How Do College Basketball Teams Travel?

How Do College Basketball Teams Travel

One aspect of college basketball that makes it so entertaining is teams playing each other from different parts of the country. For this to happen, teams need to travel to other locations that may be far from where they live. There are various ways that teams do this across different levels of college basketball. Read on to learn more about how college basketball teams travel at each division of the NCAA.

Division I

The highest level of college basketball, and all college athletics, is Division I. These teams are the most well-known, attract the most attention, and get the most funding from their schools. Therefore, these teams also have to travel the most throughout the country. Within Division I, there are different levels of travel and provided commodities. At the highest level, the “Power Five” conferences (ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12) receive the most benefits since they have the most money. When these teams have to travel across multiple state lines in a relatively short period of time, they will always take a charter flight sponsored by their university. Even when they have to travel to a location where they could take a bus and get there in a reasonable amount of time, they will still take a charter flight because they can, and it is easier.

Outside of the Power Five, there are other conferences where this is true as well. At the lowest levels of Division I, however, this is not always the case. While these teams will still fly when it is necessary, for more regionalized travel, they will often take a bus to save money. This is one of the many aspects that make it even more shocking when a small-level college basketball team upsets a power conference team in the Division I NCAA Tournament. The teams do not operate on the same level and receive the same benefits throughout the year, making the victories for the smaller teams all the more shocking.

Division II

After Division I, the next highest level of college basketball and college athletics is Division II. These schools are smaller than those in Division I, and thus do not receive the same amount of funding and benefits that their larger counterparts do. When it comes to travel, these teams have to travel significantly shorter distances than those in Division I. Teams mainly compete regionally and rarely travel more than one or two states away. Thus, the majority of Division II travel takes place via bus. Occasionally, the teams will travel farther for a tournament, especially early in the season during non-conference play. 

When it comes to conference play, however, the conferences are extremely regionalized, allowing teams to travel via bus. While the teams are closer than in Division I conferences, the bus rides can still be quite long and tiring for athletes. Once the NCAA Tournament comes around, the regionalized play continues. There are eight regions, each one containing teams from a few conferences that are close to each other, and teams compete in their regions until each region has a winner. Once each region has a winner, the eight teams head to a national site to play out the rest of the tournament. Thus, if a team is far enough away from the national site, they will take a plane. Otherwise, they will take a bus throughout the NCAA tournament.

Division III

After Division I and Division II, the smallest NCAA-sanctioned level of college basketball is Division III. As was the case when going from Division I to Division II, there is a drop off in terms of funding and notoriety when going from Division II to Division III. In terms of travel, the travel is regionalized to an even greater extent than it is in Division II. While in Division II, teams still travel across state lines, they rarely do so in Division III. 

For example, in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference, there are eight teams, and six of them are in Pennsylvania, while the other two are in Southern New York, close to the Pennsylvania-New York border. Thus, travel is extremely easy throughout the conference. This is the case throughout Division 3, making travel relatively easy to do via bus. In some cases, bus travel is easier in Division III than in Division II since the bus rides are often less time-consuming.

Lastly, similarly to the Division II tournament, the Division III college basketball tournament is regionalized for the first few rounds in order to minimize travel. Division III takes this one step further, as teams compete regionally until the Final Four rather than the final eight of the Division II tournament.