Betting on NCAA College Basketball
For those looking to break into betting on college hoops, stick around. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to get started betting on NCAAB with pro tips to put you on the right path.
With hundreds of teams and thousands of games each year to monitor, betting on College Basketball is no easy task. But, with a little help, you will be profiting in no time.
How to bet on NCAA College Basketball
College Basketball is one of the most heavily bet sports in the United States. Recent reports suggest that 40+ million people bet more than $3 billion on the NCAA Tournament last season alone. That is roughly three times more activity than the Super Bowl saw in February.
To be fair, March Madness is a month of the best college basketball in the world, while the Super Bowl is one four-hour event.
With 32 conferences and 350 teams, NCAA basketball is a different beast than any other sport. Heck, that is just Division 1 (NCAA D-1) ball. Taking into account DII and DIII, there are over 1,000 schools in the NCAA that play basketball.
The guide that follows is designed to make the jump to NCAAB easy for new bettors. We won’t be getting much into DII or DIII, but there is more than enough in Division I to work with.
Ahead we will cover how to read college basketball odds, popular bet types, and some strategies that will help navigate a full season of NCAAB betting.
Reading NCAA College Basketball Odds
The first step in learning how to bet on any sport is getting accustomed to reading odds. Without the proper guidance, the above odds board probably looks like a mess. Luckily this guide will make reading odds second nature to you in no time.
For the start of this section, we will focus on the American (aka Moneyline) format for odds. This is the default for BetUS and what you will see the most in the United States.
Let’s create a hypothetical NCAAB game between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Baylor Bears to get us started. The Moneyline odds for any basketball game listed above will look like this:
Gonzaga Bulldogs -150
Baylor Bears +120
While this does not seem like a log of information, these lines provide us with all we need to know. The first thing to note is that the home team is always listed second. In this case, Baylor is the home team with Gonzaga on the road.
The next thing to take note of is the plus (+) and minus (-) sign in front of each team. These symbols tell us which team is the favorite and which is the underdog. A plus sign in front of a team means they are underdogs while a minus symbol represents the betting favorite.
When a game is expected to be close, both teams can be listed as favorites or underdogs. Sometimes, the odds for both teams are the same. For example, if both teams are listed as +100, this is called a Pick ‘em. When you see odds like this, it means the game is expected to be a near-deadlock.
So, what about the numbers that follow those symbols? For favorites, the number represents the amount of money you would have to wager to win $100. In the above example, Gonzaga is (-150) to win the game.
That means, to win $100, you would have to risk $150. On the other hand, when betting on underdogs, the number represents the payout on a $100 wager. So, a $100 bet on the Bears would pay $120. In both instances, winning bets get back their initial stake along with the amount won.
That covers the American style of odds, but there are two additional formats you are likely to encounter. So, let’s get familiar with Fractional odds (aka “British” odds), and decimal odds (aka “European” odds).
Here is an example of the same game listed with fractional odds:
Gonzaga Bulldogs 4/6
Baylor Bears 6/5
While fractions annoy most people, understanding this format is a breeze once you see what is going on. A basic example would be a game with odds at 2/1 (2-1) odds for one team. This means that the bet will pay out $2 for every $1 wagered. In essence, doubling your initial stake.
So, in our hypothetical game, a bet on the Bulldogs would pay out $4 for every $6 wagered. Anytime the first number is less than the second, the team is a favorite. The Bears, meanwhile, will pay out $6 for every $5 wagered as underdogs.
Finally, let’s take a look at the same game listed with decimal odds:
Gonzaga Bulldogs 1.67
Baylor Bears 2.20
There is one major difference between the odds in this format and the previous two. While fractional and Moneyline odds represent the profit from a winning bet, decimal odds represent the total return. This means that decimal odds take into account your stake, while the others do not.
For example, a $1 wager on the Bulldogs would return $1.67 total. That breaks down to $0.67 for winning the bet and your $1 stake returned. Similarly, a $1 bet on Baylor will return $2.20 total or $1.20 for winning the bet, and the $1 you risked.
Decimal odds are preferred by many over fractional odds because they are easier to decipher and the line moves occur in smaller increments.
NCAA College Basketball Moneyline Betting
Moneyline (ML) betting is the most straightforward wager you can make on sports. Also known as straight up (SU) or outright betting, the only thing you need to do here is to pick a winner.
This is the best place to start for new sports bettors. The format is the same as the money line odds listed above with a typical game looking like this:
North Carolina Tar Heels +125
Kansas Jayhawks -150
In this example, the Jayhawks (-150) are solid favorites against the visiting Tar Heels (+125). We know this because Kansas is listed as the second team and has a minus (-) in front of their odds.
To win $100 on Kansas, you would need to risk $150. But, to win $150 on the underdog Tar Heels, you would need to bet just $120.
NCAA College Basketball Point Spread Betting
While Moneyline betting is the easiest to understand, betting against the spread (ATS) is by far the most popular. This is because ATS betting is designed to handicap the favorites and move the odds closer to even.
This is particularly important in NCAA basketball because there are plenty of massive mismatches. It is not uncommon to see ML odds of -1000 or more for favorites.
This leaves very little value to be had on the ML when a $1000 bet would win you just $100. So, the spread allows us to add betting value to even the biggest of mismatches.
The way it works is by assigning a set number of points for each game known as the spread. Think of it as a head start for the underdog of (X) number of points. When you see a spread at the sportsbook, it will look something like this:
North Carolina Tar Heels +3.5 (-105)
Kansas Jayhawks -3.5 (-115)
The spread is always the same for both teams and, in this case, is set at 3.5. This is the first time we see half-points incorporated into odds. This is by design to avoid the possibility of a tie or “push.” In the above example, the Tar Heels are 3.5-point underdogs with odds of (-105).
This means a winning bet on UNC would pay out $95 for every $100 wagered. It also means that, at +3.5, the Tar Heels can win or lose, but cannot lose by more than (3) points.
If they lose by (3) or fewer points, they cover the spread as underdogs. Kansas, on the other hand, has to win the game by at least (4) points to cover their spread as favorites.
NCAA College Basketball Totals Betting
Betting on totals is a bit different from other formats as it is not contingent on who wins or loses the game.
This is because when betting totals, aka Over/Under (O/U), you are wagering on the combined points that both teams score. This is a fun way to mix up the daily bets you are making and incorporate something new.
Here is an example of what the O/U odds for a college basketball game look like.
Syracuse Orange vs. St. John’s Red Storm O/U 71.5 (o-105)/-115u)
In this example, the total for this game has been set at 71.5. This means that a score of 72 or more will cash Over bets while any score of 71 or fewer would cash Under bets. Half points are used widely in college basketball totals. We also see that the Over pays out at (-105) while the Under has odds of (-115).
Totals in college basketball can tend to be all over the place with the mismatches that occur. The average scoring total of D1 men’s basketball games in 2021 was around 67.75 points PPG. But, totals can extend much higher, or lower than that.
BetUS also offers team totals for most college basketball games. The difference here is you are betting on one team’s total points and not the combined game score. You can also bet on first-quarter and first-half totals.
NCAA College Basketball Prop Betting
BetUS Sportsbook offers a ton of prop (propositional) bets for most major NCAA basketball games. The bigger the game, the more prop bets will be available. These bets are a great way to expand your bet types and add a ton of fun along the way.
There are two main prop bets in basketball called player props and team props. As the names suggest, team props are based on the performance of an entire team while player props focus on individuals.
An example of a team prop would be the total number of rebounds the Baylor Bears have in a game, or how many fouls the Michigan Wolverines commit. In these cases, the prop bet will be set up like a betting total. An example would be:
Michigan Wolverines Total Fouls O/U 9.5 (o-110/u-110)
In this example, a bet on the Over would be a bet on the Wolverines to commit 10 or more personal fouls with odds at (-110). If they don’t reach 10 fouls, the Under cashes at (-110).
Player props are pretty much the same but allow bettors to wager on individuals instead. It is common to see Yes/No types of bets in this category. An example of this would be:
Will Hunter Dickinson (MICH) Earn a Double-Double? Yes -150 / No +125
In this case, we are betting on whether we think Michigan’s Hunder Dickinson will get a double-double in this game. Yes is implied to be the likely choice at -150 while No would be considered the “underdog” at +125.
NCAA College Basketball Futures Betting
Futures are often considered a type of prop bet that spans entire seasons and not just a single game.
This is because, unlike other types of bets, futures allow you to bet on outcomes months down the road. The major draw of this type of betting is the high payouts that are possible.
Some common betting futures for NCAAB include conference champions, teams to make the elite eight, and who wins Coach of the Year.
While betting on the winner of the NCAA Tournament is the most popular futures bet, there are dozens of options available each season to explore.
Betting on March Madness
March Madness is one of the most popular events in the world to wager on and saw more than $3 billion in action in 2022. More than 15% of the US population bets on March Madness because it is the most exciting month in American sports.
Between play-in games and the National Championship Game, there are a ton of games to wager on and a ton of profit to be made.
Bettors are not locked into head-to-head matchups and can also bet on the outright winner, which teams make the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight, or predict the exact teams to make the finals.
A fan favorite bet is to try and predict one of the rare upsets that occur every tournament. Picking a massive ML upset is a great way to build a bankroll fast in March Madness.
Past 10 Division I NCAA College Basketball Champions
2022- Kansas def. UNC 72-69
2021 – Baylor def. Gonzaga 86-70
2020 – Canceled due to COVID-19
2019 – Virginia def. Virginia 85-77 (OT)
2018 – Villanova def. Michigan 79-62
2017 – North Carolina def. Gonzaga 71-65
2016 – Villanova def. North Carolina 77-74
2015 – Duke def. Wisconsin 68-63
2014 – Connecticut def. Kentucky 60-54
2013 – Louisville def. Michigan 82-76