Crash Course in College Basketball Betting

Many would argue, college basketball is the most exciting of all sports to watch, and the added element of placing bets elevates the action to an electrifying level.

The college basketball blueprint is comprised of over 350 Division 1 Schools, with most of the top rated sportsbooks offering an abundant amount of wagering options on the odds boards (especially during March Madness), but one must not get too crazy as a disciplined bettor is the key to success.

When reading the betting odds in college hoops, your basic bets come down to three general and popular options for making a wager, the point spread, the over/under total, and the moneyline.

Let’s take a look at all three:

Point Spread

Making a bet against the spread in college basketball works the same way as it does in the NBA and NFL. Oddsmakers set a line, with an expected win margin based upon the two teams in the contest, one is listed as the favorite, and the other is the underdog. It’s your choice to pick one of the two based on your research, stats, trends, and overall handicapping knowledge.

Here is an example:

Duke is favored -8 over Gonzaga +8 – the Oddmakers are suggesting that Duke is at least 8 points of a spread better than Gonzaga. If you want to back Duke, they must win their game by 9 points or more to cover the spread. Contrarily, if you are backing Gonzaga, they can still lose the game, as long as it’s by 7 or less points to be considered a winner.

Example Final Scores

Duke Gonzaga Result
78 60 Duke covers
78 74 Gonzaga covers
78 70 Push, neither covers, bet is refunded
78 75 Gonzaga wins outright, covers spread

Example Point Spread Strategy:  Against the Public

Don’t always bet big favorites like Duke. As money comes in for popular teams, oddsmakers will increasingly move the spread in favor of the underdog. In our example above, that -8 Duke line could move to -9.5. That means Gonzaga can now lose by 9 or fewer points and underdog bettors will still win.

Betting against big favorites is a viable March Madness strategy, though it’s not the only factor to consider when placing a bet. Always handicap your team, their opponent and have a firm understanding of how basketball spreads work.


Making wagers on the combined total of the final score is another option available and is as easy as deciding if the game you are betting will be high scoring, with plenty of offense, or a defensive battle with little points. Let’s look at Duke vs. Gonzaga again, but this time let’s say the Oddsmakers posted an O/U of 168 points. If Duke won the game 78-74, this matchup would land on 152 points, cashing tickets to anyone who bet UNDER the total of 168.


A wager on the moneyline eliminates the point spread and instead has a price listed on each team, with more cash put on the favorite (to win less), while the underdog will give you a greater payback.  For example, Duke might be -190 – meaning you have to bet $190 to win $100 for the Blue Devils to win outright without a spread. Under the same scenario, Gonzaga would be a +170 payoff; meaning for every $100 bet you would received $170 if the Bulldogs escaped with an outright win.

These are three of the most common ways to bet college basketball and with the proper dedication, including shopping for the best lines you can turn a profit in the long run.

Remember, sports betting is a marathon and not a sprint.