College basketball is a popular sport among US viewers, and a favorite of gamblers, as well. With many games happening throughout the season, it offers a chance to place many bets on a variety of teams and circumstances.
While it has some similarities to gambling on the NBA, betting on college basketball offers its own set of challenges. The different formats and levels of play result in some key variables to understand if you want to gamble on the sport.
In this guide, we will cover a variety of topics related to gambling on college basketball, from the different bets to the major differences between the college and professional levels.
Read on to get advice on the little things that many gamblers miss and as a result end up costing them money.
How college basketball betting works
Betting on college basketball works much the same as it does with any other team sport. It shares lots of similarities with NBA basketball, especially in the types of bets you will see your sportsbook offer.
Right now in the state of New York, you’re only legally allowed to gamble on sports at a licensed location. These are all sportsbooks at physical brick-and-mortar casinos. However, the legalization of online sports betting could happen soon. When that happens, it’ll make wagering on sports even easier than it already is.
When you go to bet on college basketball, the first thing you need to know is the odds. Most odds are displayed in American format.
The favorite will have its odds displayed with a minus sign, and the number represents how much you need to wager for the chance to win $100. For example, if Duke is a -150 favorite, you would need to wager $150 for a chance to win $100, potentially returning a total of $250.
The underdog’s odds will appear with a plus sign in front of them. This represents how much a winning $100 bet on that selection would return. For example, if UCLA had odds of +150, you could wager $100 for a chance to win $150 for a total return of $250.
Is betting on NCAA basketball legal in New York?
Yes, you can legally bet on college basketball in New York. The state has legalized betting on most sports and teams at approved locations.
However, as mentioned above, at this point you cannot gamble online; you must do all of your wagering in person.
In addition to the fact that you must bet in person, there are a few other legal sports betting rules that are important to know when it comes to college basketball. One such rule is that you cannot bet on any New York college teams. That means that schools like Syracuse are not options to wager on in the state.
Key differences between NBA vs. NCAAB betting
There are many similarities between betting on college and professional basketball. They are the same sport, after all. With that said, however, some key differences are important to know.
- The number of teams: A big difference between the NBA and NCAA is the number of teams. When you look at the sheer size of the NCAA and all the conferences and teams, it can be a bit overwhelming. There are hundreds of teams just in NCAA Division I, and being an expert on all of them is next to impossible. Contrast this with the NBA, where there are only 30 teams and you can have a general idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each team.
- Media coverage and hype: Some NCAA teams have very little media coverage, especially compared to the NBA, where every team has some level of familiarity. This means that teams can fly under the radar more easily, even strong teams. This can result in more surprising results in the college game compared to the pro game.
- Larger spreads due to team mismatches: When comparing the professional and collegiate levels, the parity level is something that plays a role in gambling. Because of the much larger difference between team strengths at the college level, the spreads that a sportsbook will offer can be much larger. For example, at the NCAA level, you can see spreads of up to 40 points or more, while it’s rare to see spreads over 20 points at the NBA level.
- Number of mistakes: The number of mistakes is much higher in college basketball due to its more unpolished nature. The sportsbook may also make more mistakes due to the sheer number of NCAA betting options. Because they’re making so many lines for so many games, they may let something slip by.
- The number of bettors is usually lower: The NBA is usually a larger betting market, with more money gambled on each side of games. This means that the lines move less on NCAA games than NBA games, except for the largest NCAA matchups, so there is less chance to take advantage of swings in the lines at the college level.
- Softer betting lines: One benefit of the fact that the NBA is a larger market is that oddsmakers will pay less attention to NCAAB lines. This means that the college lines can be softer, and it’s easier to find an edge over the bookmaker. NBA lines, meanwhile, are carefully managed by the oddsmakers.
- Player experience: In the NBA, of course, every player is a professional, while at the NCAA level the experience level of the players is a huge factor. Young freshmen can offer huge potential, but they often lack the maturity that makes older players so valuable. Finding teams that have lots of juniors and seniors is a good way to find undervalued teams.
How college basketball lines work
NCAA basketball lines work much the same as in other sports. The sportsbook will release the original lines, which represent the implied probability of each outcome occurring.
As wagers come in, the sportsbook will change the lines to encourage equal betting on each side. It wants to limit its liability to make sure that no one loss is devastating.
If one side receives plenty of bets, its odds will worsen to encourage you to bet on the other side so that the sportsbook will make a profit no matter what happens. Thus, if you see a line shift heavily, you can understand why that has happened.
Where to find the best college basketball lines
While it’s important to make sure that you’re making smart selections, making sure that you’re getting good odds is just as important. Different oddsmakers will offer different lines for the same selection, and making sure that you’re maximizing your potential profit is crucial.
The best way to do this is to check a variety of sportsbooks and compare the odds. You may be surprised by how much college basketball odds can differ and how much money you may be costing yourself.
NCAA basketball futures and props
Futures and props are two popular types of bets. Futures bets involve betting on longer-term events. The most popular example for college basketball is predicting the winner of March Madness.
The odds for the eventual champion of March Madness are released almost as soon as the previous year’s tournament has ended. They change over the year to reflect new injuries and updates to the season. Thus, knowing when to place a futures bet is a huge part of the return. A bet on Kentucky right before the tournament compared to five months before the tournament could have vastly different odds.
Prop bets involve betting on the smaller events within the game. These can include betting over/under on player statistical totals or a variety of other circumstances. Different sportsbooks will have slightly different offerings for prop bets.
NCAA March Madness betting
March Madness is the largest event on the college basketball schedule, and it’s one of the most popular gambling events in the entire world. Even non-sports bettors will often try their hand at a March Madness bracket.
The tournament works in stages, and the first round consists of 64 teams. The bracket is made on Selection Sunday just a little bit before the tournament starts. The first round is famous for its excitement and potential upsets. Savvy bettors can often find a few big moneyline upsets to cash.
From there the bracket is narrowed to thirty-two teams, and then sixteen, and then eight, all the way to the championship game. Each round provides its special excitement.
Biggest New York college basketball rivalries
Even though you can’t wager on them from in the state, there are many great teams in New York worth following even if you aren’t betting. Here are five of the most hotly contested rivalries:
The Battle of the Bronx
This is one of the largest rivalries in New York and consists of Manhattan College and Fordham University, two schools that are located in the Bronx. The first men’s basketball game between these teams was in 1912, a 20-19 win for Manhattan.
This rivalry between Siena and the University at Albany is another based on proximity and is one of the most hotly contested mid-major rivalries in the country.
Canisius vs. St. Bonaventure
These two teams have a history that dates back to 1919-20. St. Bonaventure holds a deciding lead in matchups between the two teams, but it’s always a good contest.
NYU vs. Columbia
These two prestigious schools are always trying to one-up each other, so it’s not surprising that it extends to the basketball court.
Syracuse vs. Colgate
While Syracuse has many rivals across the country, Colgate is its main foil among in-state teams.