NCAAB Odds: How to Handicap College Basketball

College basketball is one of the most popular betting options every March when the NCAA Tournament tips off, but there is value in college hoops all year round. Learn how to handicap NCAAB games like a pro with these expert tips.

Steve Merril
Nov 3, 2023 • 07:16 ET
Purdue Boilermakers All-America center Zach Edey.
Photo By - USA Today Images

The NCAA college basketball season packs a tremendous amount of betting opportunities within a four-month period. While most teams play 30-32 games overall, there is still tremendous volume with 357 different Division I teams listed on the betting rotation.

The No. 1 edge a sports bettor has is selectivity: sportsbooks must post a betting line on every game, but bettors do not have to play every game. This is why college basketball provides such a great betting opportunity. Smart handicappers isolate certain conferences and specialize in those particular teams which helps them gain an edge over the oddsmakers who must cover and post lines on all 300-plus teams all season.

Early season

College basketball has changed during the past decade. Star players rarely stay for more than one or two years, before leaving for the NBA. This means the most talented teams are usually the youngest and most inexperienced teams in November when the season begins. It often takes 1-2 months for freshman to learn the ropes and start playing up to their potential. There is often value in early non-conference games with veteran mid-major teams, especially when facing a talented, but young Top-25 opponent. Momentum is also an important factor in November and December games. Teams that are coming off a blowout win normally carry that momentum into their next game. However, be careful with teams that are struggling. Make sure they turn things around on the court before backing them at the betting window.

Travel and rest is a factor in early-season games when teams are playing in invitational tournaments. These often take place on neutral courts in exotic locations such as Hawaii or the Virgin Islands. Teams usually play two or three straight days without rest. These games can sometime lead to misleading final scores and abnormal results that do not correlate to future games, so tread lightly with these early season non-conference tournaments.

Conference games

The heart of the college basketball season is during January and February with conference games. It provides solid handicapping opportunities. NCAAB statistics become more valid since the teams have similar common opponents. Pace of play is always important as slow-down, half-court teams are worth a look as a big underdog, especially when playing an opponent that prefers and up-tempo style. Three-point shooting has become the biggest deciding factor in college games. More teams than ever before are taking 40% or more of their total shots from beyond the arc. This often leads to misleading single game results. Be sure to check the box scores as team with extremely good or bad 3-point games tend to return to the norm in future games.

Revenge is a strong handicapping factor in conference games as most teams play head-to-head twice each season. Be sure to analyze the first meeting and look for anomalies such as injuries, foul trouble, or extreme 3-point/free throw percentages that might create line value in the rematch. Last home games are a popular motivation angle for teams at the end of the season, however it works better on strong home courts and with mid-major teams that have several seniors on the squad.

March Madness

March Madness is the second biggest public sports betting event after the Super Bowl. This means taking a contrarian view often works, especially when playing veteran, mid-major underdogs. Matchups, pace of play, and strength of schedule are important handicapping factors to consider. Motivation is also important when handicapping the lesser tournaments such as the NIT, CIT, and CBI. Some teams suffer a hangover after missing the Big Dance, so proceed with caution in their first game.

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