How to Bet on College Basketball

How to Bet on College Basketball

Betting on college basketball is unique because of the sheer numbers of games you can bet on. With 350 Division I college basketball teams there is enough action to keep a person busy betting all winter. Due to the magnitude of NCAAB, it is extremely hard to keep track of every team and all 32 conferences for an expert, let alone a college basketball betting newcomer. So, view this guide as an explainer for a beginner to college basketball betting and a refresher for the experienced college basketball bettor.

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College Basketball Betting Basics

Despite being largely the same game, college basketball has many differences from the NBA. These differences can significantly affect how a sports bettor, regardless of his/her skill, approaches the game. Here you’ll find the principles of NCAAB betting and other important information to be aware of.

What Do You Need to Know before Betting on College Basketball?

For college basketball betting, the name of the game is research. With 350 teams spread among 32 conferences across the country, there are often single days with dozens of games. It is truly impossible to know everything about every team, which is theoretically possible with NBA betting. The best thing you can do is pick a lane, either familiarize yourself with the Top 25 teams or pick a conference, or several conferences and become an expert about those teams. There is also a large amount of advanced statistical CBB information on the internet and you need to seek that out as well.

What Are the Different Ways to Bet on College Basketball?

The most popular form of CBB betting is betting on the spread. Another popular style of college basketball betting is the moneyline bet, where you bet on the winner based on their odds. Over/under betting, also commonly referred to as the total is a common CBB bet as well. Prop bets, or bets on outcomes or individuals within a game have grown greatly in popularity in recent years. The parlay bet is another option, where you combine two or more bets into one larger bet. Futures betting, where you bet on future events involving both teams and/or players, is another growing CBB bet type.

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The Best Time to Bet

The best time to bet on a college basketball game is generally a few hours before the game begins. College teams are less forthcoming with injuries because the players are student-athletes, so it is often prudent to wait until closer to game time to discern who will be playing, if any players are questionable due to an injury.

Home Teams vs. Away Teams

College basketball is one of the sports where home court advantage still really matters. Student-filled crowds can be more intimidating than even the largest NBA crowd and can affect the opposing players, who are all college students, and the referees, particularly inexperienced refs. Additionally, college players are often flying in for a short trip, and many are juggling school work on the side, making road trips exhausting. This is factored into the spread of course, but it’s still important to weigh the chances of a road team, particularly in larger, on-campus arenas.

Analyzing a Team’s Schedule

More than any other sport, in college basketball all schedules and win-loss records are not considered equal. A high profile team might play a challenging non-conference schedule and go 8-4, while a smaller conference team might beat up on weaker opponents in non-conference play and go 11-1. There are many computer-based metrics that factor in quality of opponent and even quality of victory and the most popular of which are the Sagarin rankings and the KenPom ratings. Both give a great guideline to what spreads should look like for each game and give odds on who should win and what the final score should be. Any serious college bettor needs to familiarize themselves with Sagarin rankings and KenPom ratings.

Understand Conference Strength

It is imperative to know the quality of each conference when you are betting on college basketball. The sixth best team in a very good conference, say Purdue in the Big 10 to use a hypothetical example, might still be one of the top 25 teams in the country. On the other hand, the best team in, say, the Summit League which is often ranked around 20th among conferences might not have a single top 100 team in the conference, per advanced stats, like the Sagarin rankings. Just because a team is 14-4 does mean they are better than a 108- school in another conference. Knowing the relative strengths of each conference is a key part of being a CBB bettor.

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Types of CBB Bets

In the old days of sports betting, most bets were against the spread, with the occasional moneyline or over/under throw in. These days, there are a ton of different ways to wager on every single CBB game, including parlays, prop bets and futures. We will explain the most common methods of betting on college basketball games:

Betting on the Spread in College Basketball

Betting on the spread is still the most popular college basketball bet. The spread for each CBB game is set by each sportsbook’s oddsmakers. The way the spread works is, suppose the Duke Blue Devils are 8.5 point favorites over the Clemson Tigers. On betting sites, that would be listed as Duke -8.5 and Clemson +8.5. The minus (-) sign will always refer to the favorite, the plus (+) sign will always mean that team is the underdog.

So, if you are betting on Duke, you are making a bet that they will beat Clemson by 9 or more points. If Duke wins, but by less than 9, that would be a losing bet. If you bet on Clemson, you are wagering that they will either win, or lose by 8 points or less.

The people who set the spread have determined that Duke is basically 8.5 points better than Clemson. For this hypothetical bet, let’s assume that the odds for both teams to cover the spread are -110, which are the most common odds for CBB spreads. That means if you bet $110 on Duke and they cover the spread, that bet will return $100 in profit, or $210 total. Similarly, if you bet $110 on Clemson to cover the spread and they cover the spread, that bet would also return $100 in profit.

How to Bet the Moneyline in College Basketball

Betting on the moneyline is one of the traditional forms of college basketball betting. Betting the moneylines means you are trying to determine which team will win the game, with no regard for how much a team wins by.

To use a theoretical game as an example, suppose Gonzaga is favored by 12.5 points against BYU. By betting on the moneyline, Gonzaga could be listed as a -1000 favorite, while BYU would be a +650 underdog. What -1000 means is that you would need to bet ten dollars on Gonzaga to win for every dollar in profit you are trying to make, because they are such a large favorite. BYU’s odds of +650 mean that for every dollar you bet on BYU, you would earn $6.50 in profit were they to win the game outright.

One interesting aspect of moneyline betting in college basketball is that successfully betting on underdogs could be very profitable, since the odds are frequently so long. It is not uncommon to see teams favored by 25 points, which would be unheard of in NBA betting. With spread betting, you are usually hoping to almost double your money, while in moneyline betting you could be hoping to win five or six times your investment if your longshot underdog wins.

What are College Basketball Prop Bets?

Pro bets are one of the fastest growing forms of CBB betting. A prop, or proposition bet, revolves around players or statistics involving a game, but not on the winner or loser of the game itself.

On a typical night in college basketball, examples of available prop bets might include:
Will Iowa’s Luke Garza score more than 27.5 points against Wisconsin?
Will the USC-UCLA game end with an odd or even number of points scored?
Will Kentucky score more or less than 37.5 points in the first half?
Which player will score the most points during the Kansas-Baylor game?

So, for the prop bet involving Luke Garza to score more than 27.5 points, the odds would generally be -112 whether you predict over 27.5 points or under that number. So for every $1.12 you wager on that prop bet, you would be able to earn $1 in profit.

How Does NCAAB Over/Under Betting Work?

The other traditional form of CBB betting is the over/under bet, also commonly referred to as the toal.

Over/under bets focus on the total number of points scored in a college basketball game. If the total for a Syracuse-Louisville game is 131.5 points, that means that you would bet on the over if you thought that 132 or more points would be scored in the game, and if you thought that 131 or fewer points would be scored you would place your bet on the under.

Odds for over/unders usually hover around -110, rarely venturing outside the range of -108 to -114. If you were wagering on the hypothetical Syracuse-Louisville game, let’s say the over is -112, while the under is -109. That means that to make $100 in profit on a bet on the over of 131.5 points, you would need to wager $112, while you would need to bet $109 on the under to make $100 in profit.

How NCAAB Parlay Bets Work?

A parlay is a bet that combines two or more bets into one streamlined bet. You can bet on a two game parlay or a ten game parlay, but you should know that you need to win every bet within the parlay for your bet to be successful. If you go 9-1 in a ten team parlay, you would earn zero dollars.

One popular aspect of parlay betting is that if you parlay multiple games together and they win, your winnings would be larger than if you bet every game separately.

For example, suppose you wanted to bet on three CBB games in one night. The games you choose are Oregon to beat Washington State at -335 odds, Tennessee to beat Georgia at -205 odds, and Florida State to beat Wake Forest at -140 odds. Instead of betting on those games separately, the way a parlay works is that you can group these games together to make a parlay bet.

If you bet those three hypothetical games together, a $100 wager would earn you $231.19, which is more than you would make by betting them individually.

How to Bet NCAAB Futures

Future bets have become increasingly popular for people who want to bet on college basketball year-round. A futures bet is a bet on events that will occur in the future, such as which team will win their conference or win the NCAA Tournament. There are also player futures, such as a bet on which player will win a Player of the Year Award.

The day after March Madness is complete, you can place a bet on which team will win the Big East next season or which team will win the NCAA title. Suppose the Xavier Musketeers have +4000 odds to win the next NCAA championship. Those odds mean that for every dollar you bet on Xavier to win it all, you would gain forty dollars, assuming they win the title.

One of the biggest reasons that futures betting has become popular is that it gives bettors chances to win greater amounts of money than an everyday bet against the spread or on the moneyline or total. Even the largest underdog on a given night of college hoops might only return +600 odds. In futures betting, most of the biggest favorites would pay better than that to win the championship, in fact there will probably only be one or two teams with odds lower than that to win the championship.

NCAAB Betting FAQs

The most popular college basketball bets are bets against the spread, bets on the moneyline, over/unders or totals, parlay bets, prop bets, and futures bets.

Most college basketball bets are usually placed on the day of the game. However, for bigger games, like NCAA Tournament games you will generally see odds posted within hours of the games being announced.

You can currently bet legally on college basketball in 19 different states. There are also four states, plus Washington D.C., where CBB betting is legal, but there is no operational form of betting yet. There are 24 more states on the path to legalizing sports betting, and only three states have not yet moved towards legal CBB betting. Check the full list of states with legal CBB betting here.

There are several good strategies for betting on NCAAB underdogs including taking the home underdog, especially if it is a conference opponent (NCAAB fans are voracious and home court advantage is huge), betting on the smaller conferences (because the lines move less due to lack of public attention), and more!

The NCAA Tournament generally begins in the middle of March. In 2021, it will begin on March 18th. The bracket is always announced on the Sunday night before the NCAA Tournament and odds for NCAA Tournament games should be available soon after the bracket is set. But, you can place NCAA Tournament futures bets at any time.

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