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How to Bet on NCAA Basketball: The OddsIndex Guide

College basketball is one of America's most beloved sports and one of the most exciting betting markets. Read our full guide to wagering on NCAA basketball.

College basketball is much more than just junior athletics: it's a sport at the heart of American culture and has led to the formation of the sprawling world of NCAA basketball today. With more than 350 NCAA Division I teams spread out over a staggering 30 conferences, it's not like fans of the sport are left lacking when it comes to what to watch.

If you're a fan of college basketball and want to get a piece of the action with some online basketball betting, you're in the right place.

With this expert and easy-to-follow guide to college basketball wagering, you'll have exactly what you need to improve your strategy and make informed bets on everything the NCAAB has to offer. Read on to find out everything you need to know about betting on college basketball!

Parlays, Point Spreads, and the Rest: College Basketball Wagers Explained

Let's get down to it. The most important thing to know from the get-go is that college basketball betting is pretty similar to NBA betting in most respects. However, where NCAA betting differs from NBA betting concerns strategy, which we will get to below.

The first and foremost thing to burn into your memory is the betting system and options for NCAA basketball. These don't differ wildly from NBA terms, but it's useful to know how they apply to college basketball, as well as basketball in general.

In NCAA basketball, the games are shorter and the shot clock runs longer than in the NBA, meaning that the scores are generally lower. Knowing this, you'll need a solid understanding of the fundamentals to rack up a set of bets that can make you a real profit.

Another thing to consider is the simple fact that research goes a very long way in NCAA. These teams and players are harder for sportsbooks to have stats for, so getting your head in the books and knowing the teams and players like the back of your hand can help you take advantage of some of the key plays we're about to cover.

With that in mind, let's get started:


A moneyline is simply a straightforward bet on the outright winner of the game. Point spreads do not matter here (see below) and the sportsbook itself decides on the risk attributed to each wager.

The actual "moneyline" itself tells you how much you have to wager on a team to collect $100 in profit, or how much you stand to win from a $100 bet. Underdogs in the game are signified by a handy (+) sign, while the favorite to win is signified with a (-) sign.

Point Spreads

The point spread makes the underdog more attractive by making it harder to cash out if the favorite wins by adding point requirements for a winning bet.


A parlay in college basketball wagering is a combination of bets and side bets, all of which need to win in order for you to cash out. As you can guess, a successful parlay can have massive payouts.

Prop Bets

These are player-focused wagers that allow you to bet on the number of points, assists, rebounds, etc. that a specific player will have in the game.


Just like prop bets zoom in on individual players, futures zoom out to allow you to bet on the bigger picture. Want to wager on the overall NCAA tournament winner? The regular-season conference title? Place a futures bet now and see if it pays off at the end of the season - the payouts can be potentially huge.


For those who don't want to bet on the whole game, place a half-timer and gamble only on the first or second half of the fixture. You can even place completely opposing bets for the first and second half of the game if you like to play both sides (you little Machiavellian, you...).

Totals (Over/Under)

This is a straight-up bet where you wager on whether the game will be a low-scoring or high-scoring one. The sportsbook will typically set a total points threshold for the game in question - say, 150. If the total points scored by both teams is over 150, the "over" bet pays out. If the total is less than this, the "under" bet pays out.

Read This Before Before You Bet

While college basketball betting is a game of blind luck, you'll need more than a rabbit's foot or rusty horseshoe to get an edge on the bookies. Before you place that first bet, read these golden rules of NCAA basketball wagering to get off to the best starting position.

Know Your Odds

For the love of all that is good and holy, know your odds! All too often, a well-meaning and potentially successful wager will be wasted because the bettor didn't understand how point spreads work. If you're in any doubt whatsoever, refer to the betting explainers list above.

Gather Your Intel

As we've already covered, in college basketball betting, information is your most powerful weapon. Read up widely on different teams and players from trusted, highly professional sources. Unsurprisingly, the NCAA’s main site has a complete breakdown of almost every stat you’ll need to make an informed decision, with mainstream news outlets like ESPN offering a similar service. If you really want to dig deeper though, advanced analysis sites such as KenPom offer arguably the most comprehensive research available, though this comes with a subscription fee.

Look for Patterns

Finding trends to exploit will not only lead to better betting - it'll make the whole thing a lot more fun too. There are countless trends to identify to help you structure your bets. Does one team only ever win at home? Is there a benched player that isn't getting enough use? Look for trends yourself and see if you can discover something that others have missed.

Essential College Basketball Betting Strategies

Specialize Quickly

This one is essential just so you don't start drowning in a mass of numbers and teams and dates. Choose a division, choose a conference, or choose a region. Stick to this one for the current season and focus your attention here.

Go Against the Grain

In college basketball betting, it can pay to support the underdog. Do your research thoroughly to see if you can spot a potential underdog winner to help you make the most of those moneylines.

Find Futures That Look Promising

At the beginning of the NCAA season, many of the odds most across major sportsbooks look pretty much the same. You'll see the blue-blooded heavy hitters such as Duke and North Carolina are at the very top of the board, with those odds barely moving as the season unfolds.

With college basketball, a good goal to have is to attempt to find some March Madness "sleepers" that might be undervalued. If you can place a futures bet ahead of March Madness on a true underdog, your payout could be pretty chunky.

NCAA Gamechangers

Don't forget that college basketball is a unique sport that is strongly influenced by a handful of important factors. Keep these in mind when betting:

Rivalry Games

All of the biggest betting events of the season are usually major rivalry games between two colleges that have been rivals for decades. Duke vs North Carolina. Louisville vs Kentucky. UCLA vs Arizona. You get the picture. Look at your stats carefully when wagering on rivalry games, look at how heated the rivalry actually is and look at home-court advantages for each rival team.

Home Court Advantages

The home-court advantage plays a huge role in the calculation of NCAA odds, so they should factor into your betting strategy. Typically, the home-field advantages in basketball are considered to be worth 6 points in the spread. Compare this to the 3.5 point advantage in college football, and it is clear just how much of a disadvantage basketball road teams are at, at least according to the bookies.

Choose. Your. Sportsbook.

When betting on college basketball, choosing the right sportsbook makes all the difference as some books have a much better college basketball product than others - that means you will get more accurate information and more entertaining betting options. We've done the hard work for you, so simply check out our reviews of the biggest online sportsbooks today to get started.