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LAWS ON THE COURT: NBA EDITION: 4 Differences Between NBA Playoffs & March Madness


Both of these leagues thrive on passion and excitement, and although they are the same sport, they differ in many ways. March Madness has the cut-throat anticipation that you can’t stop watching, mostly due to your intense office bracket, where the NBA Playoffs see the Lebrons and Durants of the world in the environment that they thrive in. But for an exciting sport with slightly different rules, what makes these two leagues so different other than the obvious reasons?


Okay this one is a little obvious, but has to be mentioned. First off, March Madness has 64 teams to start off and the NBA Playoffs has 16. Because there are so many teams in March Madness, the result is a one game, do or die format. In the NBA, the game is stretched out over a series. This changes the intensity levels in each league differently.

The chances of upsets are extremely high in March Madness due to this format, where number 1-2 teams in the NBA are expected and most likely will push forward. For example, right now: Indiana (1) vs. Miami (2) and San Antonio (1) vs. Oklahoma City (2). However, when a series does go to that anticipated, dreadful game 7, it is an intense battle to the end that always ends with a bang. The talent and expertise in the NBA is fantastic to watch, as is the heart and soul these athletes put into their March Madness experience. Both different, but fantastic to watch.

Work Ethic

Where the NBA creates ego, due to fame and money, March Madness plays as a showcase tournament for players to gain recognition and show their dominance in anticipation of getting drafted. Although it may happen on occasion during March Madness, in NBA playoffs (depending the round) you will see players not get a call they deserved and not hustle back. This is ego getting in the way of their determination. In the NBA, players are paid to play, and as much as we don’t like to think of it like that, players do let it get to their head. However, in the conference finals and league finals, you will see players worth 1 million and beyond blend all for the same reason. Heart and hustle combine and egos and contracts are pushed aside to see some great basketball.

Bottom line: March Madness is about getting recognized to move on to the next step, the NBA. The NBA Playoffs is where players are already recognized, but it is more about establishing boundaries and reinventing yourself within the league.

Quality of Players

The NBA has some of the most talented athletes in the world. The aptitude of these athletes is ridiculous and the rivalries go beyond expectations. When watching any of the top teams, you know something is bound to amaze you. Players reach different heights in the NBA compared to the NCAA playoffs, but each league has different purposes. The NCAA may not match up to the talent of the NBA, but people love to watch what is next and upcoming. It is more the potential of talent that is going to be developed than the raw talent itself that makes the NCAA what it is. Each league has its qualities that people admire, whether for good or bad.


March Madness brings its intensity to every arena. Fans from around the continent travel to see these games. Whether it is parents, students, alumni or the city’s natives, people are beyond stoked. The game 7 intensity and survival of the fittest is in every game. The one game, do or die scenario creates an divine intensity to the games. You do not see this in every city in the NBA. For example, Brookyln is in New York, and many New Yorkers are New York Knicks fans. When you have your team, there is no going back to support another team within the same city. So, the atmosphere was somewhat unfortunate. Where in Toronto, a team whose fans haven’t seen playoffs in six years, the atmosphere in the Air Canada Centre was unbearable for opponents and magical for the home team.

Although there are many differences, each league gives fans an experience to remember. Year in and year out, we have something to talk about, don’t we?