How Long Are March Madness Games?

How Long Are March Madness Games

March Madness is a yearly tournament that pits 68 of the best college basketball teams in the country against each other in a high-stakes, single-elimination tournament for the honor of winning the NCAA National Championship. Most people have watched a college basketball game in person or on TV, so they are aware of how they are structured, but how long are these games supposed to last? Is the time limit for March Madness games any different from regular-season games? Below, we take a look at how these tournament games stack up compared to the length of regular season games.

College Basketball Game Length

NCAA basketball games are split up into two separate halves, each lasting 20 minutes. The halftime break is 15 minutes, but can be upped to 20 minutes if there is a performance or awards to be given out. If overtime is needed, an additional five-minute period will be played. Five-minute periods will be played until one team has the lead at the end of a period.

How Many Timeouts Are Allotted to Each Team?

Each team has six timeouts to start during a non-televised game. Four of those are full timeouts lasting 75 seconds, and the remaining two are 30-second timeouts. If there is overtime, each team is given one full timeout for each overtime period played.

Given the figures listed above, it is generally safe to expect a college basketball game to last between an hour-and-a-half and two hours, given commercial interruptions. But is this any different for games played during March Madness?

How Are Things Different During March Madness?

During March Madness, the lengths of the halves in a basketball game are still the same 20-minute periods. The main difference is that halftime is always 20 minutes, rather than the standard 15 of a regular college basketball game. This leads to an hour of game-time, not including timeouts and stopages. The reason for this break being extended is because March Madness is a high-traffic time for television, and by extending halftime, they can sell more commercial time. Due to these games all being nationally televised, the amount of stoppages from timeouts increases as well. Depending on the agreement to the network, there could be anywhere from three to four TV timeouts. Therefore, due to the increased time spent on ads and stoppages, a March Madness game could last over two hours, approaching two-and-a-half hours.


Why does college basketball play halves instead of quarters?

The main reason that college basketball uses two halves is to try and keep the games closer. College basketball also has a longer shot clock, which helps to slow the game down and make things more competitive. While the players make the biggest impact on how close a game is, by slowing the game down, it allows for less opportunity for the great players to blow the game out. As college teams have a large talent discrepancy, this strategy maintains the competitiveness of the sport.