NCAA Basketball Betting Tips

(USA Today Sports Images)

Basketball is one of the most popular and exciting sports in the world. Second only to the Super Bowl, opening weekend of the NCAA’s March Madness tournament is a heavily anticipated sports betting event in the US. The 2019 edition of March Madness is an especially exciting tournament with the influx of legal US sportsbooks (and promotions and bonus offers) opening throughout the country, and specifically in New Jersey.

However, betting on basketball can be a little intimidating for first timers. This NCAA basketball betting tips guide will help you overcome any pregame jitters and walk you through placing your bets on NCAA basketball.

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NCAA Basketball Betting Odds Explained

Before we get into the specifcs of wagering, you must first understand the odds. Every bet comes with certain odds which determine what the payout will be if you win the bet. Odds will be a 3 digit number with a plus (+) designating the underdog or minus (-) sign ahead of it that designates the favorite. So when you see odds of +150 – that’s the underdog. if you see odds of -200 – that’s the favorite.

All betting odds are based on a $100 bet. For example, in the Marquette(-200) and Murray State(+165) match up, Marquette is the favorite. So if you were to bet $100 on Marquette to win, your return would be $150. This includes your original $100 bet plus $50 of winnings. If you were to bet on Murray State, the underdog, your returns would be $265: your $100 bet plus $165 in winnings.

But don’t wory, you’ll never need your calculator. All the best online sports betting sites will automatically do the math for you, and any teller at a live sportsbook will tell you your payout before accepting the bet.

Types of NCAA Basketball Bets

  • Moneyline
  • Point Spread
  • Totals (Over/Under)
  • Futures
  • Half Betting
  • Props
  • Parlays

NCAA Basketball Moneyline Bets

This is the most straightforward bet that you can place on a college basketball game. An NCAA moneyline bet is simply a bet on a team to win the game. However, different teams will have different odds based on the matchups. The bigger the underdog, the more you would collect if they win, but if a team is a huge favorite, you will only get a fraction of your wager back in profit.

For example, if you believe that Abilene Christian (+3600) can beat Kentucky (-6400), then you can make a very large profit on a smaller bet. On a small $20 bet, your returns will be $740. However, if you bet the same $20 on Kentucky you will only get $20.31 back for a measly 31 cents profit.

Moneyline bets are best used for underdogs that you believe can win, or games that are fairly close in odds. For example if you believe Wofford (-150) can beat Seton Hall (+135), it may be worth placing that same $20 bet. You would be betting the more likely outcome, and although you wont double your money, you still get a significant return of $33.

NCAABasketball Point Spread Bets

Spread betting, also called line betting, is the most popular form of betting on basketball. It is essentially a form of handicap betting. You are betting on a team to win by a certain amount of points determined by the sportsbook in order to make the game even.

For example, Villanova is the favorite in their match up with SMU with a spread of -5.5. To win your bet on Villanova, the Wildcats would have to win by 6 or more. If you bet on SMU +5.5, SMU would have to outright win, or lose by less than 6. If a spread is a whole number like Villanova -6 , if they win by exactly 6, it is considered a push and you just get your bet back.

Typical odds on spread bets are between -105 and -120. This is referred to as “the juice” on the lines resulting on you having to wager $105-$120 to earn $100 profit. Some sites offer less juice on their spread bets, and some offer more friendly lines (point spreads) so it is usually a good idea to shop around.

NCAA Basketball Totals (Over/Under) Bets

A total wager is a bet placed on the combined score of both teams. Sportsbooks will offer a total number and you are betting on the total score to either be over that number, or under that number.

For example, in the opening game of the tournament between Belmont and Temple the O/U line is 155.5. If final score is 80-75, resulting in a total score of 155 between the two teams, the under bet would win. But if the score is 81-75, resulting in 156 points total, the over bet would win.

Similar to spread betting, there are typical odds of -105 through -120 resulting in the sportsbook taking “juice.” Also, it is reccomended to shop around as different online sportsbooks will offer more friendly O/U lines and sometimes less juice on the bets.

NCAA Basketball Futures Bet

Future bets are a form of prop bet where you are wagering on who will win the whole tournament. Depending on who the favorites to win are, you will get different odds.

For example, if you believe that Duke is going to easily win all 6 of their games and win the NCAA championship, you can bet on that outcome before the tournament starts at +300 odds on most sites. This would mean that on a $100 bet, you would receive a $400 total payout. If you are a fan of Michigan State winning it all, your $100 bet will earn you a $1300 payout with Michigan State odds to win are +1200.

Be sure to shop around as different sites and sportsbooks will have varying odds on your favorite teams. As the tournament progresses, the odds will change with some teams being eliminated and others needing less wins to win the tournament. With some of the teams offering a payout of over 5000/1 to win it all, futures bets can be a fun way to place bets on a few longshots and really root for the underdog.

NCAA Basketball Half Betting

If you dont want to wait for the full game to be played, or think a team is a better 2nd half team and want to bet on one half of the game, there is the option on most sites and sportsbooks to break an NCAA game into two. All of the previous betting options are available to bet on including half moneyline, point spread and totals. When betting on the second half of a game, it’s like resetting all stats from the first half.

For example, if you bet on Temple first half moneyline, and they are winning 36-25, you would win the bet. However, if you bet on Temple second half moneyline, and Temple wins the game 70-65, you would lose the second half moneyline because Temple scored 34, and Belmont scored 40 in the second half.

NCAA Basketball Prop Betting

This is where sports betting gets really fun. Prop betting is anything outside of the normal betting markets. Each site or sportsbook will offer different “prop” bets.

A few examples of popular prop bets are:

  • A certain player to score X amount of points
  • First team to score
  • What # seed will win the tournament?
  • Number of #1 seeds in the final four
  • Alternate lines or winning margins
  • Certain players to win awards
  • When teams will be eliminated

There are no limits to what different prop bets will be offered. Online sportsbooks will offer more prop betting options, so be sure to shop around to find the right prop bet for you. Most online sportsbooks are offering “oddsboosts” on particular props, which will increase the odds for a particular bet, resulting in a bigger payout.

NCAA Parlay Betting

Parlays are bets that combine two or more point spread, total, or moneyline bets onto one betslip. To win the parlay, all bets on the parlay bet must win. With the higher risk, comes higher rewards.

For example, most sportsbooks offer odds of +260 on two team parlays. This means that if you bet $55 on Belmont spread at -110 and $55 North Carolina spread at -110 seperatley your total profit on the two bets would $100 for a total return of $210. If you were to place a $110 bet on the two same games in a parlay, this would increase the odds to +260, netting $286 profit and a $400 total payout. You would earn an extra $190 on the same total bet, but only if both win. You would get no return if only one or both lose.

The more games you add to a parlay, the more the odds increase. With the bigger odds increase comes more risk that something could go wrong.

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Tips for First Time NCAA Basketball Bettors

  • Shop around for best odds, lines and sign up bonuses or promotions
  • Bet with your head, not your heart
  • Bet within your bankroll
  • Check out RotoGrinders’ extensive NCAA March Madness coverage including expert picks, analysis broken down by region and potential first round upsets:

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(Top photo: USA TODAY Sports)

About the Author

  • Ryan Gutzler (rgutzler)

  • Ryan is a former two sport collegiate athlete who now relives the glory days through men’s leagues, coaching and of course, writing about sports. He is also a poker player, sports bettor and avid Sixers, Phillies, Flyers and Duke homer.