Having already tackled the question ‘When does the basketball season start?’ in a separate blog post, we wanted to follow it up with a similar piece detailing the arrangements at the ‘business end’ of the season, when the cream has risen to the top.
Of course, the big feature of games played towards the end of any sport’s main season is that teams have fought to establish their place in a league table, and could be fighting to keep it, while others may hit a late run of form to put in a strong challenge.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that you don’t continue to get regular surprise results, when a team that might have struggled to find consistency suddenly produces a great game and upsets another which would ordinarily have expected to win quite easily. That is one of the major beauties of such a fast, exciting ball game.
The major consequence is the likelihood that fixtures towards the end of the season are just as hard-fought as those right at the start, when players turning out for their new teams have much to prove.
Due to the nature of the tournament and the time of year in which it is usually played, basketball seasons often finish in March/April, but this is always subject to change.
Why Is The Basketball Season Different Lengths For Different Leagues?
It is pretty much a constant that basketball is considered a winter/spring sport, thanks mainly to the fact that it is played indoors. This fact is great for fans, players and officials alike, meaning they don’t have to watch games – which always last for a standard amount of time – in the coldest weather.
The earliest level at which competitive basketball is played is in high school and college. At these levels, players do not have the physical capacity to cope with a season of the length of the NBL.
However, many are beginning to show the skills which bring them to the attention of the top league teams, and so those who show promise at college level are often drafted into the more senior set-ups.
Importantly too, high school and college basketball schedules are arranged to fit around the academic year, and particularly the exam timetables. This means there is no room in the calendar for a competition to determine the best high school and college teams nationally. But there is still much glory and kudos to be gained by the team which wins its state championship.
When Can I Watch College Basketball?
College leagues usually run from September/October through to mid-February, broadly covering the first two-thirds of the college academic year, and leaving the last third free to allow students to fully focus on their exams.
The National Colleges of America Association (NCAA) oversees the timetable for the league, hence why its period is generally fixed, roughly between November and March. At the highest level of the college game, teams compete for the NCAA Division 1 title in March, in a tournament which has been very successfully branded ‘March Madness’. The name reflects the fact that 68 teams participate in a knockout tournament to determine the top national team.
However, prior to the start of November, colleges also stage try-outs and give any student who wishes to a chance to earn a place on their roster, by competing in any of a variety of early-season tournaments, such as the Legends Classic, Charleston Classic, Las Vegas International and Myrtle Beach Invitational, among others.
During the five-month college season, many scouts working for the NBA teams travel around the colleges looking for young players who might show enough promise to have a chance of making the grade with one of the senior NBA teams.
While there are opportunities for a select few to earn a shot at joining one of the NBA teams, conversely, some players do suffer injuries. The five-month season does offer some a chance to recover from such a setback, and complete the season.
Why Is The NBA Season So Long?
The main reason is because teams play each other at least six times in the regular season, so each team will find itself playing at least 80 games.
The end-of-season play-offs in the NBA usually follow straight on from the end of the main season, in April/May. By that time, many players will have been playing usually two (and sometimes three) games every week for six to seven months.
The top two teams in each of the NBA’s regional or super-regional leagues finish their seasons by playing each other in a best-of-seven match series. The outcome of these can, of course, be decided in as few as four games, but might go to the full seven matches.
Why Does The WNBA Season End So Much Earlier Than The NBA?
The Women’s National Basketball league is competed for between May and September of each year, making it very different from the men’s game.
The main reasons for this is simple – firstly, the WNBA consists of just 12 teams as opposed to the 30 which compete in the NBA. Also, most of the players make a career out of the game by spending the WNBA off-season playing in leagues elsewhere in the world, such as in Europe or the Far East.
So March and April are the crunch months for most basketball leagues, when the top placings are decided. Winning teams then have a deceptively short time to revel in their success, before it all starts over again.