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How to Bet on NCAA Basketball
by Bovada Sportsbook

Henry V. Porter coined the term "March Madness" back in 1939 in an essay he wrote for the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). It was picked up again by CBS reporter Brent Musburger in 1982 (and later bought by the NCAA and IHSA), and every year since then it has been used to describe the madness that comes with bringing together 65 college basketball teams, all vying for a trip to the Final Four and a shot at the men's National Championship.

But even before March Madness begins, on any given Saturday in college hoops you can find up to 85 NCAA games being played - and that number can be overwhelming for anyone wanting to bet on college basketball.

So what's your best approach? You can start by gaining a clear understanding of how college basketball odds work, and it doesn't hurt to keep up with your homework throughout the regular season.

Point Spreads and Moneylines

When it comes to setting college basketball odds, you'll find that most sportsbooks tend to go with point spreads and moneylines.

Point spreads are intended to level the betting playing field between two teams. The point spread is the line, the handicap, or the head start that the favorite gives to the underdog for betting purposes. In other words, it is the number by which one team is favored to win over another.

To keep things balanced, linesmakers will try to set the spread so that there is roughly an equal number of money on both sides of the game. However, if they see that there is an exceedingly high number of bets favoring one side, they will move the spread up or down to even things out and keep things interesting.

A moneyline is another way for sportsbooks to set college basketball odds and as such they are expressed in terms of money. For example, with money odds, whenever there is a minus (-), that means you must lay that amount to win, say, a $100; where there is a plus (+), that means you get that amount for every $100 wagered.


During the regular season there are far too many college basketball games going on at any given time for any one sportsbook to follow closely. So when pondering over the numerous college basketball odds, the advantage goes to the basketball gambler who can choose which games to play. This is where your handicapping skills come into the picture.

To hone your handicapping skills, specialize in one conference and learn all you can about the teams in that conference. Keep track of teams' wins and losses, straight up and against the spread. Unlike the NBA, NCAA basketball teams only play about 30 games in one season, so grueling road trips aren't usually a factor. But home-court advantage does come into play, especially in college where sports fans are known to cheer rather enthusiastically for their team.

A shorter schedule and heated rivalries may also bring out the best in some teams. So when you're looking at the college basketball odds for any such matchups, consider the team's level of motivation and revenge factor.

Let the Madness Begin

When the NCAA men's basketball tournament tips off in March, and you find yourself pouring painstakingly over the college basketball odds in your favorite sportsbook, keep in mind that you do have a bit more time to handicap. If you can jump in with both feet during the first week of the tournament, you will have an edge over the sportsbooks that have scrambled to set their college basketball odds days in advance. Then for the duration of the tournament, keep a close eye on all teams as they struggle toward the Final Four.

5Dimes Sportsbook