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How to Bet on NCAA College Basketball: 5 Tips and Strategies

by May 30, 2020

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A typical college basketball season is very unique. Unlike many other sports, college basketball seasons are divided into many different segments.

The beginning of a season is when teams play the bulk of their non-conference games. During this time, many teams will play in tournaments at neutral sites with many of these games happening on consecutive days. Around Christmas is when most conferences begin league play. These games lead to seeding for conference tournaments and ultimately culminates with March Madness or other lesser-tier postseason tournaments.

Each of these parts to an NCAA basketball season provides a wealth of opportunities for sports bettors. However, not many realize how differently each scenario can affect game spreads and their bets.

In this article, we discuss five of the best tips and strategies to use to increase your profits during college basketball season.

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Look at Unders on Neutral Courts

As previously mentioned, one of the more alluring parts of the early stages of a college basketball season are the many tournaments played in November and early December. From the Maui Invitational to the Battle 4 Atlantis, many of these tournaments give us a chance to see top teams square off that would not otherwise meet in a typical season.

However, as much as these tournaments are anticipated, there are others that do not garner much hype. Often times, one can find early-season tournament games played at noon in the middle of the week. These games are scarcely attended and do not have the same buzz as an on-campus game with rowdy student sections.

For a lot of these reasons, betting the total (and specifically the under) is more advantageous than betting the spread. 18-21-year-old young men are creatures of habit. They “get up” for games in primetime and with students and fans to cheer them on. In addition, they are familiar with their surroundings with on-campus games which has to help shooting percentages. Throw in the fact that teams have not had a true chance to gel just yet, and you have all the makings of more unders than overs.

Take Advantage of Smaller Conference Games

Duke-North Carolina? Kentucky-Louisville? Sure, these are often the most hyped and most heavily bet games of the college basketball season. They are also the most likely to end up with sportsbooks making a profit.

As familiar as you may be with the big-conference schools, oddsmakers will always be one step ahead of you. If you think you know more than an oddsmaker, you are wrong. If you attempt to make your living solely betting on the biggest conferences, it is likely to be a losing proposition in the long run.

In today’s era of college basketball, even the smallest conferences are televised at some point. If they are not, one can usually still find a way to stream their games. Though the games may not be as appealing as the big conference games, it would be wise for every bettor to “specialize” in at least one small conference.

Oddsmakers use data and analytics to make their lines. However, just like the average college basketball fan they are not as likely to be familiar with smaller conference teams and players. Thus, if you can devote the time to studying these smaller conferences, you are likely to be able to earn an edge over the oddsmakers.

Know End-of-Game Tendencies

If you are an avid college basketball bettor, you are likely to have been burned by the following scenario. Suppose you have the “under”, and the combined score is ten points less than the predicted total with just one minute to play. You may think you have your bet wrapped up, but then a team starts extending the game. After fouling and then scoring uncontested baskets on the other end, the game soared over the total in the blink of an eye.

This scenario is very typical of college basketball games. Not only does it affect totals, but it oftentimes affects spreads as well.

Most coaches have a certain end-of-game philosophy that they never waver from. Whether it is fouling often, pressing late, or “calling off the dogs”, all of these things have a big impact on the end of a game.

The more you know about a team’s late-game strategy, the more you can use that to your advantage. In addition, certain statistics are crucial to know if you think a game will be close. How well does a team shoot free throws? Do they have a “go-to” scorer that is clutch in big situations?

The Factors of Playing on Consecutive Days

Early-season tournaments, conference tournaments, and even the NCAA Tournament to some degree are played under much different circumstances than a regular-season game. In a typical week, a college basketball team will play two games with as many as four to five days off in between. In conference tournaments, games are typically played every day. During most rounds of the NCAA Tournament, there is only one off day.

There are many factors one should consider when games are played so closely together. One is how deep of a bench does a team have. While 18-21-year-old kids have young legs, even they are not immune to getting tired when playing long stretches.

In addition, the shorter the turnaround between games the more coaching tends to matter. Well-coached teams likely prepare for all scenarios and possible opponents before tournaments start. However, teams with more inexperienced coaches may take a game-by-game approach. Thus, they may not be as prepared for their upcoming opponents.

Determining Fishy Lines

One of the great things about college basketball is its unpredictability and penchant for upsets each year. Once in awhile a dominant team like 2014-15 Kentucky (38-1) or 1975-76 Indiana (32-0) will come along. But for the most part, even the eventual national champions are likely to have at least four losses on their resume.

Last year alone, the AP Poll has six different No. 1 ranked teams before January. In the first 11 weeks of the season, 14 AP top-five teams lost to unranked opponents and 64 top-25 teams lost to unranked teams.

With the likelihood of many upsets in a college basketball season, oftentimes oddsmakers will make unranked teams favorites over ranked teams. A typical bettor’s response to that would be to take the ranked underdog. However, sometimes the lines are “fishy” for a reason in that the oddsmakers believe an upset is coming.

A “fishy line” means the oddsmakers know an upset is brewing. A “bad line” simply means the oddsmakers are wrong. Determining the difference between these two is not an exact science. For example, the No. 1 ranked Baylor Bears were a two-point underdog at unranked Florida this year. This ended up being a “bad line” and not a “fishy line” considering Baylor won 72-61.

The moral of the story is if you as a bettor see a line that is too good to be true, it probably is. While going against your natural inclination and betting Florida would have been wrong, it will be right more often than not in the long run. After all, college basketball is always full of upsets.

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

Betting 101, Betting Tips, College Basketball, How-To