NCAA basketball has a massive following across the United States. And with sports betting making its way to new markets at a rapid pace, bettors have flocked to NCAAB sportsbooks to find great wagers on college basketball match-ups.
Betting on college basketball games at major sportsbooks has never been easier. Sports betting is live in more than twenty jurisdictions, giving bettors legal and safe access to NCAAB betting options and much more.
College basketball betting is fairly easy to get into. You just need to understand the rules of the game, the types of bets you can place, and a little bit about how the sport works on the league and organization level. NCAA basketball bears many similarities with its professional counterpart—the NBA—but betting laws and organizational policies do make for a few key differences. On this page, we’ll run you through everything you need to know about NCAA basketball betting.
How NCAAB Differs From The NBA
As you might imagine, college basketball and professional basketball have many things in common. They’re the same sport, after all. But there are also fundamental differences between the leagues because of the level of play, number of eligible players, and different rule sets.
First, the gameplay differs slightly in college basketball. NCAAB matches are played in two 20-minute halves, while NBA games are played in four 12-minute quarters.
Next, the shot clock in an NCAAB game is 35 seconds, compared to the NBA’s 24. Combined with the truncated playtime (eight minutes fewer than an NBA match), the longer shot clock makes for a slower overall pace of play and therefore lower total scores. There are a few other general differences between NCAAB play and NBA play, but they’re more hyperspecific and won’t have as much of an impact on betting.
On top of the rules differences, the NCAA naturally has a wider talent pool. The NBA, on the other hand, features only the cream of the crop, the best players from around the world. As a result, you can get crazy match-ups in which star players can make all the difference. When you’re betting on NCAA basketball, you’re likely to find bigger point spreads at major sportsbooks based on mismatched teams playing against each other. Totals will generally be lower than you’d find in the NBA due to the shorter play time and lower skill of college athletes.
But that’s also what makes college betting fun. Fresh new players can make for truly interesting basketball. If you do your research and keep up to date with the latest on your favorite team or conference, you can give yourself ample opportunity to win.
College Betting Restrictions
If you’re a basketball betting enthusiast, you can sign onto a sportsbook and place a wager on virtually any NBA game or market. It’s that simple. College basketball—and other college sports—present a bit of a hurdle. Some states, like New Jersey, New York, and Illinois, for example, prohibit betting on in-state schools.
Illinois bettors, for example, can’t place a bet on the University of Illinois, even if the school is playing a match out of state. Schools from other state are fair game, but such laws restrict betting to schools that aren’t located within the betting market. The intent of these laws is to curb potential corruption at the NCAA organizational level, though many states are attempting to overturn the legislation preventing in-state college betting. New Jersey, specifically, made a recent attempt, though it made little headway. Still, it’s possible a big betting market could reverse its stance on in-state college betting restrictions, and other markets with similar laws could fall like dominoes, allowing more college wagers.
If you’re looking to bet on NCAAB, check your state’s regulations to see whether you’re allowed to bet on in-state match-ups.
Looking At College Basketball Stats
If you’re looking to bet on college basketball, it helps to stay up to date with the latest statistics. This is not required by any means, and you can absolutely bet without doing much research, but putting in a bit of legwork can give you an edge when you’re placing wagers. Here are a few tips for when you’re perusing the stats to give yourself a leg up before you bet.
First, keep in mind that stats aren’t always up to date, especially early on in the season. College basketball relies on players actually attending a university, so turnover is high. Each year, teams lose key players and gain new freshman ready to prove themselves. Don’t rely too much on the first few weeks of stats, as they can change along the way. Coaching takes time, and athletes can blossom into high-level scorers and role-players over stretches of time.
Along those lines, it’s a good strategy to wait until mid-season before you start placing lots of bets. Nothing wrong with peppering a few dollars on early games here or there; just understand that’s an inherently risky strategy. Instead, focus your betting strategy on the back half of the season, when players have been tested on the court and team chemistry comes to the forefront.
In a way, you get a soft reset at the end of every college basketball season. Use it wisely. Study the players and teams you like to bet on most!
Capitalize On Favorable Betting Lines
NCAAB has smaller betting markets than you might find on NBA games. For that reason, it’s important to punce when you find a good line on your preferred bet. With fewer overall markets to choose from, it’s common for sportsbooks to move lines and odds as new bets roll in. You can always wait to see if a bet becomes more favorable for you, but that’s very rare. Generally it’s advisable to place your bet immediately upon finding the best line.
This is all especially true because college basketball won’t have the same market depth as the NBA when it comes to prop bets or other niche markets. It’s slightly harder to find better lines, so it’s always a good idea to find your ideal bet, shop around at NCAAB sportsbooks for the best odds, and place your bet.
Make Yourself An NCAAB Specialist
Whether you focus on a few specific teams or a full conference, it’s best to have a specialty in NCAAB betting. There are hundreds of schools across the US, and keeping track of all their stats players, records, and performance is a daunting task, to put it mildly.
Instead, we recommend focusing on a conference or two. Perhaps one could be the conference that includes your favorite college team and another could be completely random, or you could choose a major conference with various top-tier teams. It doesn’t matter how you choose, but it helps to have a focused mindset when you’re betting on college basketball. If you stretch yourself too thin by trying to track too many teams, your bets could become riskier than you’d like.
How you focus your betting money and time is up to you. Make choices that fit with your betting style and include teams you like to watch. It’s supposed to be fun, after all.
Don’t Focus Solely On The Big Games
College basketball betting is overflowing with big games and rivalry match-ups. Indiana vs. Purdue, Duke vs. North Carolina, Kentucky vs. Louisville…the list goes on and on. It’s natural to want to bet on those match-ups, and you should if you like a specific line or market available on a big college basketball game.
However, there’s a lot of great betting action to be had on lesser match-ups. Fewer people bet on the small universities or games, meaning sportsbooks will often provide better odds on those markets. If you home in on some lesser-known schools, you’re likely to find odds that present a better possible payout than one of the big rivalry match-ups we list above. If you get it right and do your research, betting on smaller games can be a lucrative strategy.
Finding The Best NCAAB Betting Sportsbook
We’re here to help you find the best NCAAB sportsbook for you. Quite frankly, there are a lot of sportsbooks that offer NCAAB betting lines, though the number of sportsbooks can vary by market based on licensing and regulations.
Still, if you’re in a legal state, you probably have a wealth of sports betting options available to you. To sign up for all of them would be a tedious task, and we don’t recommend it. Instead, we encourage you to take a look at all the sportsbooks available in your market and decide on three or four that best fit your needs. Take into account the lines and odds offered on NCAAB games, welcome bonuses, ongoing promotions, and ease of use/access for you personally.
You can find all our top recommendations for the best sites on our NCAAB sportsbook page. There, we go into detail about each sportsbook, including the pros and cons of each platform. That can help you decide which ones work best for you.
Once you’ve found a handful of sportsbooks that do the trick, sign up for an account at each one and be sure to claim your welcome bonus. Then you’re all set. You can use those sportsbooks to compare odds and find the most lucrative NCAA basketball bets.
Types Of NCAAB Bets You Can Place
When you’re betting on NCAA basketball, there are various types of bets available to you.
This is the simplest type of bet you can palace on college basketball. Pick a team to win and palace your bet; that’s it! You’ll find odds listed like so:
- North Carolina: -140
- Miami: +116
These odds mean that North Carolina is the slight favorite. If you bet $140 on them to win and they do, you’d win $100.
Miami, on the other hand, is the slight underdog. If you bet $100 at those odds of +116 and the bet hit, you’d win $116.
If you see a “+” it means that team is the underdog. A “-” means that team is the favorite to win. In the scenario above, both are pretty close to one another, but it’s possible for moneylines to have much bigger differences based on past team performance.
Point spread bets give extra imaginary points to the underdog team to even out the odds. Here’s an example:
- South Carolina +12: -114
- Arkansas -12: -106
Meanwhile, the moneyline odds are South Carolina +530 and Arkansas -780. As you can see, the moneyline on this match-up is very lopsided because Arkansas is highly favored to win the game.
The point spread gives South Carolina a 12-point advantage for betting purposes. To cover the spread, South Carolina either needs to win outright OR lose by fewer than 12 points. For example, if the final score was South Carolina 67, Arkansas 72, South Carolina would cover the spread. The +12 is added to the team’s final score, brining the total to 79, which beats Arkansas’ 72.
If you’re watching a severely mismatched game, point spreads are a great bet to keep you invested even though it may turn into a blowout.
Rounding out the three main bet types, we have totals. These bets don’t rely on a single team to win or lose. Instead, totals bets are placed to guess what the combined total points scored by both teams will be. Here’s an example.
- Ohio vs. Miami (OH)
- Over 143 (-120)
- Under 143 (-102)
The combined total points at the end of the game determines which side of the bet wins: over or under. If the final score was Ohio 75, Miami 80, the over would hit (because the total points were 155, beating the line of 143). If the final score was Ohio 60, Miami 59, the under would hit with a total of 119.
If you don’t have a major stake in either team, totals are a great way to get invested in an overall game without rooting for a specific side.
Team Props And Margins
Other bets include propositions (props) and margins. Props are often relegated to team-only bets, though some states allow prop betting on specific player performance. Most commonly, you'll find specific team totals or alternate totals lines.
Margins have you bet on the margin of victory. For example, using the Ohio vs. Miami example above, you might find a line that says “Ohio to win by 1-10: +194.” To win that bet, Ohio would need to beat Miami by a margin of anywhere between 1 and 10. It’s slightly risky, burn a solid and well-researched margin bet can be a great moneymaker.
How To Find Value On College Basketball Bets
If you’re betting on any sport, it pays to shop around for the best value. That holds true for college basketball, too, just as it does for NBA games.
There are a few key factors to consider when you’re looking for value on a bet. You can shop around for the best odds, but other factors can influence the likelihood of a given bet to hit and, subsequently, pay out.
First, look for home-field advantage. It’s not an end-all-be-all, and it won’t act as a crystal ball. But the energy of a home-team college basketball arena is often unmatched, and that energy can definitely contribute to a team’s success, even on a minuscule scale. An underdog team might perform better at home than they do on the road, so check for the venue before you place a bet.
More concrete factors are stats and updates like injuries and past performance. If a favorited team sees its start player injured, that could give you an edge if you're betting on the underdog opponent to cover the spread.
Take a look around for good odds, do your research, and place smart wagers to stay ahead.
Where Is College Basketball Betting Legal?
Here are the states that have legalized sports betting:
- New York
- New Jersey
- Mississippi (in-person only)
- West Virginia
- New Mexico (in-person only)
- Rhode Island
- Arkansas (in-person only)
- New Hampshire
- Montana (in-person only)
- Louisiana (in-person only, online launching soon)
- Washington, D.C.
- North Carolina (in-person only)
- Washington (in-person only, online allowed at retail sportsbook locations)
- South Dakota (in-person only, online allowed at retail sportsbook locations)
- Connecticut (in-person only, online on the way)
- North Dakota (in-person only)
That’s a big number of available sports betting locations. However, it’s important to check your state’s laws regarding college betting. As mentioned earlier on this page, some states restrict college betting to match-ups that don’t include an in-state school. OTher allow betting on all college teams, but prohibit player props. Yet other markets allow the same types of bets on college sports as they do on professional leagues like the NBA.
Rest assured, however, that your local sportsbooks are required to abide by these regulations. Therefore, they will only list lines and bets that they can legally offer in a state. Otherwise, they’d risk losing their ability to take bets in the state. You won’t find any illegal bets on your sportsbook for that reason, but it still helps to brush up on your market’s laws and regulations.
Where To Find NCAAB Picks & Predictions
Every week, we offer picks and predictions for college basketball on our NCAAB Picks page. You can check back daily for picks from our informed college sports fans. We list our ideal bets with plenty of reasoning, factoring in past performance and match-up data.
NCAAB Betting Mistakes To Avoid
When you place NCAA basketball bets, it’s important to avoid common mistakes and fumbles. Here are a few issues to look out for and how to avoid them.
Don’t Rely Too Much On Favorites
Moneyline bets can be enticing, especially when a match is heavily favored on one side. But don’t get into a habit of betting only on the favorite. You won’t make much, even if you win multiple bets, because the odds are heavily stacked in favor of the team projected to win. Plus, if you lose, you’ll be out your original bet.
If you like to look at favored teams, consider trying point spread bets or totals backed by our weekly NCAAB picks and your own research. These can give you a better chance to actually win some money without risking too much.
Check Your Bias
It’s fair to favor your alma mater or your local college team…especially if they’re a solid squad. But be careful and exercise caution. It’s not always wise to back your own team. If you’re placing a bet on your favorite college basketball team, make sure it’s for the right reasons.
If you lose a few bets, it’s natural to try to recuperate by placing a string of longshot bets immediately afterward. But try not to do that—it can result in more significant losses. A few bad bets will happen from time to time. Just stay measured in your wagering approach and place smart bets over time.
NCAAB Betting Online Vs. Retail Sportsbooks
Many states now have online sports betting and retail sportsbook available. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Other than actually watching an NCAAB game live at the arena, a retail sportsbook is probably the closest you can come to that level of hype and energy. You’ll be surrounded by fellow fans and bettors, plus you can get drinks and food at most in-person sportsbooks. The atmosphere is hard to beat. In addition, most sportsbooks have manned kiosks, so you can get help placing your bets from a real person.
The disadvantages? You’re locked into the lines on offer at the retail sportsbook, unless you also have online as an option in your state. Plus, you have to actually get to the sportsbook, rather than betting from wherever you happen to be at the moment. In addition, you may have to wait in line to place bets at wagering kiosks, so you risk the line moving while you wait.
Betting on-the-go? It’s hard to beat online sportsbooks for that purpose. If you’re at home, work, the bar, out and about in general, you can palace a bet right from your mobile device. Online sportsbooks also allow you to shop for lines at various oddsmaking sites with a few quick taps of the finger. You can also watch the game live while betting on your phone, which is ideal, especially if you’re live betting an NCAAB match.
On the other hand, you’re dependent on a wi-fi or cellular signal to place your bets. Plus, you won’t always have the great fan atmosphere of a retail sportsbook. Still, online has many advantages that can’t be overlooked for NCAAB betting.
Placing A College Basketball Bet: Step By Step
Let’s say you want to bet the Baylor moneyline (-280) vs. West Virginia (+225). Here’s how you can do it.
- If you haven’t yet, create a sportsbook account. It’s similar to signing up for any online profile, though you’ll need a government-issued ID and your social security number.
- Once you’re registered, navigate to your chosen bet. Click on the bet you’d like to place. In this case, select the -280 under the Baylor moneyline. This will add the wager to your betslip.
- Head to your betslip, and type the amount you’d like to wager in the proper field.
- Select “place bet” and wait for the sportsbook to confirm your wager is placed.
- That’s it! Watch the game and hope your bet hits.
It’s really simple. And as you get more comfortable with college basketball betting, you can start to place more complex wagers. Happy betting!