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The rulesThe ball is smaller in the women's game, but for now, the 3-point line is the same. The differences, and other rules variations:

Men's vs. women's basketball


20 feet, 9 inches

Average woman

6 feet 17/8

Example: Khadijah

Whittington, N.C. State

Average man

6 feet 73/4

Example: Luke Harangody,

Notre Dame




Average woman

5 feet 67/8

Example: Kristi Toliver,


Average man

6 feet ¼

Example: Adam Emmenecker, Drake




Average woman

5 feet 113/8

Example: Maya Moore,


Average man

6 feet 41/4

Example: O.J. Mayo, USC




The 3-pointer

Both shoot the 3 from 19 feet, 9 inches, but next season, the men move back a foot. By comparison, the WNBA is 20 feet, 61/4 inches; the NBA is 23 feet, 9 inches, though it shrinks to 22 feet in the corners.

Backcourt violation

Occurs if the men don't cross midcourt in 10 seconds. The women don't have such a rule.

Five-second rule

Applies if a defender is within 6 feet in men's basketball, but only if the defender is within 3 feet in women's.


Both have standard 15-minute halftimes during the regular season. The men's halftime is expanded to 20 minutes for all rounds of the NCAA Tournament; the women's halftime doesn't expand to 20 minutes until the Elite Eight (region final) round of the NCAA Tournament.

Shot clock



The ball

The women use a ball 28.5 to 29 inches in diameter, 1 inch smaller than the men.

Both women and men play basketball, but is it the same game? The men draw greater crowds. We look at the players, how they perform and the rules they play by to show you what's the same … and what's different.

The players

No surprise, men are bigger than women. But how much bigger? We compared the NCAA top 50 in three key statistics to see how tall the average elite player is. Rulers actual size.

The performances

Want gender equity? Try free-throw shooting. Check out the aggregate statistics for all Division I men's and women's basketball players, and there's barely a difference between the two, over a sample of more than 390,000 free throws.


Percent male players shot this season.


Percent female players shot. Women shot better than men in the SEC and Big East.

357 The overall difference is so tiny that if each group shot 357 free throws, the men would hit one more than the women.


Average points

per game:





Men: Better shooters?

You can also look at this as "women are better defenders," but men shot 44 percent from the field, while women shot 40.1 percent. There's a similar disparity in 3-pointers, where the men shoot 35.2 percent and women shoot 32 percent. The men's game, however, features the 3-pointer much more prominently — men's teams average 18.4 3-pointers. That's 19 percent more than the women, who average 15.5. Men are 30 percent more likely to foul out .

Playing below the rim

Talking about the differences between women's basketball and the version played by their high-flying male counterparts reminds DePaul women's coach Doug Bruno of a story from his youth. ¶ Bruno, a longtime men's assistant at Loyola-Chicago and player at DePaul, worked at golf courses, lugging bags around fairways. One had a basketball rim for the caddies, but the rim was 11 feet, a foot higher than regulation. ¶ "It changed the game for us," said Bruno, "because there was an innate need to value the aspect of the game played on the floor." ¶ In another words, no dunking, more passing. Skill and fundamentals were more important. He sees that now in the women's game, citing former UCLA coach John Wooden's endorsement of women playing a more pure form of basketball. ¶ "Women value being smart," he said. "The guys are smart, but don't value it. The thinking is 'I'm athletic, therefore I am.' If you're a purist about the game, it's not just the finishing dunk, which is exciting for all of us."


19 feet, 9 inches

Men's vs. women's basketball 04/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 6:29pm]
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