College Basketball Betting
NCAAB Handicapping, Odds, and Picks
Unlike college football, the other major American university sport that attracts a lot of sports betting, the college basketball season is fairly short. Teams usually scatter their games across four months before the NCAA Tournament starts in late February. An average college basketball team may play no more than 28-30 games, championship season not included. This short season makes NCAA basketball wagering fast and furious – towards the end of the season, teams may play three games a week, and the NCAA basketball tournament at the end of the year offers games to wager on almost every day of the week.
Handicapping College Basketball Games
The short length of a single college basketball season makes handicapping the game more of a challenge. In other sports, with long seasons and few games played per week, handicappers have time to research match-ups, player stats, and look for high-value bets. Handicapping college basketball games is harder than any professional sport; college athletes move through their careers in as little as a single season, so often handicappers don’t have much to go on, statistically, when comparing teams and looking for games where they see an opportunity for a big return.
Another factor that limits handicapper’s abilities for NCAA basketball: the small size of teams and the impact of emotion. With just twelve players on the roster, and five on the court at any given time, a single player having a bad game can have a huge impact on the outcome of a game. College players, some 18 years old and fresh out of college, are often under high-pressure situations, especially in away games with an unfriendly crowd. In layman’s terms, college basketball games can easily end up as upsets. More top-25 teams in college basketball lose in upset situations than leagues like the NFL where poor performance by a single player isn’t necessarily a game-changer.
Sportsbooks do their research on these games – it’s helpful to the sportsbook that just a few games are played per season – so you won’t always find as many NCAAB games with high value as you would in Major League Baseball or even college football. Shopping around for the best lines is a smarter way of giving you an advantage against the book; if you find a cheaper line than the one you were going to buy, you’ve just improved your ROI, without needing to go through and handicap every player at every position.
Reading NCAA Basketball Odds
When you read the line for a college basketball game at a sportsbook, the first thing you see is the date and time of the game, followed by an ID number (known as a rotation number) used by the book to refer to a game, and then the two team names.
Along with the number, date, and team names , you’ll most often see a point spread, a money line, and a total, also known as an over/under line. Be sure to make use of the rotation number when you place your bet – it makes the games easier to track and if you use a land-based bookmaker, it makes the guy writing your ticket’s life a lot simpler. The rotation number is standard at most sportsbooks and is a quick way of calling out something like “Marquette versus IUPUI.”
Point Spreads in College Basketball
The point spread refers to a number that a bookmaker thinks the favorite should win by – a way to level the playing field in situations where a heavy favorite plays an underdog. Because sometimes NCAA basketball teams play much smaller school’s squads as exhibitions or part of tourneys, it’s common to see big point spreads in college round-ball. A perennial powerhouse like Duke or Kentucky, when ranked in the top 25, will almost always beat up on a team from a weaker conference (or even a different league) many times per season, and In those situations, the spread can be 40 points or higher. The spread is the way the sportsbook evens out the wagering on the games they offer.
Favored teams are indicated with a minus sign followed by a number. That number is the spread itself, the amount of points a team must win buy for a bet on that team to pay off. Think of it as the book giving points to a team that’s seen as the underdog and taking points away from teams that look like they could garner easy wins.
Along with a point spread favorite comes a stake – that’s the amount of cash you have to bet to win $100. Commonly, college basketball game favorite bets have stakes around the -110 level meaning you have to bet $110 to win $100. Want to wager on the underdog, thinking it can pull off an upset or come within the point spread? Your stake tells you how much you’ll win for every $100 you bet.
Money Line Betting and NCAA Basketball
Normally, the money line is listed just to the right of the point spread. In money line bets, there is no point spread – you bet on the team you think will win outright. Betting on a team that’s heavily favored will cost you more for a smaller payout, while gambles on underdogs cost less and can lead to bigger winnings. Finding potential upsets in the NCAAB schedule and betting the money line is a good way to get value for your college basketball bets – it’s easier to find upset specials and cheaper to place money line bets.
Totals Betting & NCCAB Game
Usually the final number listed is the total, also known as the over/under. This number is the books’ guess at the total number of points scored in a game. Gamblers wager on whether the total will be higher or lower than that number. In a game between two powerhouses, you might see a point total of around 152.5.
That means that any total of 153 or higher is a winner for the over, while any point total of 152 or less makes under bettors winners. Books hire handicappers who have encyclopedic knowledge of American college basketball teams looking at player matchups, past performances, and other factors to set a line that will draw in enough money on both sides to ensure they turn a profit. Because college basketball teams are very streaky at times, and a single inexperienced player on a bad night can often throw off an otherwise sure-thing total, these types of wagers are probably best left to expert handicappers.
How to Pick College Basketball Winners
Shopping different sportsbooks for the best possible odds is probably a better strategy than working around the clock to handicap games. Look around at all your options before you buy in at a certain number; you may be able to place a better bet with another book. Picking NCAA basketball game winners is often more about finding the best-value wagers than about jumping head-first into piles of stats.
Filling out a NCAA basketball tournament bracket has become an annual event, and lots of gamblers are drawn to sportsbooks during March Madness, bettors who may not normally place wagers on sports. The fast pace of the game, its short season, and the popularity of the sport’s tournament make college basketball an exciting (and very popular) game for sportsbook customers looking for smart bets.