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In sports betting, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is one of the more popular leagues to wager on. Las Vegas and other sportsbooks have taken an interest in college basketball, too — notably the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)— and we are all for it. 

The NCAA Men’s Basketball season starts early November and ends by the first week of April. Over 350 schools and 32 conferences participate in the NCAA’s Division I Tournament.

Currently, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins is the team to beat, as it has the highest number of national championship wins: 11 titles.


Rooting for the Duke Blue Devils, Kentucky Wildcats, Gonzaga Bulldogs, or Virginia Cavaliers? Whichever team you’re backing, it’s essential to know your betting options to make the most out of the NCAA basketball odds.

Usually, college basketball betting lines come out on the day of the game.

Spread Bet

The spread bet is popular in basketball and National Football League (NFL) games. This is also known as the line. Wagers like these involve points set by a sportsbook. A team should score beyond or within the parameters of the oddsmakers to cover the spread.

The general rule is the favorite team gets negative (-) odds, while the underdog team gets positive (+) odds. Sportsbooks need to adjust the line to even out the bets. If too many bettors are backing the favorite, bookies can change the odds such that the favored team has to make more points.

Let’s take a matchup between the Miami RedHawks and the Kansas Jayhawks as an example.

Miami RedHawks +6.5, -115
Kansas Jayhawks – 6.5, -105

These numbers may seem complicated, but they’re actually simple to understand. In this case, the Jayhawks are the favorites, while the RedHawks are the underdogs.  

Sportsbooks predict that the Jayhawks are going to win by 7 points or more. Oddsmakers make use of half points (.5) as they do not exist in basketball. This is to avoid a tie or a “push.” Half points also ensure that there will be winners or losers in the wager.

If a game results in a push, the bettors get their money back. 

Going back to the example, the payout odds for the Jayhawks is -105. This means that to win $100, bettors must pay $105. Their total earnings will then be $205 if the Jayhawks win by 7 points or more. 

Those betting on the RedHawks need to pay $115 to get an additional of $100. They will earn $215 if the RedHawks win the game altogether, or if the RedHawks lose by 6 points at most. 

Note that bookies can move the line until they are satisfied with the amount of money on both sides of the bet.

If you’ve already wagered and the line moves, you are locked in at your initial bet. For instance, your wager is at 2.5 points, and the line moves to 5. In this case, your bet still remains at 2.5 points. 

You can place another bet, but you cannot get rid of your previous wager.

Moneyline Bet

Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Hockey League (NHL) bettors often make use of moneyline bets. This type of bet is popular in low-scoring games because all that matters is the game’s outcome.

Moneyline bet doesn’t have point spreads, so sportsbooks bank on the amount bettors can get for a winning wager. 

Let’s look at the betting odds from a matchup between the Baylor Bears and the North Carolina Tar Heels. 

Baylor Bears -900
North Carolina Tar Heels +630

In this case, the Bears are the favorites, and the Tar Heels are the underdogs. Bettors backing the favorites should risk $900 to win an additional $100. If the Bears win, bettors get $1000 in total.

If you’re wagering on the underdog Tar Heels, you can win $630 by placing a $100-bet. A Tar Heels victory means you get $730 in total. 

Backing the favored team means risking more money while taking a chance on the underdogs means getting a chance to win more money.

Similar to the spread bet, oddsmakers can adjust (increase or decrease) the payout amounts for both teams to even out the stakes.   

Totals Bet (Over/Under)

In a totals bet, the overall points made in a particular college basketball game are all that matters. 

Bettors are wagering on whether both teams score a total number of points over or under a threshold set by online sportsbooks. 

For example, in a match between the Memphis Tigers and the Houston Cougars, the oddsmakers assign 140 as the threshold. You can bet “over” or “under” 140.

In this matchup, the Cougars score 65 while the Tigers score 69 points. If you bet “over,” you lose because the teams’ combined points are 134. If the teams score a total of 140 points, this would be a push, and all the bettors get their money back.

Some sportsbooks use half points to avoid push results.

This is how odds for a totals bet would look like:

Memphis Tigers o140, -120
Houston Cougars u140, -120

Prop Bet

This is short for “propositional bet.” These are bets that do not involve the final outcome of a game. Prop bets can be related to a team. One example of a propositional bet is how many points the Tennessee Volunteers will score before the first half ends. 

Prop bets can also be on players. For instance, how many points Iowa  Hawkeyes’ Luka Garza will score by the end of a game. 

Bracket Bet

If you want to participate in a bracket bet, you will have to choose the winners of all the tournament games, even if these games have not happened yet. 

Sportsbooks will have different scoring mechanics, but each correct prediction receives points. Some systems reward equal marks for all wins, while some will assign more for winning predictions in later rounds. 

There is a chance that none of your predicted teams make it to the other rounds. As such, you don’t get points for the said games. 

The bettor who gets the highest total points by the end of the tournament wins. 

One such event in which bracket betting is popular is the March Madness. 68 teams participate in this single-elimination tournament and vie to become the national champions. 

The tournament happens from March until early April.

Tournament Bet

These bets allow bettors to wager on tournaments other than college basketball season. 

Some of these include the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament. Despite the name, 14 universities actually comprise the Big Ten Conference. These are:

  • University of Illinois
  • Indiana University
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Michigan
  • Michigan State University
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Northwestern University
  • Ohio State University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Purdue University
  • Rutgers University
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison

Another known tournament is the Pac-12 Conference Men’s Basketball. Currently, these are the universities that compromise the Pac-12 Conference:

  • The University of Arizona
  • Arizona State University
  • University of California-Berkeley
  • University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • University of Colorado
  • University of Oregon
  • Oregon State University
  • Stanford University
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Utah
  • University of Washington 
  • Washington State University

Futures Bet

Futures bets are wagers on the outcome of events that have yet to happen. Some examples of these include the championship of a conference tournament, whether the Villanova Wildcats will make the final four of the NCAA Tournament, among others.

These bets usually do not conclude until the college basketball year ends.

Parlay Bet

This is a single sports bet that wagers on the victory of two or more teams. When the parlay bets are a success, the payouts are higher compared to straight bet payouts. 


Primarily, basketball betting principles apply to any league, be it the NBA or the NCAA. However, it is vital to learn the significant differences between the two before wagering on NCAA or NBA odds.

  • Compared to NBA games, NCAA basketball games are lower-scoring. This could be useful information for bettors who are looking to wager on game totals.
  • In the NCAA, the shot clock is longer (30 seconds) compared to the NBA’s 24 seconds. Because of this, NBA games have higher score lines compared to college hoops.
  • NBA talents are also more professional. These players come from some of the NCAA’s most talented roster like the Most Valuable Players. They can also be sourced from different basketball teams all over the world. Looking at the NBA and NCAA, there’s definitely a huge gap when it comes to talent.
  • Home-court advantage is a real issue, especially for NCAA teams. NBA arenas almost have the same layout, lighting, and capacity. In the NCAA, each venue is unique from the rest. Imagine being part of the visitor team and seeing your opponent’s rabid fans as you face them in their home-court. The anxiety in college basketball players is real.
  • During the season, NBA teams go through many changes compared to NCAA teams. Trades and acquisitions of new players are common in the NBA to upgrade the team. Meanwhile, college basketball teams remain unchanged throughout the season.
  • Compared to the NCAA, NBA team schedules are way hectic. Usually, Division I teams play a total of 35 games per year, while NBA teams play an average of 82 games per season. 

Despite the massive gap between the NBA and NCAA basketball, wagering on college basketball is still worthwhile. Las Vegas and other Sportsbooks are less familiar with the NCAA teams compared to the mainstream NBA teams.

There are over 350 school teams to review and research, so the chances for college basketball bettors to win bigger payouts are higher. One strategy is for these bettors to focus and wager on less known schools.

College basketball betting is also a different kind of fun, especially during events like March Madness. What could be more exciting than discovering and navigating the betting world of 350 budding and passionate college basketball teams, each with styles distinctly their own?