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Andy Wittry | | October 29, 2020

How many games are in a college basketball season? It depends

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How many basketball games are in a season depends on several factors, but you can expect a men's DI college basketball team to usually play 35 to 40 games in a normal season if it makes the NCAA tournament, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 32 if it doesn't.

There were more than 5,800 games of Division I men's basketball in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, according to David Worlock, the NCAA Director of Media Coordination/Statistics and Media Coordinator for March Madness.

"Last year, to be exact, there were 5,826 games," Worlock said of the 2018-19 season, "meaning the average team played 33.2 contests."

"Next year, there are four more schools scheduled to begin the reclassification process to Division I, bringing the total to 357 teams," he said. "Assuming a full season is played, we'll establish another record for most games played over the course of the season. As recently as 2010, there were only 334 teams in Division I."

UConn and Michigan share the record for most games played (41)

Division I teams played anywhere from 29 games (teams like Cal Poly, Charlotte, New Hampshire, UTEP) to 40 games (Auburn) in the 2018-19 season. The number of games on a school's schedule often depends on the strength of a team.

The more games you win in the postseason, the more games you play and the higher your season total.

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The NCAA record for games played in a season is 41 games, held by UConn's 2011 national championship team and Michigan's national runner-up team in 2018. Seventeen teams have played 40 games in a season, most recently Auburn.

That 2011 UConn team played five games in the Big East tournament and six games in the NCAA tournament, winning all 11 and both tournaments. While the Huskies had played just 30 games at the end of the regular season, they played almost a dozen more as they tore through postseason play.

How the college basketball schedule works

A college basketball season is broken down into a few segments: non-conference play, conference play, conference tournaments and postseason tournaments. The number of games in conference play varies by conference with the ACC, Big Sky, Big Ten, MAAC, Southland and Sun Belt conferences playing 20-game schedules in 2019-2020 and the Ivy League playing a national-low 14 conference games.

The NCAA announced schedule changes for the 2020-21 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some teams take part in non-conference multi-team events, or MTEs, that are held in November and December. In April 2020, the Division I Council passed legislation that allows men's basketball programs to schedule up to 28 regular-season games and participate in an MTE that has up to three games, or 29 regular-season games while participating in an MTE that has up to two games, for a total of 31 games in either scheduling option.

Teams that don't participate in an MTE can play up to 29 regular-season games.

In some conferences, teams could play up to five games in their conference tournaments. In other conferences, not every team qualifies for its conference's tournament and there's always the possibility that a first-round loss limits the number of games that a team plays in a season.


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