Whether it’s the NBA, NCAA, or European leagues, the act of placing a bet on basketball is the same. That’s why we aren’t going to repeat the info we covered in the NBA betting guide, instead we’ll highlight what makes NCAA basketball unique, just like we did when we compared the NFL to college football.
Big Spreads, Big Upsets
Like college football, the sheer number of teams in NCAA basketball (351 in Division I) means there are some incredible mismatches taking place each week, resulting in larger average spreads than the pros. However, college basketball games are also the shortest of the major team sports, in terms of real-time action, running just 40 minutes (two 20 minute halves), and that short duration can lead to big upsets. The longer an over-matched opponent is required to punch above its weight, the more likely it succumbs to a knockout blow.
March Madness Betting
The NCAA Tournament (better known as March Madness), is the crown jewel of the college basketball season: a 64-team, single-elimination tournament that is sold as an upset-laden chaos factory.
In reality, it’s not that unpredictable: underdogs won outright less than 27-percent of the time in 2016 and 2017. Yet, the possibility that one bad game could send a great team home means that NCAA basketball never has an odds-on favorite. Unlike its professional counterpart, the college basketball futures market is a place where long-shots can actually come through, and that’s where the fun of betting comes from.
In 2016-17, eventual champion North Carolina was at 15/1 in the preseason; six other teams had shorter odds. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, national runner-up Gonzaga was at 80/1! While the preseason favorites sometimes come through, we’re also starting to see more and more lower seeds make deep runs in the tournament as parity creeps into college basketball.
There are two opportunities to wager on the annual tournament, with both a men’s and women’s championship available for betting. Admittedly, the women’s side isn’t as wide open as the men’s: the University of Connecticut has won four of the last five years and ten times since 2000. On the men’s side, we’ve had six different winners in the last six years and no team has repeated in a decade (Florida, 2006 & 2007).
The tournament’s unique format also lends itself to a variety of props, like “how many no. 1 seeds will make the Final Four?” or “which conference will the champion come from?” Overall, the sheer number of odds released for the tournament makes March Madness one of the biggest betting events of the entire year.
In order to fully take advantage of March Madness, it helps to familiarize yourself with teams in the months leading up. The NCAA season starts in November, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to wager on games, and you can do so in all the same ways you can bet NBA games: ATS, moneyline, game totals, teasers, parlays, round robins, and game props. Although, with less individual star power in college, sportsbooks may not offer as many player props as you’d find in the NBA.