A Complete Guide to Betting on College Basketball

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College football full betting guide

Sports betting is extremely popular across America, and especially come March, college hoops is one of the most popular sports bet on.

Discover this complete 2024 college basketball betting guide and find out how to bet on college basketball, along with some popular bet types, useful strategies and advantageous promos.

How do college basketball odds work?

Reading the odds on the college basketball betting market is the same as you would see in other leagues, like the NFL, NBA, NHL, etc.

All you need to know about college basketball odds is that the minus (-) sign seen next to a team or player usually means that they are the betting favorite. Conversely, the plus (+) sign associated with a team or player signifies that they are the underdog.

Betting on a college basketball game

There are three standard bets you can make on any college basketball game: Moneyline, spread and totals (over/under).

Moneyline

Your job when betting on a college basketball moneyline is to successfully predict which team will win the game, plain and simple.

TeamMoneyline odds
Michigan State Spartans-225
Iowa Hawkeyes+195

In this example, Michigan State is the favorite over Iowa. You would need to wager $225 on the Spartans to receive a $100 return. Meanwhile, you could bet just $51.28 on Iowa at +195 odds to win $100 if they were to win the game.

Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo and fans watch the action against the Brown Bears in the second half at Jack Breslin Student Events Center.
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Point spread

In a college basketball point spread, oddsmakers even the odds by creating a margin that the favorite needs to win by. The spread is designed to draw a similar amount of sharp action on both sides in most cases.

TeamSpread
UConn Huskies-9.5 (-110)
Seton Hall Pirates+9.5 (-110)

If you back UConn at -9.5 in the example above, they will need to beat Seton Hall by 10 points or more for your bet to cash in. If you bet on Seton Hall at +9.5, they can either win the game or lose by nine points or less for your bet to win.

Connecticut Huskies head coach Dan Hurley yells down court during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship against the Purdue Boilermakers, Monday, April 8, 2024, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
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Totals

“Totals” betting is also called betting on the over/under. Your job is to correctly pick whether or not the two teams involved in the game will score over or under the score total set by the sportsbooks.

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Alabama Crimson TideTotal (O/U)
Over163.5 (-115)
Under163.5 (-105)

In the example above, the sportsbook set the over/under at 163.5 points in the matchup between Kentucky and Alabama. If you take the over at -115 odds, the two teams must combine to score 164 points or more, and vice versa.

Former Kentucky basketball player and new head coach Mark Pope was animated during his announcement at Rupp Arena in Lexington Ky
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Like the spread, sportsbooks want to set a total line that will receive the same amount of sharp action on the over as it does the under, and the odds will be close to even (-110) on both sides. The odds and lines can also shift if one side is getting too much action.

Other popular college basketball bets

The trio of traditional college basketball bets detailed above are far from the only kinds of wagers available in this market. Check out the other popular college basketball bets below:

Parlays

There are two main kinds of college basketball parlays: Traditional parlays and same game parlays. 

A standard college hoops parlay involves more than one bet from separate games. So, you could submit two separate betslips taking Houston (-170) and Purdue (-310) on the moneylines in their respective games. 

Or, you can combine those two stakes into a single betslip to make it a parlay. In doing so, you will earn a bigger payout if both teams were to win. A $100 bet on a two-leg parlay with Houston (-170) and Purdue (-310) would yield a $110.05 payout at FanDuel Sportsbook.

If you bet Houston and Purdue at those odds separately, and they both were to win, your cumulative payout would only be $84.89 overall. However, all legs of a parlay must win in order for a parlay to be considered successful.

A same game parlay works just like a standard parlay, but all the legs of your parlay are from the same game. Say you had the following game:

TeamSpreadOver/underMoneyline
North Carolina+3.5 (-110)O 159.5 (-110)+135
Purdue-3.5 (-110)U 159.5 (-110)-150

You could create a simple, two-leg same game parlay by betting that North Carolina will cover the spread and the total will go over. In some states, you can also add player props to your parlays and same game parlays, but not every state allows prop betting on college sports.

North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Hubert Davis reacts against the Michigan State Spartans in the second round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at the Spectrum Center
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Props

There are three different kinds of props betting on college basketball: Player props, team props and game props. 

Player props involve individual player statistics, and they are common of the over/under variety like Player X to score over/under 18.5 points. They can also be of the yes/no variety, like will a certain player have a double-double? Or, will he foul out of the game?

It must be noted that college prop betting is only available in select states, and even this is a matter of dispute, as the NCAA has petitioned to ban player prop bets in order to keep student-athletes safe from sports betting.

Examples of team props are individual team totals, both team totals, odd/even team totals, and alternate team totals.

Game props are bets like which team will score 20 points first, which team will win each half, and how many points will a team win by. Returning to our North Carolina vs. Purdue example, you can bet that Purude will score 20 points first, North Carolina will win the first half, and North Carolina will with the game by a margin of five to nine points.

The following states have restrictions on college basketball prop bets: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa (player props), New Hampshire (in-state props), New York (player props), Ohio (player props), Pennsylvania (player props), Tennessee (live/player props), Virginia and West Virginia.

Futures

Futures are a pretty prevalent bet type within the college basketball market, and they relate to events that won’t occur for several weeks or even months. When betting in the futures market, you generally can get great odds since there is so much unknown involved. For example, the 2023/24 college basketball season ended around the time of writing this article, and you can already get odds of +1000 on Duke or UConn winning next year’s title.

Here are some other futures bets you can make at sportsbooks like Caesars:

  • National Championship Winner
  • To Reach the Final Four
  • Conference Winners
  • NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
  • Wooden Award Winner

Live betting on college basketball

Did you know that you can place college basketball bets while games are live? Odds are constantly updating as the action is occurring on the hardwood, giving you the chance as a bettor to take advantage of some better odds. 

Let’s say that the North Carolina Tar Heels entered their game against the Virginia Cavaliers at -275 on the moneyline and -7.5 on the point spread. Then, Virginia jumps out to an early eight-point lead a few minutes into the game.

The odds will update. Down eight, North Carolina might now be -210 on the moneyline and -5.5 on the point spread. It could be an advantageous time to hop in and take UNC with the more favorable odds if you believe they will come back to win the game.

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College basketball betting strategies and advice

Is there anything you can do to give yourself an edge with college basketball betting?

Analyze rosters and coaches

There are over 360 different Division I men’s college basketball teams. Meaning, there are thousands of players, which can make it difficult to truly know the ins and outs of every team.

If you are intent on betting on a specific game, it’s recommended that you take a look at both teams’ rosters. Also, make sure you know which team has the coaching advantage.

Don’t just look at the stats either. Experience is a prominent factor in college basketball, so consider which team has the experience edge. Lastly, be sure to take injuries into account.

Shop for the best odds

It’s not out of the norm for different sportsbooks to have varying odds on the same game. This grants you a prime opportunity to place your bet at the sportsbook with the most favorable odds.

For instance, if you believe Oregon is going to upset Arizona in their matchup and FanDuel has the Ducks at +195 on the moneyline, but DraftKings has them at +205 on the moneyline, then you should place the bet at DraftKings.

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Take advantage of live betting

This was already briefly discussed, but it’s worth mentioning again because it’s a great betting strategy. Luckily, each of the best college basketball betting sites allows for live bets to be placed.

So, you can wait to place your bet until the game gets underway. Sit back and watch how the first five to 10 minutes play out. The best live betting strategy comes when the betting favorite gets down early and their odds to win become more favorable. That’s the time for you to jump in and back them when their odds are more bettor-friendly.

How do you find the right college basketball betting site?

Narrowing down your search to find the right, best college basketball betting site can be slightly difficult due to the flooded market. Part of the reason why it’s slightly difficult, however, is because there are so many viable options.

The college basketball betting site you choose must offer promotions, competitive odds and valuable features like live betting and early cashout.

SportsbookCollege basketball key feature(s)
FanDuelPremier live betting experience
DraftKingsImmense betting markets
BetMGMFrequent bonus bet tokens
CaesarsCollege basketball profit boosts
BetRiversOdds adjustor, statistics tools
bet365Most promotions 
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What type of promos are you likely to find

There are numerous different kinds of promotional offers available to boost your college basketball betting experience, which you can check out below:

Odds boosts / Profit boosts

Both odds boosts and profit boosts are promos that you will come across during your college basketball betting journey.

Odds boost promotions will look something like this:

  • NC State and Pittsburgh both to win: Was +375 / Now +450

Meanwhile, a profit boost promotion will be a specified percentage that your payout will be increased by if your college basketball wager wins. For instance, Caesars commonly offers a 50% profit boost promo, which can be applied to your college hoops wager.

Parlay / SGP insurance

Both traditional parlay and same game parlay insurance promotions are something that many college basketball sportsbooks provide.

Let’s look at the SGP insurance promotion that is commonly available at BetMGM:

  • Get your stake back, up to $25 in bonus bets, if exactly one leg loses.

Sometimes, you will come across a promotion similar to “All-Sport Parlay Insurance”. This kind of offer allows you to place a parlay bet involving different games and even sports. If it loses, you can get your stake refunded up to a certain amount.

Other college basketball-specific promos

It’s no secret that the men’s college basketball season heats up to the max once March begins, and sportsbooks prepare for this ramp-up in betting action with some specific promotional offers.

  • Bonus bets: Place a wager after opting in with final odds of -200 or longer. If your bet loses, receive a refund in bonus bets up to $100.
  • 25% profit boost: You can apply a 25% profit boost token to your or your parlays.
  • Bet & Get: Choose a bet with a minimum stake of $10, and apply your Bet & Get token. Then, you will receive a $5 bonus bet upon bet placement, win or lose.
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FAQ

How do college basketball odds work?

Rest assured that college basketball odds work the same way as they would for any other betting market. A minus (-) generally signifies the favorite, while a plus (+) sign signals an underdog.

What’s the difference between a moneyline and a total?

A moneyline bet requires you to simply select which team you believe will win a particular game outright, while a total refers to the game’s total amount of points scored during a game by both teams. 

Can I bet on individual player props for college basketball?

In some states. The following states have zero restrictions on college basketball betting: Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina and Wyoming. 

What is the best sportsbook to use to bet on college basketball?

The real answer to this question differs depending on the individual, but you can always count on FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars to deliver a stellar college basketball betting experience. 

Is it legal to bet on college basketball?

Yes, in many states. Betting on college basketball in some form is permitted in these states: AZ, AR, CO, CT, DE, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MS, MO, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, VT, VA, WA, DC, WV, WI and WY.