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College Basketball

College basketball refers to the American basketball league organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Below you can read about the history of college basketball, it’s relation to professional basketball and other related information.

History of college basketball

The game of basketball was devised by James Naismith in 1892. The first recorded game involving a college basketball team took place in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania on April 8, 1893 when a team from Geneva College defeated the New Brighton YMCA The first intercollegiate game was played on February 9, 1895 when Minnesota State School of Agriculture defeated Hamline College by a score of 9 to 3. The first intercollegiate game involving the now familiar five-player format occurred in Iowa City, Iowa on January 18, 1896 when the University of Chicago defeated the University of Iowa 15 to 12. Before that time, there were usually seven to nine players on each team. By the turn of the 20th Century, enough colleges were fielding basketball teams that leagues began to form. The NCAA was founded in Chicago in 1906. The first NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship tournament was held before 5,500 fans in Evanston, Illinois in 1939. That year, Oregon beat Ohio State 46 to 33 in the final game to win the national championship. The first college games to be televised took place at Madison Square Garden in 1940. Pittsburgh defeated Fordham, 57 to 37, and NYU beat Georgetown, 50 to 27. Since the advent of television, the popularity of college basketball has exploded. March Madness is consistently one of the most watched events of the year and draws over 700,000 fans.

Division I Men’s college basketball

As of the current college basketball season, there are currently 330 colleges and universities fielding Division I Men’s college basketball teams. 47 states boast at least one Division I Men’s college basketball program; only Alaska, North Dakota, and South Dakota have none.

College basketball Conferences

These college basketball teams play in 31 different college basketball conferences, which are classified as either major or mid-major college basketball conferences. The winners of all 31 college basketball conferences receive an automatic bid to play in the NCAA Division I Men’s college basketball Tournament alongside 34 at-large selections. However, the college basketball teams from “major” conferences are the traditional powers and continue to dominate the college basketball game to this day. The major-conference college basketball teams also have the benefit of playing a tougher schedule. Accordingly, most of the 34 at-large selections on Selection Sunday go to major-conference college basketball teams.

College basketball Relationship to Professional Basketball

In past decades, the NBA only drafted college graduates. This was a mutually beneficial relationship for the NBA and colleges — the colleges held onto players who would otherwise go professional, and the NBA did not have to fund a minor league. For the most part, players benefited from the college education. As the college game became commercialized, though, it became increasingly difficult for “student athletes” to be students. Specifically, a growing number of poor (usually black), under-educated, highly talented teenage basketball players found the system exploitative — they brought in funds to schools where they learned little and played without income. In 1974, Moses Malone joined the Utah Stars of the ABA (now merged with the NBA) straight out of high school and went on to be a star. The past 30 years have seen a remarkable change in the college game. The best international players routinely skip college entirely, many American stars skip college (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James) or only play one year (Carmelo Anthony), and only a dozen or so college graduates are now among the 60 players selected in the annual NBA Draft. The pervasiveness of college basketball throughout the nation, the large population of graduates from “major conference” universities, and the NCAA’s brilliant marketing of “March Madness” (officially the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship), have kept the college game alive and well. Every year a college basketball tournament is organized. Some commentators have argued that the higher turnover of players has increased the importance of good coaches.

Other Divisions

While less commercialized, Women’s Division I, and Division II and III, both Women’s and Men’s, are highly successful college basketball organizations. Women’s Division I is often televised, but to smaller audiences than Men’s Division I. Generally, small colleges join Division II, while colleges of all sizes that choose not to offer athletic scholarships join Division III. D-II and D-III games, understandably, are almost never televised. Many teams at these levels have rabid fan bases, though, and to those fans these games can be equally or more entertaining than big-name college basketball.

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