NCAA College Basketball Odds

Futures, Strategy, And How To Bet

The 2019-20 NCAA basketball season is underway with 351 Division 1 teams vying to land one of the coveted 68 spots in the annual tournament.

College basketball’s regular season wraps up on March 8, with each of the 32 conferences holding postseason tournaments. Once the conference champions are decided, the NCAA selection committee takes over and names the field of 68 for March Madness.

The First Four play-in games begin on Sunday, March 15. The “madness” then starts on Tuesday, March 17, with 66 action-packed, single-elimination games before the national champions is decided on April 6 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

While March is still months away, NCAA college basketball games are available every day for betting, as are a selection of NCAA basketball futures bets that could pay off along the way. Here’s how to identify and take advantage of NCAA basketball lines for the 2019-20 season.

NCAA basketball futures 2019-20

With the college basketball betting season underway, it’s a great time to be speculative and look for a price in the futures betting market.

The prices on the top teams will become “shorter” as the core of the conference schedule gets underway, and teams establish their performance and form.

So, if you really like one of the traditional public favorites, such as Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina or Kansas, their current national title odds in the 8-1 to 14-1 range may not be around for that long.

It’s also a great time to shop around for a school that you feel is being overlooked or underpriced in the market.

Last year, a bettor had a belief in Texas Tech with futures bets placed in November 2018 at 200-1 and 125-1 and watched the Red Raiders make a great postseason run, only to lose in the national championship in overtime to Virginia.

Looking at where there may be some value, here’s how online sportsbooks have priced their national title contenders currently:

Why bet NCAA basketball online

The experience of betting college basketball online via a top US sports betting site or sportsbook is much more convenient than a retail sportsbook. From a betting perspective, there are three advantages of betting online versus waiting in the teller line at a retail sportsbook:

  1. Open 24/7: Once the game’s odds have been posted, you can decide which bets or parlays to make for the evening’s game while sipping your coffee in the morning. There isn’t a need to make a trip to a retail book.
  2. Freedom of Choice: While you may have to drive a length of time to get to a retail book, you can shop around for your best odds across all of the multiple sportsbooks. Provided you registered and verified in your state via geolocation, you can go ahead and place your bets.
  3. In-Game Bets: Online betting offers you the ability to make live, in-play wagers once the game is underway. Most online sportsbooks, including DraftKings and FanDuel, offer in game bets on select college basketball games.

Watching the action live on TV with the ability to assess a wager for the second-half or final-game result is a great advantage, especially as the point spreads and totals change in real-time with the game action.

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NCAA live betting

While college basketball’s in-game betting options are less extensive compared to, say, the NBA, there are still opportunities to make in-game bets in college hoops.

In this example from DraftKings, California is at home versus Prairie View. The pregame line was California -15.

Early in the first half, the live, in-game line has moved slightly to California -14.5:

college basketball betting app

In the Cal-Prairie View matchup, DraftKings posts full-game total points over/under totals for each team:

cbb basketball betting

DraftKings also offers live point spreads for the first half:

ncaa betting lines draftkings

For a live bettor, it’s important to place your live bets as quickly as you can. The odds will fluctuate in real-time as illustrated by increase/decrease in the Cal-Prairie View totals below from FOX Bet Sportsbook:

ncaa live betting

In addition to the futures betting referenced earlier, here are the additional types of bets you can expect to see on individual NCAA basketball games:

Moneyline, point spreads and over/under wagers can also typically be built into:

NCAA basketball betting tips 2019-20

There is a lot to consider when placing a futures bet, especially in the early months of the season.

Determinants include the team’s previous year’s record, returning starters, key adds/losses/transfers and the impact of any coaching changes.

You can identify some value in teams’ future pricing by overlaying the current top 25 schools with current future book odds for the national title and, where available, conference titles.

How are NCAA basketball lines set?

The process for setting NCAA basketball lines is consistent with other sports including the NFL and college football.

Essentially, casinos and bookmakers try to set a line that balances the dollars being wagered on each side of the proposition so that they are somewhat equal, and the casino has no (or minimal) principal risk.

After an opening point spread is set, the line will fluctuate as money comes in on either side of the bet.

A line may open as Syracuse is a -5 favorite versus Duke.

If the public feels that Duke has a great chance to cover the spread (or even win the game outright) a majority of the money might come in at Duke +5 and, to balance out the line, the book would likely adjust the line down (e.g., Syracuse -4.5 or -4) to even out the money totals.

What’s the difference between Vegas NCAA lines and other lines?

For the reasons noted above, each bookmaker must manage their specific market and liability circumstances.

So, DraftKings Sportsbook could potentially have a different balance of the money for a West Virginia-Indiana matchup versus what William Hill Sportsbook is handling, resulting in different betting lines at each sportsbook.

NCAA basketball players/teams to watch for 2019-20

Here area few key players and teams to watch for the 2019-20 NCAA basketball season:

Michigan State

Head Coach: Tom Izzo
2018-19 Record: 32-7 (16-4, first in the Big Ten)
2018-19 Postseason Finish: Lost to Texas Tech in the national semifinals
Key Returners: Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford, Xavier Tillman, Aaron Henry, Kyle Ahrens
Key Losses: Nick Ward, Kenny Goins, Matt McQuaid
Key Newcomers: Rocket Watts, Malik Hall, Julius Marble


Head Coach: Chris Mack
2018-19 Record: 22–14, (9-9, eighth in the ACC)
2018-19 Postseason Finish: Lost in NIT quarterfinals to Mississippi State
Key Returners: Jordan Nwora, Steven Enoch, Malik Williams, Dwayne Sutton, Ryan McMahon, Darius Perry
Key Losses: Christen Cunningham, VJ King, Khwan Fore
Key Newcomers: LaMarr Kimble (transfer from Saint Joseph’s), Samuell Williamson, Aidan Igiehon, David Johnson, Jaelyn Withers, Josh Nickelberry


Head Coach: Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway
2018-19 Record: 22-14 (11-7, fifth in AAC)
2018-19 Postseason Finish: Lost in NIT second round to Creighton
Key Returners: Tyler Harris, Alex Lomax, Isaiah Maurice
Key Losses: Jeremiah Martin, Kyvon Davenport, Kareem Brewton, Raynere Thornton, Antwann Jones (transfer)
Key Newcomers: James Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa, D.J. Jeffries, Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones, Lance Thomas (Louisville), Malcolm Dandridge, Damion Baugh

North Carolina

Head Coach: Roy Williams
2018-19 Record: 29-7 (16-2, first in ACC)
2018-19 Postseason Finish: Lost in NCAA third round to Auburn
Key Returners: Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley, Brandon Robinson, Rechon “Leaky” Black
Key Losses: Coby White, Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson, Nassir Little, Seventh Woods, Kenny Williams
Key Newcomers: Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot, Christian Keeling (Charleston Southern), Justin Pierce (William & Mary), Anthony Harris

NCAA coaching changes for 2019-20

There were some significant coaching moves in the off-season. Most notably, it will be interesting to see how Mick Cronin’s ball control “down-tempo” style of play will impact the UCLA offense (and their overall game scoring).

John Beilein left Michigan to coach the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, while Fred Hoiberg moves from the NBA Chicago Bulls to coach Nebraska.

Speaking of Ann Arbor, Beilein’s head coaching replacement at Ann Arbor is former NBA star and Wolverine “Fab Five” alum Juwan Howard. Howard bolstered his support in his rookie head coaching season by adding Phil Martelli as an assistant coach, who had been fired by St. Joseph’s after 24 years.

In Philadelphia, Temple Owls’ alum and former Sixers star Aaron McKie jumps into a similar coaching situation as he takes on his first year at the helm of a college program.

2019-20 NCAA March Madness

March Madness generates phenomenal betting interest across the United States every year

According to Forbes, about 47 million people — one in five American adults — are expected to bet an estimated $8.5 billion during the tournament this year. Of that, $4.6 billion will be bet in bracket/tourney pools and $3.9 billion bet on individual games.

As a frame of reference, there is an estimated $6 billion in wagers on the Super Bowl.

An NCAA selection committee of 10 decides which 68 schools will be in March Madness. Of the 68 schools, 32 qualify automatically by winning their conference tournament, with the other 36 at-large schools selected by the committee.

  • Sunday, March 15: Field of 68 announced
  • Tuesday, March 17: Tournament begins
  • Saturday, April 4: National semifinals
  • Monday, April 6: National championship

Here are the key dates and venues for the tournament:

  • March 15: Selection Sunday; Field of 68 teams announced
  • March 17-18 First Four Dayton, OH
  • March 19-21 First and second rounds Albany, NY Spokane,
  • WA St. Louis, MO Tampa, FL
  • March 20-22 First and second rounds Greensboro, NC
  • Omaha, NE Sacramento, CA Cleveland, OH
  • March 26-28 Midwest Regional Indianapolis
  • March 26-28 West Regional Los Angeles
  • March 27-29 South Regional Houston
  • March 27-29 East Regional New York
  • April 4-6 Final Four Atlanta

Check our free NCAA tournament bracket contests page for the latest contests when March Madness rolls around again.


Where is NCAA basketball betting legal in the US?

Futures betting on college basketball will be available in every legal sports betting state:

Retail and online sportsbooks also post daily game lines, NCAA futures and live in play betting. The exact types will vary from state to state.

As the market pricing can fluctuate daily due to a school’s improved performance, an injury to a key player or a player being ruled academically ineligible, it makes sense to watch the sports betting apps and online sportsbooks for up-to-date pricing. The online approach is more convenient, flexible and timely.

One legal exception to note in college basketball futures betting (as well as game-by-game betting) is in relation to New Jersey.

While you can freely bet on NCAA basketball while in the Garden State, state rules do not allow betting on any NJ-based schools. These include and extend to all games that are part of any regular-season or postseason tournaments.

How many times has the preseason No. 1 team won the national championship?

Six, since the field expanded to 64 in 1984-85. North Carolina was the last school to do this in 2008-09. This year’s preseason consensus No. 1, Michigan State, is worth considering as part of a futures bet “to Make the Final Four.”

Just under 50% of the 35 preseason No. 1 teams since 1984-85 have advanced to the Final Four. Here’s the full breakdown of how the preseason No. 1 teams have performed in the NCAA tournament:

  • Six won the national championship (17.1%).
  • Seven lost in the national championship (20%).
  • Seventeen reached the Final Four (just under 50%).
  • Twenty-two achieved at least the Elite Eight (62.9%).
  • Twenty-seven made it to the Sweet 16 (77.1%).
  • One lost in the first round.


How many regular-season games are there in the NCAA season?

Teams can play 29 regular-season games, or they can play 27 regular-season games plus no more than four games in one multi-team tournament for a maximum of 31 games.

Conference and other postseason tournaments do not count against the limit. Last season, Virginia’s national championship team had a final record of 35-3 (38 games).

What is the NET rating in NCAA?

The NCAA evaluation tool, aka the NET, relies on game results, the strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses.

The NET tool is now the primary tool used by the NCAA tournament committee to evaluate and seed the 36 at-large schools in the tournament. A deeper dive into NET ratings can be found on the NCAA website.

What are the best upset picks in NCAA tourney?

In terms of historical performance, here’s a summary of lower-seeds performance in the opening round of the tournament:

  • No.16 defeated No. 1: 1
  • No. 15 defeated No. 2: 8
  • No. 14 defeated No. 3: 21
  • No. 13 defeated No. 4: 27
  • No. 12 defeated No. 5: 50

What are the other postseason tournaments besides March Madness?

Two other postseason tournaments invite schools that do not make the March Madness field of 68:

  • National Invitation Tournament (NIT): 32 schools. Played at on-campus sites with semifinals/finals at Madison Square Garden, New York
  • Postseason Tournament (CIT): 20 to 26 schools. All games are played at on-campus sites.

What is RPI in NCAA Basketball?

Note: RPI was replaced prior to the 2018-19 season by NET ratings as the primary sorting tool for evaluating teams during the Division I men’s basketball season.

The rating percentage index (RPI) was used by the NCAA men’s basketball committee as supplemental data to help select at-large teams and seed all teams for the NCAA tourney.

Three components comprise a school’s RPI:

  • The Team’s Division 1 winning percentage is 25% of the RPI. Home wins are weighted 0.6, neutral wins 1.0, and road wins count 1.4; road losses are 0.6, neutral losses 1.0 and home losses 1.4.
  • Team’s division opponents’ winning percentage, or the team’s schedule strength, excluding results against the team in question. It is 50% of the RPI.
  • The team’s opponents’ Division I winning percentage, or the team’s opponents’ strength of schedule, excluding results against the team in question. This is 25% of the RPI.