There is no fickler form of basketball betting than NCAA action. So many teams, so many ridiculous spreads, so many different storylines, so many roster tweaks, so many questions. The upside, of course, is that more teams mean more games, and more games mean more opportunities to win money. And so long as you have some idea of what you're doing, it's possible to make money betting on college roundball. It's important to start with a strategy—some kind of gambling niche. Focus on one conference or a definitive number of teams.
Don't try to spread yourself too thin by tackling as many different tilts as sportsbooks allow. Splitting focus is on how you go crazy. It's also how you lose large sums of cash before you know it.
Rather than dilute your knowledge of the game with a seemingly infinite number of competitors, get down to the nitty-gritty of your preferred conference or preordained group of betting friendly teams. Study their stats. See which types of teams—defensive, offensive, fast-paced, etc.—they thrive or struggle against. Stay up to date with injury reports and lineup changes. Know the head coaches and how they like to play.
All of this sounds like a lot of hard work, and it can be at first. But the more experience you get, the easier it becomes.
Best NCAA Betting Lines
One-stop shops for all of the NCAA's best betting lines are goldmines in the sports betting world. Scroll through the odds and see which games tickle your fancy.
The NCAA standings can get confusing.
Teams are ranked by conference affiliation, and there's also the national rank to consider. These metrics don't tell the whole story, but they give you a good idea of where teams stand relative to one another, and in a pinch, they make betting on games with limited time for research doable.
Pay special attention to a team's splits. What is their record against top-25 squads? How about intraconference foes? How have they been doing over the last 10 games or so? Are there any losing streaks or winning streaks you need to take under advisement?
More NCAA Basketball Betting Strategies
Check out some of these NCAA betting strategies. Not all of them work for everybody, but we have a comprehensive overview of some of the most popular tactics. You're bound to find one that jibes with your typical approaches and that you feel comfortable implementing into your strategic planning.
Parlaying Moneyline Favorites
Everyone's different, so not every NCAA betting strategy will work for all of us. But a fairly popular, not to mention effective, approach involves avoiding spreads altogether and manufacturing moneyline parlays.
Moneyline outcomes are easier to predict. You simply need to choose which team you think is going to win and then go from there. Collegiate upsets happen, but they're rare—especially when the spread surpasses double digits.
With this strategy, you peruse the biggest spreads, then pick five or more favorites you're confident will win—not cover the spread but win. You then combine that money line picks into a parlay and presto! You've increased your potential return while curbing the risk involved.
This method won't get you hundred-dollar-bills-for-toilet-paper rich, but it will help you build up your sportsbook purse, provided you do some research on the teams in which you're investing.
Remember, though, not all big-spread matchups let you bet the moneyline. You need to get in on the action early to ensure that luxury isn't used up. If you can't grab the moneyline on a particular game, move on to the next candidate.
Maintaining this discipline is important, as you can't jostle back and forth between spreads and over/unders and moneylines and expect to remain consistent in your earnings.
For the visual learners out there, consider the following hypothetical slate of college basketball games, each of which is accompanied by a moneyline:
- Duke (1.14) vs. NC State (9.00)
- UNC (1.15) vs. Miami (6.00)
- Villanova (1.20) vs. UTEP (3.50)
- Florida (1.17) vs. Central Florida (4.50)
- Gonzaga (1.25) vs. Hawaii (3.00)
If you were going to follow our prescribed strategy, you would place, let's say, $100 on a parlay that invested in the moneylines for Duke, UNC, Villanova, Florida, and Gonzaga. You may only be looking at a 2-to-1 return if you're correct, but that sure as anything beats having to throw $700 on Duke to win $100 or putting $500 on Villanova to do the same.
Be Wary of Favorites in March Madness
Betting on March Madness is part and parcel of gambling on NCAA basketball. The tournament is teeming with so much action, even the most casual bettors try to get in on the action.
If you're someone who has watched the regular season unfold, you're at a stark advantage. But, that being said, don't make the mistake of applying everything you see in the regular season to your March Madness bracket.
The best teams seldom win every game, even when they are demonstrative favorites. Yes, nine of the last 12 National Champions have come from No. 1 seeds, including the 2018 winner, in Villanova. But remember, there are four number one seeds per tournament. So in that span, we're talking about 48 first-place squads, which amounts to a sub-25 percent hit rate—and, again, that's assuming a No. 1 seed wins the national title.
It's, of course, smart in certain games to invest in the favorites. You know, for instance, that the top-seeded 2019 Kentucky Wildcats (projected) won't be losing in the first round of the March Madness bracket, because a No. 1 seed has never fallen to a No. 16 seed. You also know it's almost just as rare that a No. 15 seed upsets a No. 2 seed.
Beyond the first round, though, things can get tricky. You will want to play the matchups, position by position, more than the seeds itself. It may turn out that a first-place team like the Kansas Jayhawks run the tables, but you need to maintain an openness to pivot should you notice they catch a bad matchup in one of the later rounds.
Kentucky itself is a great example of this unpredictable phenomenon at work. Since 2009-10, they have been ranked as a first or second seed entering the March Madness tournament a total of four times. And yet, they "only" have one national title to their resume during that time span.
This metric aligns with our thinking from above. Top seeds are not locks to win the championship. They're good bets—particularly on the moneyline—as you wager out the first and second rounds. After that, it's going to take more research. While you don't want to spread yourself too thin, you also don't want to be blindly investing in marquee schools.
Betting on Teams with NBA Prospects
Whether it's the regular season or March Madness, try not to get caught up in the hype of betting on teams that house some of the NBA's best prospects.
In theory, this should be a good tactic. The best NBA prospects are the best players. That logic tracks. Why wouldn't you want to favor those teams, almost without thinking? 0
Because the team around them isn't always great, or the coaching is sometimes suspect.
Look at what happened with Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, two of the top-three picks in 2014 when playing with the Kansas Jayhawks? They were bounced from the March Madness tournament relatively early.
Consider the 2016 first-overall pick, Ben Simmons, whose LSU Tigers didn't even make the tournament. It was the same story, different year, for Markelle Fultz with the Washington Huskies in 2017.
And look at Deandre Ayton, the 2018 first overall pick. His Arizona Wildcats entered the 2018 March Madness bracket as a No. 4 seed—and they lost in the first round.
Then we have Duke's Zion Williamson is the number one pick in 2019. The New Orleans Pelicans made Zion their first choice.
In the grand scheme of things, it's more valuable to pay attention to team play styles. Are they better on offense or defense? Do they struggle against strong defenses? Grapple with inconsistency against great offenses? What types of teams do they beat most easily?
Answering those questions, both during the regular season and the March Madness tournament, will help you far more than just seeking out the biggest names and best players will.
Steering Clear of High Roster Turnover
The current one-and-done rule the NBA has created an environment for college basketball in which plenty of teams are shuffling new players in and out of their rotation constantly. What made the 2019 National Champion Virginia Cavaliers special was that the nucleus of that team was not comprised of high-end prospects who stayed only for a season.
That's why many will fade some of the bigger schools that are teeming with freshman superstars when it comes to winning total futures and the March Madness bracket. Sure, those squads are terrifying on paper. People will bet on them. They might even clear their win totals and go deep into the NCAA's bracket.
But if you look at some of the most recent champions—Virginia Cavaliers 2019, Villanova in 2018—they are not overburdened by one year players who, first and foremost, have their eye on making the NBA.
Offense > Defense?
Truly good offences are hard to find at the collegiate level. High roster turnover is a part of it. Mostly, though, you're dealing with teenagers, most of whom are still hoping to drastically improve and who don't measure up to the professional talent. Things can, and will, sometimes get ugly.
Hence why so many bettors love to work the under in college basketball. So many coaches found their systems around defense, which should, in turn, make for a low scoring affair.
Don't commit yourself to this line of thinking just yet. The rise of the three-point shot is changing things. College players seldom hit them as a high or efficient of a clip as NBA players, but they're taking more of them than ever.
Consider this: During the 2010-11 season, six players made more than 100 three-pointers. Fast forward seven years, to 2017-18, and 28 players cleared 100 makes from beyond the arc. Teams are shooting these looks more than ever. And that, by extension, means they're making them more than.
Final scores are going to arise organically as a result. Whenever you're dealing with a team—or two teams—they rank in the top 25 or so of three-point attempts or makes, take a long hard look at the over. It might end up being the bet for you.