The NBA 2023 playoffs are in full swing, with the best basketball players in the world competing for a chance at winning the Championship. It’s one of the most exciting and anticipated sporting events of the year, but for some people, it’s not the most exciting basketball event. Each season, millions of Americans and basketball fans from around the world follow the NCAA basketball, where top college teams play against each other for a chance at glory. While the best players play in the NBA, it’s hard to argue with the fact that many NCAA games can be even more exciting.
In recent years, the sport has gotten bigger than ever, with millions now tuning in regularly to watch games. In the US, the sport has grown thanks to a combination of factors, including the arrival of legal sports betting. Many states across the country have now legalized sports betting, allowing bets to be placed at sportsbooks like Betway. According to Betway, betting on the NCAA is more popular than ever. However, betting isn’t the only reason why college basketball is growing. Below are some of the main reasons why more people are now watching college basketball.
Adherence to the Rules
So often, it feels like the rules in the NBA are an afterthought. Travelling rarely gets called, and there are plenty of infractions throughout each game. It’s understandable when the stakes are ao high, but it sometimes seems like the refs don’t do enough to enforce the rules. In college ball, the rules are enforced much more regularly, which has a positive impact on the game.
In the NBA, most of the talent is concentrated among the top teams. In addition, most of these top teams will remain at the top for multiple seasons, retaining their best players and building dynasties. For this reason, the conferences are sometimes not very balanced, with one or two teams that steamroll everyone else. In the case of NCAA basketball, however, things are different. Almost every team has the chance to win, and each season teams change drastically. Because athletes are also students, they end up graduating after just a few seasons, so turnover is high. This means that it’s harder for a team to dominate over multiple seasons. While the best colleges do attract top talent, even the smaller schools still have a chance of winning and finding success.
Games Have More Meaning
Each NBA team plays a total of eight two games across the regular season. Because there are so many games, many of them feel meaningless, and it’s hard to get excited. While the playoffs carry a lot of importance, the regular season contains a lot of games that simply fail to get fans as excited. With college ball, it’s like every game is the most important game imaginable. Because the athletes aren’t getting paid, it’s like the games become much more real, and every athlete is looking to prove themselves and build their careers. On top of that, every crowd is incredibly rowdy and will always get behind their team, meaning that games are great fun to watch.
In the NBA, plays are often one-on-ones with little passing and a lot of dribbling and three-point shots. Very often, the game is decided by individuals, and there is little passing or teamwork. It makes it seem like less of a team game and more of a sport that can simply be won by having the best player. With NCAA basketball, there’s a much greater emphasis on teamwork, passing moves, and working together as a defence. Overall, this makes games a lot more strategic, and a growing number of basketball fans prefer this approach. When players share the ball, it makes it much more interesting to watch and shows off basketball as the exciting team sport that it is.
Will the NCAA Ever be More Popular Than the NBA?
More Americans are watching major US sports than ever before. According to CNBC, Game 6 of the 2023 MLB World Series averaged 14.3 million total viewers (13.9 million on TV alone), up from 12.6 million for Game 6 of the 2020 World Series. The NHL just achieved its greatest opening night television audience history, with 983,000 viewers tuning in to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 12.
The NBA viewership figures are up too, with a 20% general increase from the year before. Some demographics have also seen more growth than others. In women, NBA viewing figures have increased by 26% while for 18-49 year olds, it’s up by 28%. This increase has been fuelled by increased marketing, and also the fact that rule changes have been brought in to make the game more entertaining. Non-basketball actions can no longer be used by offensive players to purposely make contact with an opposition defender in order to elicit fouls.
While NBA viewership is up, so was the viewership for the men’s basketball NCAA tournament. ESPN reported that 4.85 million people tuned in for the final. This was an increase of 18% from 2023 and 30% from 2019. While it’s increasing, it remains to be seen whether the NCAA could ever topple the NBA. The NBA has better athletes and more money to market itself to a wider audience. People love the NCAA but it doesn’t quite have the same level of talent and drama as high-level NBA. Despite its problems, the NBA is still the king when it comes to basketball.