Why does the college basketball championship game start so late? Explaining the 2024 tipoff time for UConn vs. Purdue

The NCAA Tournament is ending Monday, and soon, either UConn or Purdue will claim the national title for 2024.

Fans will be eager to see the two No. 1 seeds matchup in the heavyweight clash. It will be especially fun to watch 7-2 UConn center Donovan Clingan go head-to-head with 7-4 Purdue big-man Zach Edey. 

There’s just one negative for the fans about the game — they have to wait until late on the East Coast to crown a national champion.

Indeed, the NCAA championship game is tipping off at 9:20 p.m. ET, a drastic difference from many of the other marquee matchups from the NCAA Tournament. It’s also more than six hours later than the women’s NCAA Tournament finale, which was played at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.

Why is the March Madness finale played so late in the day? Here’s what to know about the NCAA’s scheduling decisions ahead of the men’s championship game.

LIVE: Follow UConn vs. Purdue updates from 2024 NCAA championship

Why does the college basketball championship game start so late?

The March Madness championship game likely takes place on the later side to make the game more accessible for the west-coast audience.

While it may be late for those on the East Coast, the 9:20 p.m. ET start time is convenient for the three other time zones across the country. Notably, the game begins at 6:20 p.m. locally for those on the West Coast, so potential viewers with 9-5 jobs won’t have to miss any portion of the game.

Additionally, the Final Four is in Phoenix in 2024, which is located in the Western Time Zone. That means tip-off will be at 6:20 p.m. locally, an ideal start time for the players and coaches on hand.

Of course, it’s worth noting that the 9:20 p.m. ET start time has long been in effect. Even when the national championship is played in the Eastern Time Zone, the start time is delayed to try to maximize viewership across the country.

The length of the average college basketball game also enables the NCAA to program a later start time for its men’s championship game.

Typical college basketball games are about two hours in length, so even if the 2024 NCAA Tournament championship runs long, it should still be over before midnight on the East Coast. That will encourage enough potential viewers on that side of the country to stay up while delivering a perfect viewing window for those on the West Coast.

By comparison, college football games usually run at least three hours. That necessitates an earlier start for the College Football Playoff championship (usually around 8 p.m. ET) to ensure that the action doesn’t run into the wee hours on the East Coast.

Either way, the East Coast gets the short end of the stick with this start time. That said, it gets plenty of solid treatment earlier in the NCAA Tournament, especially with the 12:15 p.m. ET start times over the tournament’s first weekend, so UConn fans having to stay up late shouldn’t complain that much as the Huskies look to capture their second consecutive national title.

BENDER: Picking UConn vs. Purdue against the spread

National championship game start time

  • Date: Monday, April 8
  • Time: 9:20 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: TBS
  • Live stream: Sling

The national championship game between UConn and Purdue is set to tip off at 9:20 p.m. ET (6:20 p.m. local time in Phoenix).

Bill Raftery and Grant Hill will continue in their typical roles as color analysts for the championship game while Ian Eagle will be the play-by-play man on the crew. Eagle replaced Jim Nantz on the No. 1 broadcast crew following Nantz’s retirement from college basketball at the end of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

The national championship will be broadcast on TBS. Those looking to stream the event can use Sling.

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