D2 vs. D3 Basketball

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Are you thinking about playing college basketball and would like to get information on D2 vs. D3 basketball? Not many high school students realize that there are other college career options outside of the NCAA Division 1 basketball league. A lot of you do not know what is D2 basketball or what is D3 basketball. We know that the truth about college basketball is that playing college basketball at any level can get you where you need to go.

We want to help you with the information you need to get there. Suppose you are a fan of the game and would like to know how D2 and D3 Stack up against D1, you are also in the right place. This article will do a deep dive into D2 and D3 basketball so you can understand the differences and the benefits of each. 

What is D1 BasketballWhat is D1 Basketball?

At the pinnacle of college basketball in the USA is the NCAA Division 1. This division in the NCAA is the most talent-filled and competitive. The athletes that play in the NCAA basketball Division 1 are usually a lot more focused on basketball than athletes that play in all the other divisions.

Fortunately for athletes in the NCAA Division 1, their colleges have better facilities, normally have much larger fan bases, and have deeper pockets than the Division 2 and 3 colleges. At this moment, 353 teams compete in the NCAA Division 1, but understandably some are better than others.

Even though it is one division, each year, there are a set of seeded teams and considered to be favorites over the competition. The 353 teams in the NCAA Division 1 are divided into 32 conferences. There are currently no independent teams in the NCAA Division 1. When it is time to recruit, coaches and scouts try to influence the most talented high school and international players to commit to their schools.

What is D1 Basketball

NCAA Division 1 schools have thirteen scholarships that they can offer to players each year. Unfortunately for many high school hopefuls, these thirteen scholarships are not nearly enough for the vast amount of graduates who would like to play basketball in college.

Each team is allowed to have 15 players on its roster, but only 13 can be on the bench on a game day. NCAA Division 1 produces the majority of draftees for the NBA each year. This is because the talent level of the NCAA division 1 far outclasses the other divisions and often international leagues. 

What is D2 BasketballWhat is D2 Basketball?

In 1973, the NCAA reclassified its categories into the divisional format we know today. Division I was created for better teams that were more athletically focused, willing to offer scholarships and spend more on basketball, while the next tier, division 2, was intended to be a balance for colleges that still wanted to participate in athletics but weren’t as large or heavily funded as a division 1 colleges.

Division 2 colleges often try to find a balance between athletics and education for student-athletes. Division 2 colleges offer partial scholarships that are provided to players by the coaching staff. The universities provide the athletic program with a total amount, and then the coaches distribute the funds among the student-athletes based on how they see fit.

Division 2 athletes may not usually be able to compete at the level of division 1, and their programs may not be as advanced, however, it is not the worst league in the country. These athletes are normally capable of producing great performances and are most times better than Division 3 athletes.

As Division 2 colleges help athletes maintain their educational focus and their interest in sports, it is the perfect balance for graduates from high school looking for environments like this. Even though division 2 athletes are not usually as talented as Division 1 athletes, a few athletes were able to get scholarship opportunities to play in division 1, and some of them even went on to play in the NBA.

What is D2 Basketball

Speaking of the NBA, some great players have contributed to the history of the NCAA Division 2 and the NBA. Just like the NCAA division one is not the only stop for college basketball, the NBA is not the only stop for professional players. There are division two athletes that played overseas in international leagues after they left University.

In the NCAA Division 2 League, there are around 320 schools competing, which makes this league a smaller league than division one. Here is a page that lists all the schools in NCAA Division 2. 

What is D3 BasketballWhat is D3 Basketball?

So, what does D3 mean in basketball? Division 3 basketball is the third-highest tier of basketball in the United States at the collegiate level. Division 3 schools are generally more academic-focused, however, their athletic programs are still pretty good. The training sessions and dedication to the sport do rival Division 1 and 2 players, but they may not close the gap in talent and skill because of their natural inabilities.
Division 3 schools aren’t as heavily funded in the athletic areas, and this does affect the quality of their programs. Their athletic programs do not suffer because of the funding situation, however, it does restrict their abilities to develop athletes the same as Division 1 and 2. division 3 schools are best suited for student-athletes that are looking for opportunities to play a sport at a high level even though they are focused on their academics.

Division 3 schools are known to be more academically inclined, and they do push their students in that direction, but they are also fully capable of providing talented basketball teams for the NCAA’s Division 3 League. A great thing about the NCAA division 3 is that athletes have more flexibility because of the reduced restrictions around their athletic commitments. Division 1 and Division 2 athletes are, in a way, bound to their athletic programs, and large parts of their college experience are focused on that.

What is D3 Basketball

Division 3 athletes may not be as heavily recruited as those in Division 1 and 2, and the process of recruiting is not as rigid as those divisions either. Hence, coaches and scouts have a little more freedom in the recruiting process. Division three has almost 400 schools, and this makes it the largest league in the NCAA.

Even though the percentage is not very high, there are more division 3 schools than the other two divisions, and student-athletes have a bigger opportunity to get on a division 3 school’s basketball team. Unfortunately, division 3 schools do not offer basketball scholarships, but there are other ways for students to get funding for school.

Even though there aren’t basketball scholarships available for athletes in the division 3 basketball league, colleges provide need-based, academic, and Merit Scholarships grants, and aid to students. These are creative opportunities for athletes to get their education funded. One of the good things about this type of funding is that the athletes will still have the funds available if they decide not to continue playing basketball.

What are the Benefits of Playing D2 vs. D3 Basketball

What are the Benefits of Playing D2 vs. D3 Basketball?

Division 2 basketball provides a higher level of competition and better training for its athletes than Division 3. The benefits of playing D3 basketball is Division 3 basketballers have more flexibility because they are not bound to basketball by their scholarships and can maintain their financial aid even if they stop playing.

What is the Difference Between D1, D2, and D3

What is the Difference Between D1, D2, and D3?

Apart from the names and the governance of the NCAA basketball divisions of there are a few things that separate each division. Let’s review some of them now.

Skill level

This is undoubtedly the largest factor to consider when comparing Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3 athletes. NCAA Division 1 coaches and scouts tend to recruit talented players in the country heavily. It is extremely rare for players to turn down scholarship opportunities from a division 1 school.

What is the Difference Between D1, D2, and D3

The NCAA Division 1 generally tends to have the most talented players in the nation playing at the collegiate level. On top of the skill that these players enter the NCAA league with, they are exposed to expert, world-class trainers and complete training centers that can help them to build the bodies necessary to be a good player.

NCAA Division 1 schools benefit from more funds to develop their training programs, which contributes to the disparity in talent. The NCAA Division 2 athletes may not be as talented as the NCAA Division 1 athletes, but they are very serious athletes that can compete at a very high level.

The NCAA Division 2 teams have mostly players that wanted to find a balance between athletics and education, so even though they are heavily invested in basketball, they are still not as invested as Division 1 athletes. Division 3 athletes aren’t as skilled as division one or Division 2 athletes in most cases, so these teams are not usually as good.

Even though a few players have left the NCAA division 3 league to go on to play in international leagues, unfortunately, the majority of them do not. The NCAA Division 3 athletes’ skill level is still very high because these guys are, after all, college-trained student-athletes. There are a few NBA players who performed well after leaving Division 2 and Division 3 schools. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Ben Wallace. Ben Wallace was an NBA champion in 2004 after not getting drafted in the 1996 NBA draft. He will always be considered as one of the best big men ever to play the game. He went to Virginia Union University, which is a division 2 school, and was named a Division 2 All-American.

Devean George. Devean George was a D3 athlete that got picked in the first round of the NBA draft. He won three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000 to 2012.

School Types/Size and budget.

Another major difference in the NCAA grouping of schools is the school’s size and the budget available for their basketball program. Division 3 schools are not usually as big as Division 2 and Division 1 schools, so their fan base is generally much smaller. In addition to this, because the school plays in division 3, it also reduces their chances of building their fan base.

Is D2 Better than D3 Sports

Schools with the largest fan bases normally have more support for athletics, and more support normally starts to show in a player’s game. Athletics budgets for Division 2 and Division 1 schools are significantly larger than that of division 3. Division 1 students have access to 13 scholarships, while division two students get partial scholarships.

Unfortunately, division 3 schools do not offer scholarships, but schools have found a way around this. Schools have been able to issue grants and other non-athletic financial aid to students to pay for tuition. 

Media Coverage

If you try to remember the last time you turned on your television to watch an NCAA basketball game, the teams were very likely Division 1 teams. Division 2 and Division 3 teams get little to no media coverage, while Division 1 is prime time in the USA. Some of the popular tournaments that we see each year on television, like the March Madness competition, are usually Division 1 competitions.

Games that are not Championship or playoff games are also televised. If you would like to see any D2 or D3 competition on television, you would need to view CBS. CBS carries the championship game of the NCAA Division 2, and the CBS college sports network carries the semi-finals and the finals of Division 3.


Throughout each competition, players would have racked up ststistics in the major categories that make them eligible for multiple awards. As you can imagine, the awards issued from the NCAA division 1 carry more prestige than those that aren’t. 

Number of Schools

The number of schools in each division is quite different. In the NCAA Division 1, there are 353 schools compared to the 320 in Division 2. Surprisingly to most people, NCAA Division 3 has the largest number of participants at almost 400 schools. The majority of the institutions that make up the NCAA Division 3 are private.

Is D2 Better than D3 Sports

Is D2 Better than D3 Sports?

Division 3 athletes are pretty good, but division 2 athletes are better trained, spend more time practicing in most situations, and are overall more naturally skilled and talented. So they are usually better than division 3 athletes.

Wrapping Things Up: D2 vs. D3 Basketball

Division 2 athletes are usually more talented than those in division 3 because of various reasons. Even though Division 2 schools do not invest as much as Division 1 in Athletics, they provide more of an athletic environment for their students than division 3 schools. Division 2 basketball is then, in turn, a better basketball league to watch or be a part of.

We’ve also written a guide on the difference between D1 and D2 basketball here.

Did you find this helpful? Then also check out other basketball FAQ articles here.

> How to Get Recruited for College Basketball

> How to Play Basketball Overseas

> When Do NCAA Basketball Rankings Come Out?

Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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