How to Bet on College Basketball

By Loot, College Basketball Handicapper,

You’ve surely had things in your life that once you learn it, you wonder why you were ever confused in the first place. Betting college basketball is a lot like that. It looks foreign to a person who doesn’t know what it’s about, but in a few minutes, someone can easily be brought up to speed. Here is a simple explanation to how it works.

Note: If you landed on this page already understanding how wagering works and are just looking for a recommended site to bet on games, your answer is Bovada Sportsbook.

The first bet you should learn is the most common–a straight bet. You see a game and pick a team to win against-the-spread. And there we see the first element that can be confusing to some–the point-spread. In one sense, it’s easy. You pick one of two teams. But the point-spread makes it so you’re not just picking the winner of the game, you’re picking which team will “beat the spread.” Here’s how it works.

In any college basketball game, the stronger team is a favorite and the weaker team is an underdog. A point-spread is a handicap given to the weaker team in an effort to make it a bet that theoretically has a 50% chance of falling either way. Let’s look at an example.

Indiana -6.5

Temple +6.5

You see the teams have the same number, with one team showing a (-) sign, while the other has a (+) sign. That number is the point-spread. What does it mean? When a team is -6.5, it means they are giving up that many points. As the favorite, they are basically conceding 6.5 points. A team at +6.5 means they are getting an extra 6.5 points. So if the final score is Indiana 76, Temple 73–a wager on Temple wins because even though they lost by 3, they had 6.5 points to work with, so they win the bet.

In the above example, Indiana at -6.5 means that for a wager on Indiana to be a winner, they must win by at least 7 points. Temple, meanwhile can win the game outright or lose by 6 or less points for a wager on them to win.

In any form of basketball wagering, a favorite is represented by a (-) sign. Any underdog is represented by a (+) sign. That’s important to remember. Look at it like this: A (-) sign means you are having points subtracted, while a (+) sign means you are getting points added. You take the final score of the game and to determine if you are a winner, you add or subtract the amount of points you received or had to give away in the point-spread. Another example:

BYU +3

San Diego State -3

If San Diego State wins the game 80-77, the game is a push (tie) and everyone gets their money returned. If the final score is 80-78, BYU wins. BYU was +3. Add that to their score of 78 and now it’s 81-80, good enough to cover the spread by a single point. San Diego State was -3, so when you subtract 3 from 80, it now reads 78-77, allowing BYU to “cover the spread,” making all wagers on them a winner.

When betting on the spread, any whole-number spread can result in a tie, or a push. Like in the above example with San Diego State -3/BYU +3, a San Diego State win by 3 points is a push. On spreads with a half-point, however, there must be a winner, as a half-point does not exist in basketball.

Now that we got that “spread” business out of the way, don’t forget you are betting on the money line. In college basketball, the norm for either side is -110. That means you wager $110 for every $100 you hope to win. You didn’t think the sportsbook was open for your amusement, did you? In other words, if they get an exact total amount wagered on each team, they still win because of the “juice” or “vig,” which is a commission the bettor pays for the privilege of making a bet.

So if you want to win $10 on a college basketball wager, you must bet $11. If you want to win $50, you must wager $55. It’s one of the reasons why winning at basketball betting is so difficult. Even if you win half of your bets, you will end up losing due to the “vig.” At the same time, spending a little extra time to hunt down the best sportsbooks can result in a more favorable money line. Some books offer a -105 line (BetAnySports), as opposed to the industry-standard -110, which can save you heaps of money over the long haul.

Above, we discussed the ins and outs of straight NCAA basketball betting. Now we will give an overview of all the different categories of different wagers in college hoops. Each of these wagers are discussed in further detail individually in other articles. Here is an overview of the different wagers available to the college basketball betting man.

Straight Bets – Also known as “sides”, this article offers a more in depth explanation of what’s listed above along with some examples of how betting college basketball point spreads work. Bookies offer TONS of different types of wagers… Let us save you some time! Regardless of how easy it looks to beat some of these types of wagers, don’t get hooked into these sucker bets. The best wagering value is betting a team as a favorite or underdog using the point spread. All other wagers have a much higher house advantage and will decrease your odds of winning long term.

Money Line Wagers: Have you ever thought you would be killing it if you didn’t have to deal with the points? The money line wager allows to pick the straight-up winner of the game, with no points involved. Rather than the point-spread that governs straight basketball betting, money line wagers take place on a money line, meaning each team gets a set of odds. Here is an example:

Arizona State +210

UCLA -270

Taking what we know from point-spreads, we know the (-) sign indicates a favorite, with the (+) sign designating an underdog. UCLA is a -270 favorite with Arizona State a +210 underdog, To win $100 on UCLA, you would need to wager $270. Meanwhile, a $100 wager on Arizona State would earn you $210 in winnings.

First Half Wagering: This is like normal betting against-the-spread, but with the action taking place only in the first half, making it so the halftime score decides the result of the wager. For your team to win, they will need to beat the point-spread in the first and second quarters.

Halftime Wagering: Just like first-half betting, except the action in play is the second-half of the game. Only the scoring in the third and fourth quarters count toward the result. Again, these bets are played with a point-spread. Betting on either half is just like normal straight basketball betting, just with the action reserved to one half of the game.

Totals: Also known as over-under bets, a totals wager is when you bet whether the total combined score of the teams will not meet or exceed the posted total. Every game has a posted “total,” Let’s say it’s 149. If you have the “over,” you add both teams’ final scores and if it is more than 149, you win. In other words, who wins the game is not an issue.

Parlays: A parlay is a bet with multiple picks on it, a minimum of two. When you make a parlay, you have to win all the games you chose or the bet is an automatic loser. Parlays are difficult to hit, as reflected by the attractive potential payouts. You must pick multiple teams to “beat the spread.” A 2-team parlay pays 2.6 to 1, meaning if you bet $100, a winning two-team parlay pays $260 in winnings. A three-team parlay pays 6-to-1. A four-teamer pays 10-to-1 and a five-teamer pays an exorbitant 25-to-1. It goes up from there.

You can also make a parlay on totals, in addition to money line selections. When parlaying money line picks, the payout of the parlay will be determined by the specific odds of the teams you selected.

Teasers: Very similar to parlays in that you choose multiple teams and they must all win in order for your wager to be successful. But instead of using the normal point spread like you would in a parlay, you get a pre-determined amount of points in your favor. Different books offer different teaser options, but the 3 most common are of the 4, 4.5, and 5-point variety.

You will pay a steep price for the extra points because they are naturally easier bets to win. You choose how many teams you want on your teaser, then you pick which teaser you want to employ and subtract that number from the point-spread. Let’s say you choose Michigan -8 and San Diego State -6. If you make a two-team/5-point teaser with those teams, the line now reads Michigan -3 and San Diego State -1.

Remember, though, that whereas a $100 two-team parlay pays $260, you would need to wager $120 just to win $100 on a two-team/5-point teaser. The payout varies depending on whether it’s a 4, 4.5, or 5-point teaser and how many teams you choose to play.

Prop Bets: Look at prop bets like smaller events within a bigger event, with the bigger event being the game itself. Things like how many points one team will score, who will have the most points, or what team will make the most free throws all qualify as prop bets. You can also bet on player vs. player as to who will score more points.

Futures: As the name indicates, futures wagers are bets on events that lie ahead in time, usually months in advance. Some books are looking to expand their futures wagers in college hoops, but the most popular one surely remains who will win the NCAA tournament.