the 2018-19 Baylor Lady Bears navigated their regular season with an incredible stretch of NCAA basketball scores en route to a 28-1 mark before cruising through the Big 12 Tournament with a 3-0 record and then claiming their third national title, defeating Notre Dame in a memorable championship game, 82-81.

NCAA basketball teams – Schedules, scores and news

The best place to look up schedules for NCAA basketball teams is that school's own athletics department's website. This is where you can find up-to-date information on game times and broadcast/streaming details, often including the inclusion of several games on ESPN college basketball. However, note that these times are always going to be local to the time zone that the school is located in, so make any necessary adjustments if that's different from where you are. NCAA basketball scores of games that have been played are available here as well.

Or perhaps you want to see a schedule of all of the D1 college basketball games. In that case, you'll need to head elsewhere such as to the page that ESPN NCAA basketball offers with all of that information. This resource also provides television information for all games, not just those broadcast on its vast collection of channels. Additionally, ESPN NCAA basketball offers a great place to check out all of that day's NCAA basketball scores although you do need to select "Division I" if you want to see all D1 scores. The default page view for ESPN college basketball scores is for top-25 NCAA basketball scores only.

ESPN NCAA basketball is also a great resource for news as are other resources such as 247sports and the various news outlets local to the schools that you're considering attending and playing for. Although national outlets are great, for in-depth information on specific teams, you're going to want to narrow your focus to local resources.

Basketball recruiting

The basketball recruiting process can be a confusing one for recruits, especially since they're all brand new to the process, while the coaches recruiting them are, in most cases, quite experienced at it. However, you can help yourself narrow that chasm of difference in experience by educating yourself as best as possible on things like where you compare with others and where's the best fit for you.

As far as comparing yourself goes, 247Sports is one of the best resources that allows you to do just that. You can also narrow this list of the nation's top recruits by position and by location. Additionally, if you have NBA aspirations, it's helpful to look at rankings such as the one that was put together by BestColleges.com, which ranks teams by NBA draft picks over the past few years.

As you make your way through your time at high school, pay close attention to the basketball recruiting timeline. The first step is to start during your freshman year. If that's come and gone, start playing catch-up now to maximize the time that you have left and maximize your chances of securing the best overall fit possible for yourself.

You also want to impress NCAA basketball teams by putting together highlight tapes of yourself in action. Even better, take part in camps run by college basketball teams so that they can see your game in person.

College basketball scholarships

In addition to being amongst the nation's best on the court, you need to bring other skills to the table in order to be considered for scholarships awarded by NCAA basketball teams. These include your scholastic aptitude as well as your demeanor and how you handle yourself with your teammates and with your coaching staff. However, perhaps most importantly is how you respond to adversity, to unexpected challenges. You will surely experience unexpected stumbling blocks in college, regardless of where you play, and coaches want to see how you respond to those types of situations before awarding you a basketball scholarship.

Note that NCAA D3 schools do not offer basketball scholarships but do tend to award a considerable amount of financial aid to their general student bodies. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the rest of the schools do. One notable exception is the Ivy League as those eight institutions also do not make any basketball scholarships available, but, like D3, their financial aid packages tend to be generous.

Recruiting assistance

One of the resources that many use to help them through the recruiting process is Next College Student Athlete. In fact, more than 150,000 student-athletes have utilized this service to sign with teams in a variety of sports since this organization was founded in 2000, 24,000 of those within the past year. The recruiting process is helped not only by the educational features that NCSA offers but also by its network of 35,000 coaches.

NCSA is the embodiment of what inspired founder Chris Krause to create it. He'd struggled with the recruiting process as a high school football player in the 1980s and wanted to ensure that others who follow in his footsteps in every college sport don't need to do the same. Over the years, more and more people have voiced positive opinions about what NCSA has done to assist student-athletes. In fact, it's garnered an average Google Reviews rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

If you're looking to play for the nation's best college basketball teams, make sure to fill out your free NCSA profile today so that you can receive quality assistance to help you get the most out of this experience and find the best overall fit for you, not just on the basketball court. If you have any questions, call 866 495-5172.

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