Gambling on College Basketball offers something of a different challenge to many other sports. There is a relatively short season, where all of the games are compacted in a 5 month window and the lifespan of a player in the college game is much shorter than in other sports. However, there is no doubt that placing a wager on college hoops adds a layer of excitement to the games – and that these excitement levels go through the roof during the month of March – when the annual March Madness tournament takes place.
You’ll find the most common bet types along with some strategy advice for choosing them in the first section below – followed by a separate section on alternate bets and markets. At the end of the page are some tips for sportsbooks which specialize in college basketball coverage.
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Bet Types and Strategy on College Basketball
There are three bet types that are more popular than any other when it comes to college hoops. The most popular of all is the point spread. Many college games can be particularly one-sided affairs, especially when a highly ranked team such as Kentucky faces a lesser known college. In such games it might be expected that Kentucky may win by 30+ points, so the sportsbooks level the game up with the point spread, where they will subtract a stated number of points from the favored team or add the same number to the underdog. For example, here you might find that Kentucky have a spread of -32.5. Here if Kentucky wins by 33 or more points they’ll have beaten the spread, while any other result will see their opponents beating the spread. The sportsbooks will generally offer odds of -110 on each side of the spread.
The college season is split into three distinct parts and a different strategy is needed in assessing each of these when it comes to the point spread. Firstly there are the inter-conference games where the larger colleges will want to build a solid win-loss record early on. These games can be tricky as there might be a lack of history between the two sides and sometimes the lower ranked teams might be more ‘up’ for a game than their opponents. Use these games as a guide and don’t get involved too heavily on a game to game basis, although if you think a team might be taking a game lightly, by all means oppose them on the spread.
The conference games are easier to read as you indeed have that history between the teams and you’ll know that both teams will be fully focused. Look at the key performers in each team and focus especially on those rebound stats, which seem to take on a greater significance in the college game. You should also consider that home advantage plays a major role – college players are not seasoned sportsmen yet, so are more likely to be affected by the atmosphere created by the home crowd.
March Madness has its own challenges, as each of the games is make or break, making them some of the highest pressure games in sport (the college teams don’t have the luxury of the best of seven like their NBA counterparts). The higher ranked colleges will be expected to win these games, but make sure you focus on those teams from the smaller conferences. How have they performed against higher ranked teams? Are they on a nice winning streak? Have they any NCAA Championship history? Many people know all about the Duke’s and the North Carolina’s of this world, but study these smaller teams and you’ll have an edge.
The money line is less popular than the point spread, as you’ll simply be wagering on a team to win a game. This is linked to the point spread in the fact that the more a team is favored on the spread, the lower the odds you’ll receive on the money line, while you’ll conversely gain longer odds on the underdog. The money line can be a good betting option when you think an upset is likely, where the odds on the win will be juicier than the point spread. Some gamblers also see the money line as an opportunity to ‘buy’ a small amount of money by backing a strong favorite to win.
The totals bet is where the sportsbook sets a line based upon the total number of points they have calculated will be scored in a game. For example, the stated line might be 148.5 and you’ll simply bet whether the total points scored by both teams will be under or over this number. In evaluating this bet, look at the scoring percentages of players and the situation – the higher pressure the game, the harder baskets might be come by.
Alternate Bets on College Basketball
With so many games taking place on any given night during the college season, Parlays can be particularly popular, where you’ll wager on a number of games. When placing a Parlay, you’ll need all of the selections to win, although the greater difficulty of the bet is rewarded by larger payouts. Individual sportsbooks will list these payouts on a chart based upon the number of selections.
Before the college season begins you’ll find a futures market based upon the winner of the following year’s March Madness. This market will remain open throughout the season and will be at its most popular when the brackets are formed on selection Sunday. Other futures markets in college hoops will involve the outright winner of the individual conferences.
The betting action really ramps up when March comes around and this is where prop bets take center stage. You’ll find all kinds of props for the ‘Big Dance’ and this is almost an industry in itself! Example markets might include ‘which number seed will the eventual winner of March Madness be?’, ‘How many number one seeds will make the final four?’, ‘which conference will the winner of March Madness come from?’ or ‘Which number one seed will be eliminated first?’ One of the most popular prop bets is based around the number of ‘buzzer beaters’ there will be in the first round, where you’ll be hoping for plenty of edge of your seat action. Although many of these prop bets are based around the seeding, you’ll also find many based around the individual teams, such as ‘Will Gonzaga make the sweet sixteen?’
Best Sportsbooks for College Basketball Betting
There are two particular sportsbooks that stand out when it comes to betting on college basketball. Firstly 5Dimes offer industry leading odds and a wide range of bets on each and every game throughout the 5 months of the season. Bovada come up trumps when it comes to March Madness, their range of prop bets eagerly anticipated every spring. You’ll also find that Bovada will offer highly competitive odds on those underdogs, as many of their vast number of account holders will be on the favorites.