NCAA College Basketball - An Introduction to Betting

NCAA College Basketball

Michigan Burke walks off the court as Louisville celebrates defeating Michigan to win the NCAA men's Final Four championship basketball game in Atlanta

College basketball, also known as NCAA hoops, offers many exciting games to bet money over the course of a season. This is university level where rosters change greatly each one. Top schools often sign players who compete for one season then enter the NBA draft. Some players, even those playing as low as Division 3, end up signing with professional basketball leagues of other countries after a strong performance in college. Of course, the majority are just playing while pursuing a degree.

Besides roster changes year to year, and talent levels differing between players, there is also a factor that even late in the season teams meet that have not yet shared a common opponent. Division 1 has 347 teams combining to play over 5,500 games. This all makes it difficult for bookmakers to set accurate odds on many of those. The value that can be found is why many professional gamblers such as Billy Walters focus heavily on college hoops.

In this article, we cover the most popular ways college basketball bets are made. We then conclude with a few tips on finding extra value and winning money betting on this sport. Before doing that, of course many readers want to know where to bet online. The sites below are the ones that we recommend to give you a better experience.

Sportsbooks for NCAA College Basketball Betting

50% up to $500
100% up to $500
25% Free Play
50% up to $2500
100% Cash up to $250

How to Bet College Basketball

The most common methods of wagering college basketball are no different than those of most other North American sports. For the benefit of those who are new, we run through them with a quick explanation of each. Note that we have a separate article on March Madness betting. When betting near the end of the season be sure to read that one too.

    • Moneyline Betting – is simply a wager on which team will win the game outright. Teams are rarely evenly matched so the odds on each game differ. In one game you might need to risk 5 to win 1 on the favorite and get +400 on the underdog. Others are closer such as risk 1.2 to win 1 on the favorite and get even money on the underdog. It varies greatly with each game having different odds. This is why moneylines are not the most popular method.
    • Point spread betting – is the more common way college basketball betting is done. The oddsmaker sets a point spread known as a handicap to create a 50/50 wagering proposition. For example Kentucky -4.5 / Kansas +4.5. This makes Kentucky a 4.5 point favorite. Those betting on Kentucky need them to win 5 points or more for their wager to be successful. Those who bet Kansas as a 4.5 point underdog win if Kansas wins the game outright or losses by 4 points or less.
    • Total Betting – sees the bookie predict how many points both teams will score combined in the game. This figure is called the posted betting total. Gamblers then decide to wager over the posted total, or under the posted total. This is also close to a 50/50 wagering proposition.

The above markets are found at almost every online betting site, but moneylines are not offered on all matches. If the #1 ranked team is playing some small school and the point spread is over 20 points expect it will be difficult to find a sportsbook with a moneyline. The threshold for whether a moneyline is available or not differs between sites.

Tips for Betting NCCA College Hoops

For a fan of college basketball that isn’t going to do any advanced handicapping or scouting, the biggest tip we can give is shop the odds. Use multiple online sportsbooks and then place your bet at whichever is offering the best payout on your selection. Another tip is, any time a team ranked lower in the top 25 than their opponent is an underdog, you want to bet their opponent as a favorite. This even more true when an unranked team is favored over a ranked team. In such scenarios resist the temptation to go the opposite way and bet the unranked favorite.

For those who know the teams well including coaching tendencies and past player performance in certain situations, live in-play betting is where you will want to focus. Strategy between coaches varies greatly. When up big at what point do they pull their starters when up? Is there a period of the game they are known to rest a top player? When losing do they accept defeat, or do they foul even though they are down 8 with 1.5 second left in the game? Knowing this information can help you find a big edge in-play betting.

When in-play betting at sites with decent limits and a legit platform you will see the bookie change their odds quickly. Near the end of the game they post an over/under that expects 8 more points to be scored. Then quickly you see it moves to 8.5, 10, 11, and then 12.5. This all happens in a flash but you sit seeing each move. What just happened is they got hit with bets by educated players. These players are standing by looking to pounce when the live betting odds have it wrong.

In the scenario above the harm for the sportsbook is minor. They rely on what large bets coming in are telling them in order to adjust their odds. The educated players are getting the best of it, but they are part of the process. Their wagers helped the bookmaker determine fair odds and they now take bets from casual players at those odds while having an advantage on the many bets that follow.

What we said in the intro wasn’t fluff or square jargon. College basketball truly is one of the most difficult sports for oddsmakers to set odds for. The strategy with live betting and knowing coaching tendencies and past performance of players in specific situation is strong. However, only a few websites such as BetOnline and Bookmaker have legit live-in play betting platforms. They only offer this on select games. The good news is they do publish a schedule, so you can study and learn these teams in advanced and be one of the ones getting those +EV bets. The better news is it is possible to make money based on having knowledge of the teams and players when prematch betting certain games too.

There are some betting sites that refuse to offer odds on every college basketball game. An example would be a game such as Charleston from the Colonial Athletic conference vs. Liberty from the Big South. The only people betting this are current and past students, their families, and a few local fans. If you are a bookmaker, how many of such are likely to bet at your website? You see, more likely than not the small number of bets taken are going to be from professional players who are betting because they spotted an edge. For this reason a lot of sites only offer odds on certain games.

5Dimes, BetOnline, and Bookmaker are three global sites that accept players from every country and have odds on most of these small matches. Some hide them listing them as something like NCAA added games. You have to look for that section of the site, and this keeps those games off the odds feeds professional gamblers use. More often what happens is they don’t post odds for least popular games until one hour and up to fifteen minutes before the game starts. This limits their risks, but doesn’t completely isolate the recreational players that had an interest in that game.

So from here of course the strategy for prematch is to study and learn these teams. In the example we gave of Charleston vs. Liberty trust me, chances are great the oddsmaker doesn’t have a clue. He is going to look at the little he has, throw out his line and adjust them as he gets bets. And that brings us to our final tip.

For even the major college basketball matches, the opening odds are often pretty good. But for these, the window to bet them at value is small. You need to study which sites release them first and what time they often get posted. The big match games will get bet quickly. The few sites we mentioned in recent paragraphs are a good place to start that research.

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