Ever wonder why college basketball lines take so long to come out? Well, that is because college basketball is among the easiest sports for bettors to beat. Books have a tougher time making lines for college basketball than they do say the NBA or NFL. Therefore, a smart college basketball bettor can be a very profitable bettor. Learning how to bet college basketball the right way can put a ton of money in your pocket.
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College Basketball Betting 101
Let’s start at the very beginning. College basketball lines are the same as most other sports. You will have a spread, money line, and total.
The spread is the number of points a team is favored by. An example you may see would be “Duke-6.5”. If you were to bet the Duke spread, you would need them to win by seven or more for your bet to cash. Taking the underdog in the matchup, you would need them to win or lose by no more than six points for your bet to win.
Betting on the money line is just betting on which team you think will win the game outright, no spread involved. Taking the Duke example, the higher a team is favored, the less the money line will payout. It works the opposite for underdogs, the bigger the underdog, the higher the payout. For a spread like Duke-6.5, you can expect to see odds like Duke-400 on the money line. This means you have to wager $400 to win $100 on the money line. The underdog could be paying out something like +370. This means if you bet $100 on the underdog to upset Duke you would win $370.
The total is self-explanatory as well. The total is betting over or under the total amount of points scored between the two teams. This includes regulation and any potential overtime as well. The total odds are similar to spread odds, they are usually in the range of -110.
When to Bet Over or Under
Betting on the total is very popular in college basketball. There is a huge variance in college basketball between the highest-scoring teams in the country and the lowest. You can see totals as high as 180s and as low as 110. Doing your homework on a team’s style of offense and pace of play can pay big dividends in college basketball.
The first thing you want to do is research each team’s pace of play. Do the two teams playing both like to run the floor or do they like to play slow-paced defensive basketball as a Virginia team does? Teams that average more possessions per game are good for betting on the over. Slow defensive teams tend to see more low-scoring games.
Two other things you need to look at is a team’s three-point shooting and their free-throw shooting. For three-point shooting, it isn’t the percentage you are so much concerned about as it is the number of threes a team takes. A team that hits 40% of threes when taking 20+ attempts per game typically scores more than a team that shoots 50% while only attempting a handful of threes per game. Free throws are key as well. Teams that struggle shooting free-throws tend to leave a lot of points at the line. This can cause a lot of teams to shoot below their expected total and cause games to go under.
Make sure you research each team’s pace of play, three-point shooting ability, and free-throw shooting ability before making any bet on the total.
Finding a Good Underdog
One good thing about betting college basketball is the rankings. A lot of times the books will play to the public and give ranked teams bigger spreads than they deserve. Smart bettors take this into account. One of the first rules of betting is to ignore the number in front of a team (their ranking) and also ignoring their record. Instead of getting excited and betting on a 13-1 team against a 6-7 team, first, look and see who these teams have played this season. You may find that the 13-1 team doesn’t have a single win against a Top 100 team while the 6-7 team has three such wins and all seven losses were by single digits to highly-ranked teams. Now all of a sudden that 6-7 is looking pretty good isn’t it? That ranking in front of that 13-1 team is misleading, don’t fall for it!
Going back to a team’s three-point shooting ability, this is also a great indicator of a potential solid underdog bet. Teams that shoot the three well can battle with almost anyone in the country. We have seen it a ton of times over the years, the teams that pull off the biggest upsets have big days from behind the arc. A powerhouse team like Duke, even if they are favored by seven points, can have a hard time against a good three-point shooting team. Look at both a team’s strengths and weaknesses to find out which teams they matchup best and worst against.
Making Great Value Bets
In college basketball, the best value bets are money line bets on underdogs, as with most other sports. So how do you know which underdogs are the best bets to pull the upset? Well, it goes back to what we have been talking about this entire article. You have to find teams that match up well against others. Find ranked teams who are vulnerable down low or are heavily dependent on the three and haven’t been shooting it well most of the year. Look for underdogs who match up well with teams that are ranked or heavy favorites. If a ranked team is heavily dependent on the three and their opponent is a heavy underdog but does well defending the three, that is a good sign for the underdog.
We have already seen a number of double-digit favorites fall this season. However, those bets are the toughest to predict. Instead of banking on major upsets like those, find value in the smaller upsets that are more likely to occur. A home team underdog against a ranked team is a great money line bet when the spread is low. If a team is hosting a ranked team that is a three or four-point favorite, a money line bet on the underdog can provide you a ton of value. Check the matchups and see if this home underdog can matchup with the style of play of the ranked team. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the ranked team is always going to win, because they don’t.
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