In college basketball, the difference between winning and losing can often be vanishingly thin—a last-second shot, a big defensive stand, a poorly timed time-out (as any Fab Five fans can attest).
The same holds for college basketball betting.
In a sport where upsets abound, the difference between winning big and going bust can come down to one word: preparation.
That’s why having a set of college basketball betting strategies can be so valuable. By learning a few tried and true NCAA basketball betting strategies, you can prepare yourself for future March Madness tournaments and feel confident that you know how to bet on basketball.
#1 Know Your Bets
Knowing your bets actually has nothing to do with basketball, but it’s vital to learn what goes into betting before you start digging into the games.
There are many different ways you can bet on college basketball. And each bet type has its advantages and disadvantages. By knowing which type of bet is best for each situation, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
The most common bets you’ll likely employ include:
- Brackets – The end of the regular college basketball season comes hand in hand with brackets. For March Madness specifically, there’s no betting option more popular than filling out a bracket. In the world of sports betting, this is a fun way to have a stake in every game going into the NCAA tournament, but it’s not much of a betting strategy. Why? The amount of possible outcomes in March Madness is 9.2 quintillion. Even accounting for the fact that you can better your chances through knowledge and smart picks, the likelihood for a perfect bracket is still not much better than 1 in 120 billion—not great odds.
- Moneyline – Okay, so you’re not going to pick a perfect bracket. So where can you find better odds? Focus on individual games. One of the easiest ways to do this is through a moneyline bet where you simply bet on which team will win the game. Remember, with moneyline bets, payouts will be based on who is favored to win. So, if you’re betting on a favorite, you’ll have to bet a lot to win a little. Conversely, if you bet on an underdog and they win, you could be in for a big payday.
- Spread – Another option is point spread betting. For this, oddsmakers will set a betting line and “spot” the underdog a certain number of points. A favorite has to win by more than this number for the bet to win. An underdog can lose the game, but by fewer points than the spread, and you can still win if you bet on them. Payouts for point spread bets will tend to be even, so this is a good option if you think a favorite is going to blow out the underdog.
- Over/Under – For this betting option, you’re betting on the total score of the game when the final buzzer sounds. While overs are a popular bet (we all love high-scoring affairs), you may be able to find better value in unders, especially during the tournament when neutral courts and high-pressure plays abound.
#2 Specialize Your Knowledge
Now that you have an idea of the bets available to you, it’s time to start doing your research. College basketball is a massive sport with too many teams to reasonably keep track of. However, by specializing your knowledge, you can become an expert in enough areas to increase your winnings:
- Watch games – With all the resources available, it’s easy to overlook the most obvious one: watching the teams play. It’s your money on the line, you may as well use your eyes to assess where you’re putting it.
- Assess your team – If you have a favorite team, you’re naturally going to be more familiar with them than any other team. Additionally, if you can take your fandom out and assess them rationally, you’ll likely know where the smart money should go for their games.
- Focus on a conference or region – Expanding from your team, it makes sense to look into one conference or region. Knowing about 68 teams isn’t realistic, but knowing about 10 is and can put you in a good position to win big, especially during a conference tournament.
#3 Watch the Lines
No matter what type of bet you employ, there will be a “line” attached to it. This shows you what the oddsmakers think of the game (namely, who they think is going to win and how likely they think an upset is). Oddsmakers aren’t infallible. However, keeping a close eye on the lines, may help you to exploit an advantage:
- Watch for lines that seem off – If you’ve done your research, you should have a feel for individual games. That means before you even see the line, you should have an idea of what it will be in your head. If the actual line differs wildly from your thought, oddsmakers may have missed something and you’ll have an opportunity to make some gains. Just be careful—it’s at least equally likely you missed something, so make sure you’re confident before you put down a big bet.
- Watch line movement – Lines can also be adjusted as games get closer. Since smart bettors (called “sharps”) are looking for value lines, seeing a line move may mean the sharps have spotted something. Look closely, you may want to jump aboard while the line is still advantageous.
#4 Don’t Follow the Herd
When you were little, did you learn about lemmings, the animals that followed each other over the edges of cliffs? Well, lemmings don’t actually do that and neither should you. Blindly following the public is an effective way to lose massive amounts of money.
While being on the same page as the sharps is generally a smart idea, being on the same page as the public generally isn’t. After all, if the public were always winning, then casinos would all be going out of business. Look for games where most of the money is on one side (especially if that side is historically popular) and consider going the other way. In this case, being contrarian may be your best bet, literally.
#5 Consider Style of Play
Once you get toward the end of the tournament, you’re going to be seeing evenly matched teams facing off. In these games, the difference between winners and losers may come down to the margins. As such, some style-of-play issues worth considering include:
- Coaches – There’s a reason coaches like Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, and Bill Self always seem to have teams in the final four. In college, the coach’s system can have a huge effect on their team. To that end, ride coaches with proven track records.
- 3-pointers vs. points-in-the-paint – Shooting percentage can be a fickle master. While the sport is shifting more and more toward 3-point heavy teams, when you get into tournament play it only takes one game of cold shooting to be eliminated. Teams that use more traditional, close-to-the-hoop tactics may be more reliable.
- Free throws – In the NBA, free throws are massive advantages as they’re reliable points on the board. Free throws can have the same advantages in college ball, too. But be aware that teams that have poor free-throw shooting lose out on a potential advantage.
#6 Use Your Head, Not Your Heart
Sometimes it’s hard to be objective—betting against your favorite team can pull at your heartstrings. But objectivity extends far beyond your favorite team.
Part of the fun of March Madness is getting to know the different teams and often falling in love with this year’s Cinderella squad. However, resist the urge to let your heart decide your college basketball bets. It’s fun to fall in love, but if that dictates your sports betting strategy, it may be your wallet that turns into a pumpkin in the end.
#7 Have Fun Out There
The final betting tip is one of perspective. March Madness and college basketball are full of surprises. That’s why we love it. However, surprises can be a lot less fun when they cost you more than you can afford. Be sure to follow these basic tips regardless of your overall strategy:
- Only bet what you can lose – Following a good strategy should help you win, but even the best strategy doesn’t eliminate the possibility of losing. Don’t bet so much that your next house payment relies on the performance of a 19-year-old Villanova student.
- Diversify – While specializing your knowledge can help your overall betting strategy, you still don’t want all your eggs in one basket. Spread your bets out and use different types of bets to make sure that even when you lose in one spot, you’re still winning in another.
- Don’t chase – Each bet you place is its own. While they are all part of an overall strategy, one big winner can’t erase a big loser. You may be tempted to try to make up for a disappointment by placing more bets or upping the stakes. Don’t do this. Stick to your initial strategy so you don’t end up spiraling.
Final Tip: Bet on Tipico
Everyone has their own college basketball betting strategy. In the end, you need to pick something that you feel confident in. And, as you define what works for you and expand that beyond college basketball, our blog is full of resources to help. Then, once you’re ready, head to our March Madness hub and place your bets. Bet safely and confidently with Tipico as your online sportsbook.
Enjoy the madness!