College basketball is a big deal at legal online sportsbooks across the US. The regular season is filled with options and brings in plenty of handle, but interest increases even more come tournament time. March Madness is one of the signature betting events of the calendar year.
Even casual fans pay attention to the dance, but there’s a lot to be said for getting involved with the rest of the NCAA basketball season. In fact, many experienced handicappers make it a focal point of their overall strategy. So is betting on college basketball fun and worth it? Here’s a look at college basketball betting and how to do so legally in the US.
Legal college basketball odds: moneylines, spreads, and totals
There are 350+ basketball teams playing at the NCAA Division I level. There are days during the regular season that are packed with games. We’ve made staying on top of the odds much easier.
Our customizable feed brings you the latest moneyline, spread, and totals numbers from top books across the industry. From the opening tip of the regular season to the end of March Madness, it’s updated with the latest lines in an easy-to-view format.
Legal NCAA basketball betting apps
Bettors love the flexibility of being able to bet when and where they like. That’s one of the more interesting notes from the growth of legal sports betting. Sports betting apps from top books are bringing in lots of action in approved states. Here’s a look at top options for legally and safely betting on NCAA basketball via your mobile device.
A recognized leader in daily fantasy sports, DraftKings has been working toward the same position in sports betting. The company has been hitting the right notes in a lot of spots and is a preferred destination for many users in available states. NCAAB bettors will find odds and lines that stack up with the competition and special betting pools for March Madness.
The DraftKings Sportsbook app is available in the following states: AZ, CO, CT, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, MA, MD, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV & WY
The busy NCAA basketball season can be tough to stay on top of, but FanDuel makes it a bit easier with a super clean layout. It lists all of the upcoming games in clear-cut fashion, and you can sort through them with ease on the app. FanDuel has also become known as a place to go for its same-game parlay feature for basketball and other sports.
The FanDuel app is available in the following states: AZ, CO, CT, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, MA, MD, MI, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV & WY
BetMGM comes our way from MGM Resorts International and Entain. The company has been expanding its reach and brings a solid mobile offering to the table. Odds and lines stack up well in relation to competitors, and there are plenty of sports and bets available.
The BetMGM Sportsbook app is available in the following states: AZ, CO, DC, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, MA, MD, MI, MS, NJ, OH, NV, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV & WY – Note: Offer not available in DC, MS, NV or NY
This Australia-based company made its US debut in 2019 with a launch in New Jersey. Since then, PointsBet has rapidly gone from an unknown to a company poised to become a player in the legal sports betting scene. PointsBet has a range of innovative features, including PointsBetting and “quick parlay.”
The PointsBet Sportsbook app is available in the following states: CO, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, MD, MI, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VA & WV
A member of the Rush Street Interactive family, BetRivers has also been expanding its reach in a steady fashion. The app has been well-received by bettors. The layout is clean and user-friendly, and there are also plenty of features available. Bettors will find a range of options to explore for each game on the docket.
The BetRivers online sportsbook app is available in the following states: AZ, CO, IL, IN, IA, LA, MD, MI, OH, NJ, NY, PA, VA & WV
Understanding how bonus offers work
The legal sports betting marketplace is competitive, and sportsbooks lean on bonus offers as a means of attracting business. The actual bonus offers and amounts will vary by operator, but here are some of the most common ones you’ll see.
- Deposit bonus: After creating your account, you can have the sportsbook match your first deposit. The match will be for a certain percentage up to a set amount. You’ll have to play through the matched funds at the book.
- Bonus bet: Once you’ve completed the registration process, there are some books that will give you bonus bets in the form of site credits. The funds aren’t withdrawable and might have an expiration date attached or other terms to consider.
After you’ve signed up and created an account with a legal shop, you can expect to see ongoing promotional offers. Examples may include a special odds boost for an NCAA basketball game or parlay insurance for a March Madness wager.
State-by-state NCAAB betting rules
Individual states set their own sports betting rules and regulations. We’ve seen plenty of similarities in legal states, but also a few variances. One particular sticking point has been with wagering on college sports. Here’s a look at the key details for the current legal states and any restrictions attached to NCAAB betting.
|State||Launch Date||Restrictions||Legal Betting Age|
|Arizona||September 2021||No college prop bets.||21|
|Colorado||May 2020||No college prop bets.||21|
|Connecticut||October 2021||No betting on in-state teams (unless they are playing in a tournament).||21|
|Illinois||June 2020||Can wager on in-state college teams only with pregame, in-person bets.||21|
|Indiana||October 2019||Prop betting allowed for pregame only.||21|
|Iowa||August 2019||No prop bets on individual college athletes.||21|
|Massachusetts||March 2023||No betting on in-state college teams (unless they are playing in a tournament).||21|
|New Hampshire||December 2019||No betting on in-state college teams or events.||18|
|New Jersey||August 2018||No betting on in-state college teams or events.||21|
|New York||January 2022||No betting on in-state college teams.||21|
|Oregon||October 2019||Must place college bets in person at a retail sportsbook.||21|
|Pennsylvania||May 2019||No prop bets on college athletes.||21|
|Rhode Island||September 2019||No betting on in-state college teams or events.||18|
|Tennessee||November 2020||No prop bets on college athletes or in-game college props of any sort.||21|
|Virginia||January 2021||No college prop bets or betting on in-state college teams.||21|
|Washington, DC||June 2020||No betting on college games taking place in the district or colleges that call the district home.||18|
|West Virginia||August 2019||None.||21|
NCAAB game lines explained
There are more than 350 teams playing at the Division I level of NCAA basketball. That translates into tons of games to consider throughout the season.
You’ll find odds for all games available for wagering at legal sportsbooks. Some books have a dedicated tab for college basketball, while others have an expandable basketball section. Each game’s main listing will have odds for three types of bets.
NCAAB moneyline betting
For a moneyline wager, the sole question is which team will win the game. The favorite in the matchup will have negative odds, while the numbers are positive for underdogs.
NCAAB spread betting
Oddsmakers set the point spread, which represents an estimated margin of victory. You can pick the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the number. The side you pick has to cover the spread.
NCAAB totals betting
This bet is based on the total combined points that both teams will score in the game. Sportsbooks set a benchmark number, and you can wager whether the actual total will be over or under that number.
Odds for college basketball games will generally be out no later than the day of the contest, but you might get a look ahead in some spots the day before. For the opening round of March Madness, you’ll see odds for those games several days in advance.
After the initial release, it’s common to see movement in the odds and lines in response to betting action and new information such as injuries or suspensions. For example, a spread could shift from 3.5 to 4.5 points, while odds might adjust from -110 to -115. Some bettors like to get wagers in early, while others prefer to wait and see what develops.
|When you Bet||Benefit||Downside|
|Initial Release||You get to place your bets based on the numbers that oddsmakers have set.||The lines can move as new information develops in advance of game time.|
|Before Tipoff||Market reaction has been factored in, so you’re wagering on the overall perception of the game.||The numbers can move to a level you are uncomfortable with in response to action.|
|During Game||Live betting lets you react in real time to what’s happening on the court.||You’ll have to stay engaged as the game plays out to find opportunities.|
Sportsbooks have house rules in place for college basketball and other sports. These rules explain what goes into the placement and settlement of bets, as well as specific circumstances that could impact either. Here are some of the key points.
- All placed bets are live once the game tips off and settled at its conclusion, which includes any necessary overtime periods.
- A bet on a spread or total that lands exactly on the listed number will be a push, and sportsbooks will refund wagers.
- Bets will remain live in the event of slight delays, but cancellations and postponements will lead to voided wagers.
Futures, props and live betting odds
Beyond the above bets, there are several other popular ways to bet on college basketball. You can place futures bets on things like a team to make the Final Four. You also can wager on team and player props, and even bet in real time. Here’s a closer look at how these wagers work.
NCAAB futures betting
Futures are wagers on season-long outcomes in college basketball, such as the winner of the national title. Odds for the top options will come out in the offseason and adjust from there in response to betting action.
- National champion
- Team to make the Final Four
- Conference winners
- Over/under on team win totals
- Naismith college player of the year
The futures market can be a great tool to lean on as you prepare for an upcoming season. It gives you a glimpse at the overall market perception of how things might shake out and can help you get a read on teams to watch or shy away from.
NCAAB prop betting
A prop is a side wager that can depend on a player, team, or the game as a whole. Rules can vary by state on props for college players, so be sure to review what is legal in your area.
- How many total points will Kansas score — over/under 69.5?
- Will there be overtime — yes/no?
- Which side will hold the halftime lead — Georgetown or Creighton?
Props for college sports aren’t as plentiful as they are on the pro side, but you’ll see options to consider as long as they’re permitted in your state. Also, keep in mind that you can check other legal books to compare bets.
NCAAB live betting
Real-time betting is based on what’s happening on the court. The odds and lines move really fast here, but this has become one of the top growth areas for legal sports betting.
- How many total points in the first half — over/under 64.5?
- What will be the margin at the half-tie game/less than three points/over three points?
- Will either side hold a double-digit lead in the first half — yes/no?
Since live betting moves so quickly, it’s always a good idea to have a clear budget in place before beginning. The action on the floor can be engaging, but do not wager over your head and means.
Understanding the juice/vig
If you place a bet at a legal sportsbook and go on to win, you won’t necessarily double your money. Why is that? It’s because of the vig, which is essentially a fee the sportsbook charges for facilitating the wager.
Often called vigorish or juice, the amount you are being charged will vary with the odds. Spread and total bets start with a baseline of -110 at most shops and then fluctuate from there in response to betting action.
If we assume the odds standstill at -110, a winning $100 bet at those odds returns a profit of $90.90. The difference between that and a full 100% percent profit is $9.10, or 9.1%, which is the amount being charged as vig.
There are plenty of online handicapping calculators that can help you figure the vig on your wagers. This is an area that newer sports bettors often overlook, but it’s one that you need to understand as it has a direct impact on your potential winnings.
Offshore sites and illegal betting
Offshore sites are still alive in spite of the incredible growth of legal US sports betting. That doesn’t mean that they’re an option worth pursuing.
If you play at offshore sites, you’re taking unnecessary risks with your funds that you don’t have to deal with at legal sportsbooks, all of which have strict protections in place for consumers.
State gambling authorities oversee the legal books, while there is no such eye in the sky for offshore sites. If a problem arises at a legal shop, you have a clear path toward resolution and customer service from the sportsbook to lean on. That’s not the case when playing at offshore sites.
You might find bets that aren’t available in the US at offshore sites, such as additional college basketball props or wagers on amateur players that are prohibited at legal sites due to state law. Take your business to legal operators and benefit from the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your funds will be safe.
How the college basketball season works
The regular season for college basketball typically gets underway in November. The early part of the schedule is reserved for various tournaments and non-conference affairs. When the calendar flips to January, conference play gets into full swing.
There are 32 conferences across the Division I landscape with 350+ schools competing. At the conclusion of the regular season, conferences hold tournaments to crown a champion. Beyond bragging rights, the winners of the tourneys also receive an automatic bid to March Madness.
Similar to college football, there’s a clear hierarchy to NCAA basketball. There are the top conferences that are filled with large schools, followed by those at the mid-major level, and also a large group of smaller programs.
As for the games, teams can play in the range of 25 to 35 games during the regular season. While there are games every day during the season, individual teams will play an average of two times per week.
Betting on March Madness
Once the conference tournaments are in the books, it’s time for one of the biggest betting events of the year. The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, commonly referred to as March Madness, brings in tons of volume for sportsbooks.
The 32 winners of the conference tournaments qualify, while a selection committee picks 36 at-large teams. The tournament begins with a play-in round that has come to be known as the First Four. Afterward, it’s 64 teams in a single-elimination tourney to crown a champ. You can bet on March Madness in a number of ways:
- National championship winner
- Teams to make the Final Four
- Bracket winners
- Most Outstanding Player of the tournament
- Wager on each individual game
The first round of the tournament is pretty hectic, with 32 games spread across two days. The second round remains busy with 16 games over two days, but things slow down a little afterward. By this point, it’s the Sweet Sixteen — eight games — followed by the Elite Eight — four games.
The winners from that round advance to the Final Four. The two winners go on to battle for the national championship.
College basketball’s shift to legal sports betting
The NCAA has long opposed sports betting legalization, but the situation has changed dramatically in recent years. The US Supreme Court cleared the way for individual states to legalize sports betting in May 2018, and many have done just that. Legal sports betting is available in a number of states, with more to follow.
College basketball has suffered betting scandals through the years. The association is still holding out hope that federal standards will emerge. At the school level, however, stances on gambling have begun to shift to further point out that this is a case that’s far from closed.
Just a few years ago, it would’ve been unheard of for a sports league or team to have a marketing arrangement with a gambling company. In recent times, it has actually become common, as the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB all have deals in place with sports betting companies, and teams have been permitted to do so as well. The trend has also carried over to college basketball.
For example, Caesars Sportsbook has deals in place with LSU and Michigan State, while PointsBet is partnered with the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland. Just recently, Tipico was announced as the official sports betting partner for the 2023 MAAC Basketball Championships. The legal sports betting industry is continually evolving, so it will be interesting to see what develops on this front in the future.