How to Read College Basketball Lines
By Loot, NCAA Basketball Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
College basketball odds are easy to understand. Becoming good at betting on college basketball is extremely difficult, but understanding how college hoops wagering operates is actually pretty basic. You don’t have to know much about math, sports betting, or even college basketball to have a solid handle on how to read the odds.
One of the main tenets of college hoops betting revolves around the point-spread. You’ll look at a game that is available for betting and notice both teams have the same number listed next to them. One team is minus that number and one team is plus that number. It will look like this:
Washington Huskies +6.5 vs. Oregon Ducks -6.5
Above is a game with a point-spread of 6.5. Washington is +6.5 and Oregon is -6.5. A plus-sign indicates an underdog. Washington at +6.5 is getting that amount of points. Oregon at -6.5 is giving 6.5 points. For a winning bet to result on Oregon, they must win by at least 7 points. Washington at +6.5 will win the bet if they either win the game outright or don’t lose by 7 or more points. In this bet, a 80-74 Oregon win would mean Washington covered the spread since they lost by only 6 while being +6.5. If Oregon wins the game 81-74, they cover the spread because they won by 7 and were only -6.5.
When you bet on a college basketball game using a point-spread, both sides of the bet pay the same. In almost every single college hoops game, one team is either better by a little bit or by a gigantic margin. The point-spread enters the picture to even-out the game and give both sides of the bet equal betting appeal. In standard college basketball betting, it’s not so much about which team wins the game, it’s about who covers the spread.
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Remembering the following will help you understand a lot about odds in all forms of betting in sports. Minus means underdog and plus means favorite. Any team that is listed as being minus a certain number of points is always a favorite. A team with a plus-sign is always an underdog. Let’s do a little quiz to make sure you understand the point. You have picked the following teams: Oklahoma -9, UCLA -5.5, Arkansas +11, and Iowa State +4.5. Here are the scores of the four games those teams played:
Oklahoma 74, Texas A&M 69
UCLA 87, USC 82
Alabama 91, Arkansas 83
Oklahoma State 91, Iowa State 82
How did your bets do? Oklahoma was -9, a 9-point favorite, and won by only 5 points--a loss. UCLA at -4.5 was favored by 4.5 and won by 5 points--a win. Arkansas was an 11-point underdog at -11 and lost by only 8 points--a win. And lastly, Iowa State at +4.5 was a 4.5-point underdog, but lost by 9--a loss. All together, the 4 bets were 2-2.
The Money Line: Another form of odds prevalent in college basketball is the money line, which is simply a way to express odds. Look at it like this, we all know what a 2-to-1 favorite means. On a money line, that would be expressed as -200. It’s just another way to express the same concept. Not all odds land on a whole number, which the money line accounts for. They’re used a few different ways in college basketball betting. One of the main ways is when you bet a team on the money line. That means you are simply betting on a team to win the game without a point-spread. To win a money line bet, the team you bet must simply win the game. Since the point-spread is obsolete in money line betting, something else needs to accommodate for the difference in quality of the two teams that are playing. Let’s look at an example:
North Carolina -200 vs. North Carolina State +180
Above, you see a money line bet. Remember in point-spreads how a plus-sign is always an underdog, while a minus-sign is always an underdog? So, North Carolina (-200) is a favorite, with North Carolina State an underdog at +180. When it comes to money lines, lock down the following thought and you will always understand how they work: A plus-sign is how much you win if you bet $100 and a minus-sign is how much you must bet in order to win $100.
North Carolina at +200 means you must bet $200 for every $100 you want to win. North Carolina State at +180 means you win $180 for every $100 you bet. Keep in mind that $100 is just used as a reference point in money lines to make it easier to understand. You can naturally bet any amount you wish.
Money line bets are a part of almost every form of college basketball betting, even standard point-spread bets. When we pick a team against-the-spread, we are usually doing so on a -110 betting line, meaning we bet $110 for every $100 we hope to win. It’s an inescapable part of college basketball and it’s something any prospective bettor should have down-pat before making wagers.
Totals: When you see a college hoops game that is available for betting, you will usually see a number listed, which is called a “total.” It’s a projected final combined score of both teams posted by the bookie. You then can pick if the combined score of the game will go “over” or “under” that number. Here is an example:
San Diego State Aztecs vs. Kansas Jayhawks, Total: 153
The above is a total you may see in a college basketball bet. An “over” bet means you think the combined total score of both teams will surpass 153. A bet on the “under” means you suspect the total combined score of both teams will be below 153. And just like when betting on a team to beat the point-spread, we have to bet a little more than we stand to win, with totals-betting usually taking place on a -110 line, meaning we bet $110 for every $100 we hope to win.
Again, getting good at betting college basketball is a the hard part. The numbers and concepts of the betting may seem foreign at first, but even the slowest learners are never that far from having the nuts and bolts of college hoops betting down-pat.