How to Bet on NCAAB Basketball

Filling out a March Madness bracket has become a cultural phenomenon among North American sports fans. Every year, people kick-off the madness by making picks for the 63 games in the single-elimination tournament. While non-fans are typically happy to join in the madness of the postseason, avid basketball fans should take advantage of all of the betting opportunities that the NCAAB provides leading up to the tournament. 

In this guide, we explain not just how to bet on March Madness, but also the various ways to bet on regular season games. We also provide beginners with some insight into how to increase your odds of making winning bets, so that you too can experience the thrill of a win alongside your chosen team.

NCAAB Moneyline

The moneyline is a natural starting point for people just learning how to bet on NCAA basketball because it’s as straightforward as picking the team that you think will win in any given game. For your bet to win, your pick needs to win straight up; the payout is based on the NCAAB odds secured at the time you placed your wager. We’ll go through an example to illustrate:

Louisville –160 

Miami FL  +205

In this example, the Louisville Cardinals are visiting the Miami Hurricanes as –160 favourites. You can tell they’re the favourites because the favoured team has negative odds, whereas the underdogs have positive odds. When you see negative odds, they show the amount of money you’d need to bet in order to win $100; in our example, a $160 bet would shell out $100. As for the underdogs, however, the positive odds show how much money you’d win from a $100 bet; in our example, a $100 bet on the Hurricanes would yield a $205 payout.

NCAAB Spread

Spreads are popular in NCAAB betting because they reduce the gap between two lopsided teams, making both picks appealing. In order to do this, oddsmakers create a point-margin that the dominant team must cover, which also acts as a margin of loss that benefits the underdog. If we were to look at the spread for our Louisville-Miami game, it could look like this:

Louisville –16.5 (–110) 

Miami FL +16.5 (–110)

Louisville has been tasked with a 16.5-point spread, meaning they would have to beat the Hurricanes by at least 17 points for their bets to win. Alternatively, Miami could lose by up to 16 points and still pay their backers (winning outright would also result in paid Miami bets). This makes it less risky to bet on an underdog, and also makes it possible for sportsbooks to offer more generous payouts for the favourite than what would be possible on the moneyline. 

NCAAB Totals

Also known as Over/Under betting, totals provide bettors with an opportunity to judge how offensive or defensive a game will be. Handicappers release a point-total prior to a game that reflects the anticipated total number of points score by both sides, and the betting public gets to choose if they think the actual total will exceed the pre-determined total, or go under. 

Louisville O 62.5

Miami FL U 62.5

Instead of choosing an individual team to win, you’re tasked with choosing whether the total points scored in a game will go Over (O) or Under (U) the game’s point total. Quite often a total will include a half-point in order to prevent pushes from happening when the actual total is the exact prediction of the oddsmaker.

NCAAB Buying Points

Bettors who like to have just a little more security with their NCAAB wagers will appreciate the ability to buy points with the point spread and total. When you buy points, the spread (or total) shifts in your favour in exchange for a slightly lower payout, making it easier to win your bet. You can buy up to 1.5 points, and every half-point costs 10 cents on the line. Let’s use our spread example to illustrate.

Louisville –16.5 (–110)

Miami FL +16.5 (–110)

Buying the maximum 1.5 points on Miami would shift the spread to +18, whereas adding 1.5-points to Louisville would shift it to –15. In both scenarios, the cost would be –140 instead of –110.

NCAAB Futures

A futures bet is a wager on something that won’t be settled until sometime in the future—like a team’s odds to win the NCAA tournament

NCAAB Props (Team, Player, Season)

When an oddsmaker proposes a wager other than the standard winning team in a game or championship, he’s usually offering a prop bet. These are side bets that add an extra element of fun to your NCAAB betting experience. A prop bet could be on a team’s performance, a player’s stats, or season win records.

NCAAB Live Betting

Live betting, which is the process of placing bets on a game while it’s in progress, creates opportunities to snap up odds that are fluctuating from the established NCAAB Vegas odds. If a team is struggling, their odds will lengthen, which means you can win a solid payout if you’re good at predicting when a team will make a comeback. Props, spreads, moneylines, and totals are all available through NCAAB live betting.

NCAAB Specials

Any time you see a wager advertised as a “special” means it’s not part of the standard betting options. Specials typically pop up during major events, like March Madness, to create extra ways to get in the action.

NCAAB Betting Tips

To understand how to get the most out of your NCAAB betting experience, it helps to understand how a sportsbook operates. The ideal scenario for a sportsbook is to have an equal amount of money on both sides of a bet; that way the money from the losing bets is used to pay the winning bets, with the sportsbook keeping the vigorish as payment for processing the transactions. When there’s an imbalance of money, the sportsbook runs the risk of exposure.

So how do sportsbooks balance the bets? Handicappers adjust the odds in reaction to the money that comes in from the betting public. If a lot of money is poured on the favourite, the underdog’s odds will become more appealing to attract more betting action. This can be done in two ways: through the spread, or the juice attached.

Louisville –16.5 (–110)

Miami FL +16.5 (–110)

In our Louisville-Miami example, if a lot more money came in on Miami than Louisville, the spread could shift to –15.5, making it easier for the favourite to cover, and creating a tighter loss margin for the underdog. Alternatively, the sportsbook could keep the spread the same and adjust the payout odds in the brackets (also known as the virogish) to –105 for Louisville and –115 for Miami. The better price for the favourite would prompt more betting action on them and (hopefully) balance both sides.

This knowledge can factor into how you time your NCAAB bets. If you plan to bet on a popular franchise, you can be confident that the opposing team will eventually get a better price after the initial outpour in bets. Betting early is advised in this case. On the flip side of the coin, when betting on a small-market team that’s up against a popular one, it’s usually best to wait until after the initial bets have come in to get a better price on the underdog. Of course, this won’t always work out, but it’s a good rule of thumb for beginner bettors. Try it out in the NCAAB section of our sportsbook and see if you can continue to expand your sports betting strategies from there.