The 2020-21 NCAA basketball regular season is in the books. Delays and cancellations were minimal, especially among the large market teams. Now it’s finally time for NCAA Tournament. The bracket was revealed on March 14, and odds are now available for every game in the 68-team event.
On this page, you’ll find spreads, moneylines, totals for every matchup. Plus, we’ll dive into our favorite bets for the first round.
College basketball odds: NCAA Tournament First Round
NCAA basketball promos and sign-up bonus
Best college basketball betting apps
The three main places to bet online in the ever-expanding sports betting industry are DraftKings, BetMGM and FanDuel if you are in a legalized state. They all have their own offerings. If you are in a state outside of the legal jurisdictions, you can try Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). DFS is when you set a fantasy-style lineup on a daily basis and take on a large pool of competitors to win a prize.
DraftKings is available online or on mobile in New Jersey, West Virginia, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Illinois and Tennessee. At DraftKings you can bet nearly every Division I college basketball game that is played daily. They also offer some interesting props (which will be explained in greater detail later) like alternate point spreads and end of game scores. You can also bet on who will win a handful of conferences in the futures market.
BetMGM’s sportsbook is available online in Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia, Indiana, Tennessee and Colorado. They will launch soon in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In college basketball, BetMGM offers a wide array of daily matchups with traditional spreads, moneylines and totals. They also have futures markets where you can bet on who will win the national championship and if a team will make the Final Four. You can also place a future bet on which player will win the Wooden Award.
FanDuel is available online in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee and Colorado. They will also be coming to Michigan and Virginia soon. FanDuel offers spreads, moneylines and totals for nearly every Division I game daily. They also have national championship and Final Four futures on their menu.
These books also often offer odds boosts. These are deals you can take advantage of where they give you better odds on a team than generally given. For instance, a team may be on a winning streak and a site like DraftKings will give you better odds that they continue their winning streak than normal as a promotion.
It is important to use multiple books though so you always find the best line. You may hear this referred to as line shopping. Sportsbooks may have different numbers for the same game, so you want to make sure you are getting the best number. Let’s talk about how to look for what the best number means.
How to bet on college basketball
Now let’s get into the different ways to bet on college hoops. The most simple is betting on who will win the game. That is called the moneyline. You are picking a team to win the game no matter the score and do not have to worry about the point spread. A win is a win. Moneylines are based on standard 100 range. This means favorites can range from odds of minus 105 (-105) to as high as minus 5,000 (-5000) in some extreme cases for huge favorites. This means you have to bet the number to win $100. So if the favorite is minus 200 (-200), you must bet $200 to win $100. These minus odds are also known as the VIG and are basically the price you must pay when taking a team that is expected to win. On the other side underdogs on the moneyline range from plus 105 (+105) to as high as +10,000. This means you would win $200 if you bet $100 on a team with a plus 200 moneyline (+200). So when betting the moneyline, underdogs can give you much larger profits and value. You can also parlay moneylines together which is a common tactic. That means you can bet on 3 or more teams to all win and if every leg wins straight up, you cash at even higher odds.
The most common bet type is on the spread. The oddsmakers will decide which team they think should win and by how many points they are expected to win by — that is the points spread. The favorites, or who is expected to win, is favored by a range of zero (know as a pick-em or PK) to as high as minus 30 or 50 (seen as -30). This means that if you bet on a favorite that is favored by 10 (-10), they must win by more than 10 points for your bet to cash. If they win by less than 10 you lose and if they win by exactly 10 you push and get a refund. If you bet on the underdog in that circumstance, you are betting on the team plus 10 (+10). This means your team can lose by less than 10 points and you still win your bet.
Now when a team is getting a lot of action or a lot of money bet on them, a sportsbook will adjust the spread, or line, toward that team. So if a team favored by 10 (-10) is getting a lot of bets, they will move, making them a larger favorite. The line will move to -10.5 at first and then may continue to get bigger. Be careful of the half-point difference. If you bet the team that was at -10.5 and the team wins by exactly 10 points, then your bet is a loser. The half-point ensures that no push is possible, you either win or lose.
The third most common way to bet on a basketball game is the total or over/under. This is when you are betting on the combined total score and whether is will be over (higher) or under (lower) than the number the sportsbook sets. Traditionally you are betting on the final score total including overtime if it happens. Some books also offer totals for just the first or second halves. Totals in college basketball usually range between 130 and 170. So for example, the total in a game is 169, you can take the under meaning your bet cashes if the combined final score is less than 169. If it is exactly 169, then you push and get a refund. Now a sportsbook will usually make the total an even -110 odds wise. Meaning if you bet $110, you win $100 if your total bet cashes. Some books may adjust the VIG toward the over or the under … for example, a game shaded to the over at -130 means you have to bet $130 to win $100 if the game goes over the total.
In today’s expanding market, you can also bet the three ways discussed above during the game. This is called live betting. During the game, algorithms adjust the spread, moneyline and total as the game flows. So if an underdog jumps out to a huge lead early, you may be able to bet on the favorite at a much better price — or maybe even a plus price. For example, if Team A was favored by 10 (-10) before the game and they are losing by 15 early in the second half, you may be able to bet them as an underdog and get better odds than they were pre-game.
Aside from the three traditional ways to bet a basketball game, some books may also offer props. These are more specific bets on an occurrence in the game. For example, you may be able to bet on a players total points over/under a set number. For instance, star player A may have a total of 22.5 points and you can take the under or over (whether he or she scores less or more than 22.5). Props are rare for regular season games but the marquee matchups may have more options. Another example of a game prop is even/odd. This is when you bet on whether the total combined score will land on an even or odd number. The list of props may extend to specific player’s rebounds, a team’s total three-pointers made and many more.
You can also make a longer play investment in the futures market. Futures are usually put up before the season and updated throughout the season. A futures bet is when you are betting on something that will happen down the road. The most common example in college hoops is betting on who will win the national championship. In national championship futures, multiple teams are listed from the favorites to longshots. Favorites will be listed around +800 or maybe less depending on the team. This means if you bet $100 on a team to win at +800, then you will win $800 if they cut down the nets. Longshots are a fun way to find value in the futures market. For instance, take a team at 50/1 before they get hot and you could get lucky with a big payout, 50 times whatever you bet. Other futures in college hoops include who will win a specific conference, if a team will make the Final Four, who will win Player of the Year and more.
Advanced college basketball betting strategies
There are a number of advanced college basketball betting strategies.
One common practice in sports betting is fading the public. This occurs when a lot of money, usually by normal everyday bettors, are all betting on one side. This large amount of money on one team usually shifts the line toward them. So when you fade the public, you take the newfound value on the opposite team just to go against what everyone is betting on. This strategy comes from the idea that if everyone thinks it will happen, it might not because if gambling was that easy, we would all be rich.
Another strategy is betting on or against a streak. The public loves betting on a team to continue a win streak. So you may be able to fade the public by betting on the win streak to come to an end. It also works the other way as the public may ride a team to end it’s slump. You may hear someone toss out that they have been losing so long they are “due”. But the fade the public strategy in this case would be to bet on the slump to continue.
Some college basketball bettors use advanced analytics to assist with their handicapping. One example might be looking at the average number of possessions a team has or the pace the team plays with. If two teams are high in points per possession or total possessions, then the game is likely to have more points and you may want to take the over. You can also look at advanced analytics sources like KenPom, who is the leader in college basketball analytics. KenPom offers power ratings that breakdown team’s strengths. KenPom’s ratings also give you expected scores between two teams, so if the expected score is different than the spread, you may find some value by checking KenPom’s numbers.