How to Bet on College Basketball: A Complete Guide


Did you know that the gambling industry led to a whopping $44 billion in profits in just 2024 alone?

Betting on sports is a great way to turn the fun of sports into cold, hard cash. And if you’re a fan of college basketball, you’re in luck. There’s a booming industry for betting on basketball in the collegiate sector.

If you’ve never placed a bet before, it can be difficult to know where to start with terms like “-8.5 spread” or “+350 money line.” How to bet on college basketball isn’t just about choosing the winning team–it’s about understanding odds and statistics.

In this article on gambling advice, we’re here to demystify things a bit. Keep reading as we teach you how to bed on college basketball.

How to Bet on College Basketball: Understanding the Terminology


If you’re new to the world of sports gambling, it’s the terminology that will throw you off. You’re likely used to movies and TV shows where gamblers say “all in” or “raise.” Let’s cover the most important phrases you will hear when you go in to put down a wager.

Betting Odds: Favorites and Underdogs

In every game, there is a team that people expect to win, and a team people expect to lose. The favorite is the team with the highest likelihood of winning, while the underdog is, obviously, the opposite.

Favorites use the minus sign (-) while underdogs use the plus sign (+). Pay close attention to this, as it’s easy to assume that favorites would be plus and underdogs minus.

Betting houses use these signs to signal to you what your probability is of winning. They’re not telling you what the popular consensus is, but rather what the likelihood of winning is based on past games.

Take a look at the following link for an example of some real-life betting odds:

Point Spreads


The majority of all betting on basketball happens with point spreads. Fortunately for you, this is the most straightforward wager one can understand. It’s based on how many points a team has by the end of the game.

The spread is a number that your preferred sportsbook will use as a means of balancing out the action. Rather than guessing how many points a team will have, you have two options depending on if you choose the favorite or the underdog:

  1. Favorite: subtract the point spread number from the final score
  2. Underdog: add the point spread number to the final score

For favorites, you win if there are still some points left over after subtracting out the point spread. Otherwise, you lose.

If you bet on the underdogs, though, you have to hope they will cover. Covering the spread means that, once you add the point spread to their score, they have more than the original spread. If you don’t, then you lose.

Generally speaking, you will lay down more money than you receive in return. So if you bet -110 (i.e. you pay $110) then you will get back $100. Obviously, you lose all of that money if you don’t cover the spread.

Example Game


Let’s give an example so you can see what we mean. Let’s say there’s a game between Arizona and Ohio:

Arizona +10
Ohio -10

As you can see, Arizona is the underdog, whilst Ohio is the favorite. If you decide to choose Arizona (the underdog) then you would have to bet at least $11 and up. To win, the underdog would need to lose by less than 10 points, or win.

However, if you bet on Ohio (the favorite) then they would need to beat Arizona by a minimum of 11 points. Any less, and you lose.

Do keep in mind that if Ohio were to win by exactly 10 points, then you would have a “push.” This means they will return your bet to you with no increase or loss.

Money Lines


Money lines are a bit easier to understand. There’s no need to worry about dealing with the end-game point count. You win if the team you choose wins, and you lose if they lose.

In this case, your sportsbook will tell you exactly how much you should wager to collect $100 of winnings. Again, the plus and minus signs tell you who is the favorite and who is the underdog. The number after this sign is how much you would need to wager in order to get some sort of return.

Example Game

New York +250
New Mexico -270

As you can see, in this scenario the amount is much higher. To place a money line bet on New Mexico, you would need to cough up at least $250 to be considered. This is because they are the favorites, and therefore the odds are much better that they would win.

But since New York is the underdog, you only have to put down $100 to get a $250 return. Betting on the underdog will always net you much more, but be careful here. They are the underdog for a reason (i.e. they lose more often) so while you pay less, you’re still taking a considerable risk.

In the rare event that both teams are somewhat evenly matched, the numbers will be near equal. A game with +105 and -110 is a close one. You may have equal odds of betting on either one.

Totals (Also Known as Overs or Unders)


Fortunately, there are more ways to bet than just on the points or the final outcome. If you believe both teams will have a high-scoring or low-scoring game, you can bet on the totals.

Same as before, the sportsbook will provide a number. Your wager should be under or over that number for you to win.

Example Game

The sportsbook might release a number like 134.5. That means that any bet over this amount (as in, a game where both teams score more than 135 points) cashes out. If both teams’ points add up to 134 or less, then those who bet in the under category win.

This gives you two simple options to choose from. If you believe the teams will score low, you have an easy bet with a high likelihood of cashing out.


Parlays are a hybrid of the above bets. To win, you need to be on the mark for all of your wagers. If just one of your wagers is off, you won’t cash out.

However, many consider this to be “low risk, high reward.” This might be the perfect bet for those who just want to throw down a bet for fun. You’ll only lose a small amount of money if push comes to shove.

Bets tend to be at least -110 bets. Payouts will be significantly less if you were to make the same bet on the money line.



Point spreads can sometimes seem daunting, or unfair. If that’s the case, then you have the opportunity to adjust these figures more to your liking–but for significantly less return.

However, do know that there is a limit to how far you can move the spread. Your sportsbook will tell you how much the payout changes in relation to the new amounts.

Teaser odds may be “custom” but your sportsbook will still tell you which ones have better odds. With teasers, you at least get the assurance that this won’t be a shot in the dark.


Want more customization than parlays or teasers? Then props are the bet for you. This is where you can bet on minute aspects of the game: assists, rebounds, and even points for an individual player.

This means you have potentially endless options. Just want to bet on how many rebounds your favorite player will get? You can do so, and get a decent payout in return.

Note, prop bets do not happen for every game. These will typically only be for games that show on national television. Juice (the cut your sportsbook will take) will be higher, though.



Futures, as you can probably guess, are wagers that go for the duration of a season, conference, or tournament. The risk here is much smaller. It reduces everything to a simple binary win or lose for each stage.

The downside here is that you will have to wait for an entire season (or longer) to see your money.


You may not want to bet on the entire game, but rather see the results after halftime. You can even bet on the second half of the game and nothing else.

This is a great option for those comeback games when you’re not so sure how the early–or late–game will go. You can even make these bets at the halfway point!

Cast Your Bets

How to bet on college basketball is all about choosing the odds you find most favorable. Bets with better odds tend to be a higher risk to justify the much higher payout. However, there are bets that minimize risk while still having a decent payout.

Follow our blog for more betting tips.