What is a D1 Basketball?

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Many people do not know what is Division 1 basketball and the difference between Division 1 and the other Divisions in the country. Some people do not even know that there are other Divisions outside of Division 1. Knowing about the different basketball Divisions and understanding what Division 1 basketball is, is crucial to know if you are a student-athlete, a student-athlete parent, or just a basketball fan.

Division 1 basketball is a bit different from other basketball leagues in the country, and we are going to get you fully informed about this basketball division from our article today.

What are College Basketball DivisionsWhat are College Basketball Divisions?

College basketball divisions are the group within which different schools participate in tournaments. Not all colleges in the United States play against each other in the college basketball season. 

Colleges are divided into different Divisions and compete against other colleges in the same Division for a particular sport. There are three main NCAA Divisions in college basketball. They are the NCAA Division 1, the NCAA Division 2, and the NCAA Division 3. NCAA multi-Division basketball, as we know it today, was reclassified in 1973 and approved at the association’s first special convention.

At this convention, the NCAA teams were divided into three Divisions for competition and legislation. The NCAA schools are divided into their categories by the level of competition they can perform, with the resources available to their athletic departments and their school sizes.
In the NCAA, the Division 1 basketball league is at the highest level of competition in the three categories. These Division 1 schools usually have the biggest budgets and the biggest student bodies. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Division 3 schools offer the lowest competition level, and their budgets are normally the smallest.

Division 2 basketball will fall somewhere in the middle of these two groups. The Divisions were created to provide a level playing field for schools that are not able to participate at the same level as others. Schools that are not as heavily funded in athletics and cannot field the same tier of athletes have an opportunity to compete for championships against similar schools. 

The NCAA’s main purpose is to oversee the competitions in each Division and enforce the rules that they establish. 

What is the Difference Between D1, D2, and D3 in BasketballWhat is the Difference Between D1, D2, and D3 in Basketball?

Skill level

One of the main differences between NCAA basketball divisions is the skill level of the athletes playing in them. Division 3 athletes are not usually the same as Division 2 and Division one athletes. Division 2 athletes are not nearly as skilled as Division I athletes either.

Division I usually boasts the best athletes that go on to the NBA and international professional competitions. There are Division 2 and 3 athletes who play professionally after college, but this is not nearly as common as with Division 1 athletes. Even though most of the players who enter the NBA draft are from the NCAA Division I basketball schools, there are a few NBA players who perform well after leaving Division 2 and Division 3 schools.

Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Ben Wallace. Ben played at Virginia Union University before declaring for the NBA draft in 1996, where he went undrafted. Virginia Union University is a Division 2 School. While playing at Virginia Union, Wallace was named a Division 2 All-American. He went on to have a stellar NBA career and won a championship in 2004.

Devean George. George was a first-round draft pick from a D3 school that had a very impactful career in the NBA. He was a part of the Laker’s three championships from 2000-2012. 

School types/Size and budget. 

NCAA D1 schools are usually much bigger schools than NCAA D2 and D3 schools. NCAA DI schools have much bigger budgets than these schools, so their basketball teams are usually well funded. NCAA D3 schools are normally smaller and tend to not spend as much on athletics as D1 and D2 schools.

Media Coverage 

The majority of the media coverage on College basketball is dedicated to NCAA D1 schools. Most of the tournaments that we are accustomed to on television and the internet, such as NCAA Sweet sixteen and Final Four, are D1 competitions. NCAA D1 is prime time and is a moneymaker for the NCAA.

A lot of NCAA games are televised, even those that aren’t tournament games. Even though the NCAA D1 takes up most of the media space, there are a few outlets that carry some of the games from other Divisions. CBS shows the championship game of the NCAA D2 while CBS College Sports Network carries the semifinals and the finals of the D3.


Each of these Divisions has different awards that are awarded throughout and at the end of the season. The NCAA Division 1 has the most prestigious awards as it is the most prestigious league. Some of the awards issued in the NCAA D1 include:

Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year
Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year
Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year
Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year
John R. Wooden Award
Assist Leader
Rebound Leader
USBWA National Freshman of the Year
Athlete of the year (Specific Conference)
Naismith College Player of the Year
Associated Press College Basketball Player of the Year
Sporting News Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year

Number of Schools

Each NCAA Division consists of a different amount of schools. The NCAA D1 has 353 participating schools. There are 13 scholarship opportunities available from each school. Students can also join the team as a walk on.

The NCAA D3 has 320 schools making it slightly less than D1. The D3 of NCAA has 450 teams, making it the largest Division in the NCAA. 80% of the 450 teams are private institutions.  

What is a D1 Basketball PlayerWhat is a D1 Basketball Player?

Division 1 basketball players are normally more skilled and talented than players in Division 2 and Division 3. Division I basketball players are normally the best players from the school and international youth levels.

College coaches and scouts will try to get the most talented and skilled players from high schools, camps, and leagues they visit. Division 1 basketball players have a higher possibility of getting drafted and signed to overseas contracts than other players from Division 2 and Division 3. Because of Division 1’s talent level, almost all draft prospects are going to be from that Division.

Division 2 and 3 players can declare for the draft, but they very likely will not get drafted. Division 2 and Division 3 players also get opportunities to play overseas but not as much as Division 1 players. Some of the better Division 1 players that will get picked in the lottery of this upcoming NBA draft are Obi Toppin, James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, Kira Lewis Jr and Tyrese Haliburton.

Anthony Edwards. Edwards is an extremely explosive shooting guard that averaged just over 19 points and the five rebounds last season while playing for Georgia. He has age on his side as he is one of the youngest in this year’s draft class. He is also regarded as a strong guard who can create for his teammates and has the ability to score.

Obi Toppin. Obi Toppin is a walking highlight reel that can impact the game from above the rim. He averaged an efficient 20 points and 8 rebounds last season, and he led the NCAA in dunks. He is pretty good from outside the arc as he shot over 40% in his two years in college.

Tyrese Haliburton. Tyrese is widely considered to be one of the most efficient guards in this year’s draft. He is a great playmaker, and he can put the ball in the basket efficiently. In addition to his ability to score, he is also a threat from behind the 3-point line as well. He averaged15 points and the seven assists this season.

Kira Lewis Jr. Kira Put up great numbers in his last college season, scoring 18 points and averaging 5 assists per game. He is a speedy player that loves to attack that can cause great pressure on the defenses. He is very good at creating space and creating opportunities for his teammates.

James Wiseman. James Wiseman is definitely one of if not the best big man in this year’s draft. He has a massive wingspan that will come in very handy in the NBA. Finishes very well around the rim and knows how to operate in the screen and roll. This season he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds in the NCAA.

The top five rookies in the NBA in the 2019-20 season were all former Division 1 players.

Ja Morant. Ja Morant was drafted number 2 in the 2019 NBA draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. Ja went on to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award that season. Ja Morant played for Murray State in the NCAA Division I. In 2019 he was the OVC tournament MVP and led the NCAA in assists.

Zion Williamson. Zion Williamson was the most electrifying college player in decades. Zion played his college basketball at Duke and was drafted number one by the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019. Throughout his time at dookie was the ACC tournament MVP, player of the year, and was also the consensus national college player of the year in 2019.

Coby White. Coby white played his college basketball at North Carolina and was then drafted by the Chicago Bulls at number 7 in the 2019 NBA draft. He was named to the all-freshman team of the ACC conference in 2019. He averaged 16 points and 4 assists in college.

Kendrick Nun. Kendrick nun went undrafted in 2018 but played well enough in the NBA to be named to the 2020 NBA All-Rookie First Team. He averaged 14 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in college.

Brandon Clarke. Clarke was a standout at Gonzaga, averaging 17 points and 9 rebounds in his one year there. He was drafted 21st overall in the 2019 NBA draft by OKC. At Gonzaga, he was awarded the WCC defensive and Newcomer of the year awards.

So, how to get into a D1 college for basketball? There are certain things involved with the process. Firstly you need to recognize that D1 players are amongst the most skilled in college basketball, so you must have the talent level to match this to be considered.

Work very hard before and during high school on your game both on and off the court. While you are doing this, we strongly advise that you start to work on your scholarship opportunities.  

How Many D1 Basketball Teams are ThereHow Many D1 Basketball Teams are There?

The are currently 353 teams playing in the NCAA Division 1. These teams are divided into 32 conferences. From time to time, some teams play as independents, as they are not a part of any conference. NJIT was the last team to do this in 2015.  We’ve written a more detailed guide on the number of D1 basketball teams in the NCAA here.

What Colleges are in NCAA Division 1What Colleges are in NCAA Division 1?

There are currently 353 Colleges that participate in NCAA Division 1 basketball. Even though these colleges are all in D1, there are some colleges that are predominantly better than others. These colleges tend to get the most media coverage and have the biggest fan bases.

Similarly to the Lakers, Celtics, and recently the Spurs, there are a few teams in college basketball that have majority of the championships.

Here are the top D1 schools in the NCAA.

1 Gonzaga WCC 31-2
2 Kansas Big 12 27-3
3 Dayton Atlantic 10 29-2
4 San Diego St. Mountain West 29-2
5 Baylor Big 12 26-4
6 Duke ACC 25-6
7 Michigan St. Big Ten 22-9
8 Louisville ACC 24-7
9 BYU WCC 23-8
10 Florida St. ACC 26-5
11 Creighton Big East 23-7
12 Oregon Pac-12 24-7
13 Villanova Big East 24-7
14 Arizona Pac-12 21-11
15 Seton Hall Big East 21-9
16 Ohio St. Big Ten 21-10
17 West Virginia Big 12 21-10
18 Maryland Big Ten 24-7
19 Butler Big East 22-9
20 Houston AAC 23-8
21 Kentucky SEC 25-6
22 Texas Tech Big 12 18-13
23 Wisconsin Big Ten 21-10
24 Michigan Big Ten 19-12
25 Colorado Pac-12 21-11
26 Marquette Big East 18-12
27 Auburn SEC 25-6
28 LSU SEC 21-10
29 Florida SEC 19-12
30 Rutgers Big Ten 19-11

You can find a complete list here.

How Many D1 Basketball Conferences are ThereHow Many D1 Basketball Conferences are There? 

There are currently 32 conferences in the NCAA Division 1 tournament. The conferences in the NCAA Division 1 are:

America East Conference

American Athletic Conference

Atlantic Coast Conference

Atlantic Sun Conference 

Atlantic 10 Conference

Big East Conference 

Big Sky Conference

Big South Conference

Big Ten Conference

Big 12 Conference

Big West Conference

Colonial Athletic Association

Conference USA

Horizon League

Ivy League

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Mid-American Conference

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Missouri Valley Conference

Mountain West Conference

Northeast Conference

Ohio Valley Conference

Pac-12 Conference

Patriot League

Southeastern Conference

Southern Conference

Southland Conference

Southwestern Athletic Conference

Summit League

Sun Belt Conference

West Coast Conference

Western Athletic Conference

3 Greatest NBA Players from Division 1 Schools3 Greatest NBA Players from Division 1 Schools

Whatever you use the word greatest to describe a basketball player, it is always subjective based on who you are speaking with. Here are the three players that we think are the greatest NBA players that played in the NCAA Division 1.

Wilt Chamberlin

Wilt played in the NCAA University Division, which was later classified as the NCAA Division 1. Throughout his college career, Wilt Chamberlain averaged 29.9 points, and 18.3 rebounds leading the Kansas Jayhawks to one Big Seven championship.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant played his college basketball at the University of Texas. Kevin was the first freshman ever to be named Naismith college player of the year. He averaged a remarkable 26 points and 11 rebounds per game in his one season at the University of Texas. His number 35 jersey is now retired at the University.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell only received one scholarship offer, and this was from the University of San Francisco. He accepted the offer and turned out to be the greatest player in the history of the school. Throughout his college career, Bill Russell averaged 20 points and 20 rebounds. 

Wrapping Things Up: What is D1 Basketball?

Division 1 college basketball is the most competitive college basketball in the country. Division 1 college basketball athletes are more skilled and focused more on basketball than the other division’s basketballers. There are over 300 teams in the NCAA Division 1, however, they are not all at the same level. 

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

> D1 vs. D2 Basketball

> When Do NCAA Basketball Rankings Come Out?

> What Do D1 Basketball Scouts Look For?

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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