How to Bet on NCAA College Basketball Games

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Bet on NCAA College Basketball Games

Major League Baseball comes with off days that can limit your betting options to just a handful of games. The same is true of NBA and NHL betting, and at least a couple of days a week where the schedule is light. And obviously, NFL and college football betting comes with a large number of off days before the peak wagering of the weekend.

Standing out from these major American team sports is college basketball, and its 32 Division I conferences, and more than 350 universities that claim a team. With so many teams and so many games and stretching from the months of October to April, there really is no fuller schedule on the sports betting calendar than the one provided by NCAA hoops.

College Basketball Season Structure

When betting on college football, you are at best treated to 60 games a week that see a point spread from a bookmaker. The NFL is considerably less. But once the college basketball season tips off in October, each of the 350-plus teams will be playing at least twice a week. It is impossible to have that many games each week and not find at least a half-dozen games that come with favorable point spreads.

College basketball also treats us to big events all throughout the season. There are multiple early seasons tournaments that pit some of the best teams in the country against each other. The same thing happens over the holidays.

Then conference schedules kick into high gear by January, followed by the conference tournaments and the automatic NCAA Tournament bids that are at stake in early March, leading to a full month in sports so great that it gets its own trademarked moniker, March Madness.

Three weeks of tournament action, crazy buzzer-beaters, Cinderella stories, the Final Four the first weekend of April, the cutting down of the nets by the National Champion, and the playing of “One Shining Moment” closes out the six-month college basketball betting party.

Types of Single-Game College Basketball Bets

As with other sports, there are a number of different types of wagers you can place on college basketball.

College Basketball Parlays

Betting on a single college basketball game is the most common way to wager on college basketball. But if you find multiple games you like, and you are so moved to combine them into a parlay, go for it.

Parlays are popular on both sides of the sports betting transaction. Bookmakers like them because they usually lose, and bettors like them because when they win, they typically win big.

Parlay bets are paid out on an escalating scale that generally looks like this. (Some sportsbooks may vary the payouts slightly):

  • Two-team parlay: 2.6 to 1
  • Three-team parlay: 6 to 1
  • Four-team parlay: 11 to 1
  • Five-team parlay: 22 to 1
  • Six-team parlay: 45 to 1

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Not all bets of the parlay have to be from different games. You can place a bet on the point spread and over/under on the same game for two of your parlay bets, as an example. You can also add a moneyline or prop bet, but since those pay out on odds, it will change the rate and which your winnings are calculated.

And, of course, always remember before you place a parlay bet that all of the bets must win. If you place a six-team parlay, chasing that really big win, going 5-1 won’t cut it. Anything less than 6-0 on your bets means that the parlay is a loser.

Proposition Bets

Prop bets on college basketball work the same way they do in football, where you may be most familiar with them. There are team prop bets – which team hits the most three-pointers, over/under on rebounds, does anyone foul out, etc. – and player prop bets – over/under on points, who finishes as the game’s highest scorer, most assists, etc.

One thing to note about prop bets involving college athletes is that some states make it illegal to bet on individual prop bets. So while you can bet on the outcome of a game, and you can bet on team-specific prop bets, you may find that your state does not offer any individual proposition bets on college basketball.

Futures Bets

The final type of bet that you can place on college basketball is a futures bet. These are typically bets on who is going to win the Final Four, made months before the Final Four. Although you can place futures bets on any date prior to an event happening, and that event can be on things such as conference championships, conference tournaments, and just getting a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

You can also place futures bets on individual accomplishments, like All-American awards, conference player of the year awards, and the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Although, as with individual proposition bets on college athletes, not all states allow you to wager on futures bets for specific players.

College Basketball Betting Strategies

It’s always fun to place bets on big games, like Duke vs. North Carolina and Michigan vs. Michigan State. But because of the added spotlight on games that feature big-time programs and future NBA stars, bookmakers tend to be more accurate in setting spreads. There’s also far more action on the game, which can render some common betting strategies less effective.

For profitable betting, instead of placing wagers on the ACC and SEC, take a look at smaller conferences. The Ohio Valley and Colonial conferences tend to only get mentioned in March, so there are deals to be had.

There will be less information available, but that means the bookmakers will often miss when setting the line. And if you become an expert on James Madison and Drexel, or Belmont and Murray State, you can find spreads and odds that are exploitable for profit.

Like with other sports, the home-court advantage does make a difference in college basketball. But it’s important to note that unlike the NFL, which has a somewhat standardized interpretation of the advantage of playing at home, home-court advantage in college basketball varies from team to team. Home court advantage at places like Duke and Kansas is different than at places like Syracuse and Villanova. As always, do your research.

Also, understand the context of the game. Is this a matchup of bitter rivals? Is someone fighting for an NCAA Tournament seed? Is a player back in his hometown? Is a head coach returning to a place where he was an assistant? None of these things by themselves should change your bet considerably. But if you’re on the edge, and if a bet feels like it could go either direction, these motivations may be enough to tip the scales.

Remember, to be a successful sports bettor, you just need to win 53% of your bets. Everything you can do to move the needle in your direction, even slightly, makes a difference.

Where to Bet on College Basketball

As the legalization of sports betting continues to expand across the country, you have more sportsbook options when placing your college basketball wagers. So be sure to do your research on which sportsbook best fits your needs.

Most odds and point spreads are standardized, so you may not find too much variety in the odds you play. But sometimes, you can find better deals on lines you want to play, so look around. If you can find a spread that moves just a single point in your favor, it’s worth it.

More importantly for you, the bettor, and not nearly as standardized across the industry, are the bonus offers and betting specials that you can find. Free money, deposit matches, and risk-free bets are almost always offered, but the amounts differ. Be sure to look for the best deals available. Never leave free money on the table.

Also, look at what types of in-season betting specials are offered. Some sportsbooks may give short-shrift to college basketball instead of focusing their specials on football. But if you look around, you will find a book that helps you maximize your college basketball betting dollar.

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