NCAA Basketball Betting Explained

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A detail view of the Wilson March Madness ball rack. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

The college basketball betting market is one of the biggest in all of sports. What that means for bettors is tons of opportunity to make a profit, if you know where to look. That’s what we’re here to do, help you look for and be able to spot the hidden treasures sprinkled throughout the NCAA Basketball landscape. In this article, we’ll arm you with the tools you need to start out ahead of the game. 

What Kind of Bets Are You Looking for?

That’s a question that you will need to ask yourself before starting on your college basketball journey. A lot of college basketball bettors only make wagers on games involving the top 25 teams according to the polls or on nationally televised games. If not, they stick to the “name brand” schools otherwise known as the “blue bloods” of college basketball. There’s nothing wrong with individuals that do this but you should know, it isn’t the most profitable way to bet on college basketball, unless you take the correct approach.

First of all, games involving “blue bloods” or the most popular teams to use a different term, will always have lines that are a little more inflated than what their true market value is. That is especially true for games being broadcast on national TV. Sportsbooks know that in college, people will blindly bet on the more popular teams without really handicapping the game. You can take advantage of these spots by taking the dog. Again, blindly taking the dog isn’t going to be profitable in the long run. You’ll need to do research and keep up with the latest trends in order to spot these opportunities, just like you would in any sport.

Research Is Crucial When Betting College Basketball

With a market the size of NCAA Basketball, you will need to make sure you stay up to date with all of the news and trends. At the moment, there are 353 teams that compete in Division 1 basketball. That’s over 30 conferences that you would need to stay up to date with. If you’re thinking “that’s impossible”, for most people, it probably is. That’s why you need to make sure you’re using the best available resources available.

Everyone knows about the generic sources for college basketball news, the big media brands that cover all sports. That’s now what we’re talking about. We’re referring to the outlets that only cover college basketball and give you a deep dive into statistical analysis. If you aren’t familiar with advanced stats, the truth is, it’s worth taking the time to get familiar with them, especially if you don’t have time to watch all the games.

To ease your way into college basketball betting, you should start off with: sports-reference.com/cbb. That is a great website for all sports but more importantly for anyone looking to get started with advanced stats, this is the place for you. Not to worry, this site will provide you with all of the normal stats that you can find anywhere but then they dig deeper and give you metrics that you won’t be able to find in many places, especially not when it comes to the college game.

There are two other websites, but these are for those that are more familiar with advanced metrics. The websites are: kenpom.com and barttorvik.com. On these sites, you will find every single metric about your team including where they rank against all the other teams in the country. That is where these sites stand out and are crucial for anyone looking to make profit betting college basketball.

Pick a Lane and Stick to It

There are too many games to just simply say you bet on college basketball. For the sake of maximizing your time, it’s better if you pick a group of conferences of even teams and stick to handicapping those games. There are two reasons for that; the first is that it’s much easier to manage a smaller group of teams and to confidently say you know everything about them including having seen them play a handful of times. The second reason is while you focus on that specific group of teams/conferences, it will allow you to gather information about the other teams without the added stress of trying to pick winners.

What often happens is you start off with one group of teams, like the 25 in the country for instance but then you notice a trend that you think you can exploit with a different group. Or perhaps you see that a certain group of teams finds consistent success against the other, like these inter conference tournaments that they like to have at the beginning of the season, like the “ACC versus Big Ten Challenge” for example.

The point is we aren’t saying you should limit yourself to any one group of teams. What we are saying is, if you don’t try to make the 353 team landscape a little bit more manageable for yourself, you’ll have a much harder time spotting true value. Start off small and then grow your repertoire of conferences over time. Before you know it, you’ll know exactly how to spot value among the seemingly endless amount of games that happen on a daily basis in the NCAA Basketball betting market.