The popularity of collegiate basketball continues to grow. This hyper-competitive version of the much-loved sport is attracting more and more fans of late.
Last year’s marquee offering, the March Madness tournament, drew a massive 16.9 million viewers. This year, it’s tipped to beat that.
Below, we’ll take a look at the viewing figures of college basketball in the last few years, before diving into the phenomenon that is March Madness. We’ll also take a look at some of the reasons why college basketball is so popular.
College basketball viewing figures
College basketball draws a consistent and loyal crowd. One of the big reasons many people cite when asked why they like this type of basketball is the unpredictability.
While colleges have solid infrastructures and coaches, the roster of players is an ever-changing thing. The fortune of a team can therefore vary greatly from year to year, depending on the quality of players they can attract.
It’s this unpredictability factor that gives March Madness its name – something we’ll get to shortly.
So how does this popularity translate to viewing figures?
If we look at the ratings for college basketball’s most popular tournament, March Madness, we can get an idea of the trend.
In 2019, with the introduction of new streaming services, the tournament recorded its second-highest ratings for 29 years, and generated a 35% increase in the viewing ratings from the year before in the same time period.
The NCAA March Madness live stream platform also saw a massive jump of 25% for that first week of the 2019 competition.
These are big signs of growth for the NCAA and college basketball as a whole. With more consistency, aided by the development of online streaming platforms, it’s easy to see that growth continuing into the future.
The excitement of March Madness 2022
March Madness is perhaps the biggest draw of the college basketball season. The annual knock-out tournament, hosted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), carries the ultimate prize in college basketball.
Last year, just short of 17 million people tuned into the final. It has also become popular among bettors. Many online sportsbooks offer regular deals throughout the tournament, not to mention competitive odds.
There will be a total of 68 college teams playing in March Madness. The winner will need to battle their way through seven rounds to get to the final, all to become the national champion.
It’s the 83rd year of March Madness, and in 2022, it all begins on March 15, 2022. The tournament takes place over three weeks, with the grand finale at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, on April 4.
Check out the latest NCAA power rankings here.
What makes college basketball unique
Part of the attraction of college basketball is the differences in the way it’s played compared to professional basketball, such as the NBA.
One of the biggest differences is in the length of the game. In college basketball, there are just two halves of 20 minutes, giving a total match time of 40 minutes. In contrast, games in the NBA last 48 minutes, comprising four quarters of 12 minutes.
Another difference is in the rules surrounding fouls. In the NBA, players are ejected from the game after six fouls. In college basketball, the limit is five.
When it comes to technical fouls, college basketball sees the wronged team being awarded two free throws plus possession. In the NBA, the punishment is just a single free throw.
Shot clocks also differ, which can have a significant bearing on the way the game is played. In collegiate basketball, the shot clock is 30 seconds long. In the NBA, it’s 24 seconds. This may not sound like a big difference, but it gives teams the ability to slow down the pace of the game, dictate play a bit more, and maintain control.
The combined effect of all of these little changes helps create a unique version of the sport, one with a different pace but still supporting all the amazing gameplay we hope to see.
College basketball is enjoying a spell in the sunshine. It’s unpredictable and competitive nature is a draw for many fans, especially those disillusioned by the commercialism of the elite level.
2022 is shaping up to be an even bigger year. With viewing figures increasing and the methods to watch tournaments such as March Madness expanding, more and more people are getting the chance to enjoy the thrill of collegiate basketball.