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How to bet on college basketball

Profile Picture: Jason Ence

Jason Ence

March 3rd, 2020

With March Madness just around the corner, college basketball is about to be the talk of the sports world. And there will be plenty of games to wager on.

However, for someone just getting into sports betting, it can be a daunting task to try to figure out what everything means.

TwinSpires Sports has you covered, with this comprehensive guide on college basketball wagering!

Betting on the moneyline

The easiest wager to make is who will win a game. We will use March 3's ranked matchup between Michigan State and Penn State as our example.

The favored team will have minus odds, which means you must wager the amount listed to win $100. If you bet that the favorite Michigan State will win, at -125, a winning bet of $125 would earn a $100 profit. If you were to bet a smaller amount, the winnings would still be the same rate. A $12.50 bet would net $10 if the Spartans win.

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If you go with the underdog, you would win the amount listed on a $100 bet. If you back Penn State at +105, then you would profit $105 on a winning, $100 wager. The difference between these odds will increase the more lopsided the matchup.

Betting the spread

The spread is the most popular betting option for college basketball wagers, as you have more options and less risk at times. The spread is the difference in expected points between the two teams when the game ends. The spread will increase in more lopsided matchups.

Michigan State is favored on the road, but only expected to win by a small margin.

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In this case, the juice on both sides is the same, so the payout for either pick would be $100 on a bet of $110. If you believe that Michigan State will win the game by two or more points, then you would take Michigan State and “lay” the 1.5 points. If you think Penn State will lose by one point, or win the game outright, then you would “take” the 1.5 points.

Betting the total

Another popular bet is to wager how many points will be scored in a game. Bettors can place wagers on whether the total will go Over or Under the expected number of points. The total is based on what the oddsmakers expect the final score to be. That number is based on a variety of factors, including the location of the game, players expected to play (or not play), the styles of the two teams, and previous results.

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If you believe the two teams will combine for 144 points or fewer, the Under would pay out $100 on a $110 wager (-110). Totals are dependent on the final score of the entire game, not just regulation. In a game expected to be as close as this one, overtime may be a factor, which could change the outcome of the bet. Be sure to take that into account when deciding on a totals wager.

Betting first-half lines

If you want to wager and not have overtime or late-game fouling come into play, first-half lines might be where you want to pay attention. These will typically be near half of what the full-game lines are in terms of spread and point total, but not always.

This can give you an advantage, if playing lines on games where teams tend to start hot, start cold, or might be playing without a key player for the first time.

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Betting team totals

Our last popular in-game bet is individual team totals. Much like the game total, you place a wager on the total going Over or Under the pre-set amount. The difference here is you are wagering only on the total points scored by one team. This is helpful if you have a good feel for how a specific team may play, but may not have enough confidence in the outcome of the game.

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Betting college basketball futures

There is one wager that pays the most of all—betting on who will win the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

This one is pretty simple. Simply pick who you believe will cut down the nets Monday, April 6. These are all positive payouts, so a wager of $100 on Baylor at +1000 would return a $1,000 profit.

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Now that you know how to place your bets, it’s time to do some research and find some lines you really like. So make your picks, get a few bets in, and get ready for the madness!