When it comes to college basketball betting, while so much publicity is devoted to the NCAA Tournament, you have to realize that a lot of basketball gets played for three and a half months before the month of March begins. You have so many betting opportunities from early November through the end of February, not just in March. Let’s become acquainted with the four basic kinds of bets you’ll encounter in your sportsbook in terms of college basketball betting.


A moneyline bet is when you wager on the most immediate outcome of a game, who wins and who loses. You’re not concerned with point spreads here. This is a straight-up bet.

Let’s take an example of a matchup between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan State Spartans, two teams that are regularly at the forefront of the Big Ten Conference and its push to put multiple teams in the Final Four every April. You might see Ohio State as the favorite at -145, which would make Michigan State the underdog at (hypothetically) +115.The favorite will always be shown with a positive sign before it, and the underdog will be listed with a negative sign in front of its place on the college basketball odds sheet or (if on a computer, a screen). The numbers just given, -145 for the Buckeyes and +115 for the Spartans, indicate that in order to win $100 on Ohio State, you would have to wager $145. On the other hand, you would win $115 on Michigan State if you made an up-front bet of $100.

You’re not tied to betting $145 on Ohio State or $115 on Michigan State, you can bet whatever amount you want. Those numbers just provide a framework for what you might want to do, and illustrate what you would be risking in exchange for what you would hope to win at the betting window.

Point Spreads

Point spread betting is straightforward. You are betting on the margin of victory, not who wins and loses the game outright. For example, Ohio State might go into its game with Michigan State favored by four points on the college basketball odds, which you would see as listed as -4. Michigan State, on the other hand, would be shown at +4 as the underdog. This means Ohio State would have to win by more than four points in order to give you the win as a bettor, while Michigan State can lose by less than four – or win outright – to win your wager for you if you bet on the Spartans to cover the spread as the underdog. If the margin of victory lands on exactly four points, that is called a push, and that means you just get your money back. You’ll often see half-points used, such as Ohio State -4.5 and Michigan State +4.5, so that ties can be avoided and no one has to worry about that sort of thing.


Total betting is when you wager on the combined number of points that will be scored in a game. Your task is to determine whether the two teams will score enough points to go over or under the total that has been established in the sportsbook. The total is called the “over-under total,” and it’s exactly what it means.

For example, Ohio State and Michigan State could be projected to score a total of 153 points, and you have to pick to go over or under that number. In short, your betting decision depends on whether you think the game will be a shootout played in the 80s (which would go over the 153 total) or a defensive game in the 60s (which would go well under the total).


Finally, there’s futures betting, when you bet on long-term races, such as which team will win the Big Ten or any other conference, or which team will win a national championship. You can find NCAA Tournament futures when the field is set after the conference tournaments end. However, you’ll also see odds to win the NCAA tournament throughout the year with the top teams featured prominently in the list. The college basketball odds are usually listed as fractions: 8/1, 30/1, 400/1. That just means that you’ll win $8/$30/$400 for every dollar you bet on the team.