College Basketball Betting Guide 2020-21

March Madness is the apex of the college basketball season every year, but there’s a whole lot more to see when it comes to NCAA basketball betting.

We’ve got you covered, from how the odds work to what to bet on and more. We’ll also have real-time odds on college basketball games from online sportsbooks for game-day line shopping.

Latest NCAAB odds and lines at VA sportsbooks

Can you bet on college basketball in Virginia?

Sports betting law officially passed the VA Legislature in April 2020, but the rollout took a little longer. Iowa sports betting apps finally launched in 2021.

While college sports is available for betting, you won’t be able to bet on any of the local teams such as Virginia or Virginia Tech. There’s a specific restriction in the sports betting law that prohibits betting on in-state college teams. That said, there are no restrictions on betting on any other Division I programs across the nation.

Want to bet on the rest of the ACC? Love the action from the SEC or Big Ten? As long as the game doesn’t involve a team from Virginia, or take place in Virginia, you’re good to go.

How to bet on NCAA basketball

From the opening game of the regular season through to the national title tilt, you can bet on hundreds of college basketball games in several different forms. Sportsbooks release odds for almost all games in virtually every conference, typically the night before or no later than the day of the game.

When you check out college basketball odds, they’ll look similar to this:

 SpreadMoneylineTotals
Kansas+2.5 (-110)+120O 129.5 (-110)
Kentucky-2.5 (-110)-140U 129.5 (-110)

Teams are listed with the home team on the bottom and the visiting side up top, but keep in mind that there are neutral-site games at times. To the right of the teams are three sets of numbers. These are the lines and odds for the three main bet types:

College basketball moneyline betting

The moneyline bet is one of the easiest to understand. All you need to do is pick which side you think will win the game. For the odds, the number is negative on the favorite side and positive for underdogs.

A small range in the two numbers points to a close game while a wide gap indicates an expected mismatch. In this example, Duke is a reasonably strong favorite at -175:

  • Wake Forest   +155
  • Duke                 -175

That would mean you need to bet $175 to earn back $100 in profit on a bet on Duke. A winning bet on Wake Forest, on the other hand, would pay out $155 on a bet of $100.

College basketball point spread betting

The point spread is a designated number set by oddsmakers. It basically represents an estimated margin of victory that you have to account for in your bet. You can take the favorite minus the points, or go with the underdog plus the spread. Whichever side you choose, the spread needs to be covered to have a winning bet:

  • Wisconsin   +1.5 (-110)
  • Michigan      -1.5 (-110)

For a bet on the favorite, Michigan, to win, they would need to win by 2 or more points. A bet on Wisconsin is a winner if they either win outright or lose by less than 1.5 points. Both bets would have a payout of $100 on a bet of $110.

College basketball totals betting

This wager has to do with the total points that the two teams will combine to score in the game. Sportsbooks set a projected total, and bettors then get to decide if they think the combined points will go over or under that amount. This can be a great bet to focus on when you can’t make heads or tails of the outright winner or spread. Eg.:

  • Over 137.5      (-110)
  • Under 137.5      (-110)

For an over bet to be a winner the total combined score would need to be 138 points or higher. An Under bet would pay out if the combined score was 137 or fewer.

Keep in mind that the odds and lines can move after the initial release as betting action comes in. Also, the numbers won’t necessarily be the same at every online sportsbook. You can always shop around to find the latest and best numbers before actually placing your bets. Check our odds feed above (coming soon) for a list of all VA online sportsbooks.

NCAAB futures and prop bets

Beyond betting on individual games, there are several other popular ways to bet on most sports. Two of the top options are:

The former requires a long-term perspective, while the latter offers up additional ways to potentially profit on the games.

A futures bet is a bet on an outcome that won’t be known until down the road. It’s a popular market that stays active all year round. For NCAAB, there are a few options for futures betting. These are the most popular futures bets:

  • National championship winner
  • Team to make Final Four
  • Conference winners
  • Team regular-season win totals
  • Player of the Year

Futures odds are released in the offseason. You can place your bets right then and there or stay engaged all season long to look for intriguing opportunities as the odds change. Either approach is fine, and plenty of bettors employ both.

A prop bet is akin to having a side bet on the game on something that may or may not happen. Props revolve around specific statistical accomplishments of the players, team performance or something to do with the outcome of the game.

In most legal betting states, prop betting on college basketball games is prohibited. Virginia is the same.

College basketball betting trends 2020-21

The 2019-20 NCAA men’s basketball season was winding down in March when COVID-19 altered plans. March Madness was canceled, and the season wrapped up without a true champion being crowned.

The final AP Top 25 poll of the year more or less serves as the final word on the best teams for the season. Here’s how the top five ended up:

  1. Kansas (Big 12), 28-3
  2. Gonzaga (WCC), 31-2
  3. Dayton (A10), 29-2
  4. Florida State (ACC), 26-5
  5. Baylor (Big 12), 26-4

Would one of these squads have cut down the nets? Or would it have been one of dozens of sleeper teams? We’ll never know. Those teams that were in line to make some noise in the 2020 NCAA tournament may have also seen their windows close due to graduations, transfers, or unforeseen circumstances.

Of the five teams listed above, just three are among the current top 10 favorites in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship futures market for 2020-21. Among the local teams, Virginia is a favorite, but you have to scroll down the board for a while before you come across Virginia Tech.

More details on the teams to watch out for in the coming season will filter out as conference schedules are confirmed. For now, a glance back at the 2019-20 campaign reveals that it was a competitive one, and March Madness looked pretty wide open as a result. The same might end up being the case for 2020-21.

Who are the top NCAAB players/teams to watch?

A great place to begin getting a handle on the betting landscape for a college basketball season is by taking a look at the futures odds. The odds for the next national champion will help to put the entire field in perspective.

Additionally, you can drill down into the individual conferences. You can get a quick snapshot of which clubs look poised to be on top, as well as which appear to be in the also-ran category.

If we look at the futures odds to start the season on two of the biggest online sportsbooks, DraftKings and FanDuel, there’s a general consensus on the top five favorites to win it all this time around.

  • Baylor
  • Gonzaga
  • Villanova
  • Virginia
  • Iowa

If we go further down into the top 12, there are some differences in the odds and order of the teams. However, the following seven teams appear on both lists.

  • Duke
  • Kentucky
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Michigan State
  • Wisconsin

According to 247sports.com, these are the five programs that have knocked it out of the park on the recruiting front for the coming year.

  1. Florida State
  2. Villanova
  3. Baylor
  4. Michigan
  5. Michigan State

Over at NCAA.com, here are the top five teams on the initial release of the Power 36 rankings for the coming season.

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Baylor
  3. Villanova
  4. Creighton
  5. Iowa

Last but not least, we can look toward the best returning players for 2020-21. Here are five players to keep your eyes on.

  • Luka Garza, F, Iowa
  • Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois
  • Jared Butler, G, Baylor
  • Remy Martin, G, Arizona State
  • Marcus Garrett, G, Kansas

In short, there are a number of top players and teams to keep on the radar for the coming season. If you take the time to do a little bit of legwork in the offseason, you could put yourself in a good position with NCAAB betting.

Note: Of course as soon as the season begins, odds will shift (and shift dramatically). Always check your preferred sportsbook for current odds.

2020/21 NCAA Basketball preseason AP Top 25 poll

RankSchoolTeamConference
1GonzagaBulldogsWest Coast
2BaylorBearsBig 12
3VillanovaWildcatsBig East
4VirginiaCavaliersAtlantic Coast
5IowaHawkeyesBig Ten
6KansasJayhawksBig 12
7WisconsinBadgersBig Ten
8Illinois Fighting IlliniBig Ten
9DukeBlue DevilsAtlantic Coast
10KentuckyWildcatsSoutheastern
11CreightonBluejaysBig East
12TennesseeVolunteersSoutheastern
13Michigan StateSpartansBig Ten
14Texas TechRed RaidersBig 12
15West VirginiaMountaineersBig 12
16North Carolina
Tar Heels
Atlantic Coast
17HoustonCougarsAmerican Athletic
18Arizona State
Sun Devils
Pacific 12
19TexasLonghorns
Big 12
20OregonDucksPacific 12
21Florida State
SeminolesAtlantic Coast
22UCLABruinsPacific 12
23Ohio State
BuckeyesBig Ten
24RutgersScarlet Knights
Big Ten
25MichiganWolverinesBig Ten

Get current team rankings at AP’s Top 25 Poll

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (March Madness)

The next Final Four is scheduled to take place in Indianapolis. In fact, the NCAA announced that all games for the March Madness will be played in a bubble-like setting in Indianapolis and surrounding areas to mitigate COVID risk.

The 2021 Final Four dates are still:

  • Selection Sunday: March 14
  • First Four: March 16-17
  • First round: March 18-19
  • Second round: March 20-21
  • Sweet 16: March 25-26
  • Elite Eight: March 27-28
  • Final Four: April 3
  • National Championship: April 5

After the regular season and the conference tournaments are in the books, the selection committee unveils the bracket for March Madness. The winners of the conference tourneys get automatic bids, while the committee sorts through the at-large teams and selects the best remaining clubs to fill out the field.

March Madness begins just a couple of days later with the First Four. These are essentially play-in games for eight lower seeds, with the winners moving on to play in the first round.

Afterward, the fun really begins. There are 64 teams left standing at this point, and 63 games to play to crown a champ. The tournament is single-elimination, which means that winners advance and losers go home. Here’s the number of games on a round-by-round basis.

  • First round: 32
  • Second round: 16
  • Sweet 16: 8
  • Elite Eight: 4
  • Final Four: 2
  • National Championship: 1

It’s a wild couple of weeks of full-on March Madness betting. There’s wall-to-wall hoops action on the dial, brackets to fill out and plenty of individual games to bet on.

This is one of the best sporting events of the calendar year, and interest only seems to be growing with each passing year.

What are the biggest rivalries in college basketball?

As noted above, there is an elephant in the room with regard to betting on college basketball in Virginia. You can’t bet on any of the VA-based teams. Betting on local college sports teams is expressly prohibited in the state’s recently passed sports betting legislation.

On the bright side, the rest of the NCAAB landscape is fair game. The two biggest programs in the state, Virginia and Virginia Tech, are members of the ACC.

And if you’re an ACC fan already, you know you’ll find plenty of elite rivalries in one of the nation’s top conferences. Here are just a few of the annual games that draw bigger betting action than most:

  • Duke vs. North Carolina
  • Pitt vs. Syracuse
  • Miami vs. Florida State

For each NCAA Division I conference, there are plenty of intriguing games to explore. The regular season is packed with matchups almost every day, so you’ll always have a number of options to consider.

College basketball betting guide for beginners

For those new to betting on college basketball, there are several parallels that can be drawn from wagering on other team-based sports. The overall handicapping process is similar, as you’ll want to break down the matchup and research the news surrounding the game, for example.

However, there are also some big differences to be aware of. Among the biggest are the sheer number of teams, as well as the disparity in strength between the various programs.

The good news is that the learning curve isn’t particularly steep. A little research and practice will get you ready in no time. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you get started.

1. Shop for NCAAB lines

Lines don’t stay still after the initial release, and there can be differences in pricing by sportsbook operators. These are just two reasons why you want to get in the habit of shopping around for the best NCAAB lines. Oddsmakers may spend lots of time on top matchups, while others fly under the radar, so there are discrepancies out there.

2. Finding an edge in college basketball betting

Research can be your best friend in handicapping, especially when you spend your time wisely. As opposed to researching every stat imaginable, focus on what really moves the needle. In NCAAB, the list includes true shooting percentage, defensive efficiency, depth of rotation, recent performance, and travel or rest concerns.

3. Benefits of betting on college hoops

During the regular season, the college basketball slate is pretty packed every day, but the individual teams only play a few games per week. This is a boon for handicappers. There’s extra time to research, and the various stats and metrics can mean that much more in comparison to sports in which teams play more games.

Once you gain experience at breaking down the games, college basketball betting will be that much more enjoyable, and hopefully profitable.

College Basketball FAQ

Which VA-based team has won the most NCAA championships?

Only one Virginia college program has won it all at March Madness. That came in 2019 when the Virginia Cavaliers took down Texas Tech by a score of 85-77 in overtime to claim the crown. Virginia had previously reached the Final Four in 1981 and 1984.

Which Virginia university has the most Final Four appearances?

Virginia tops the list with three Final Four appearances in 1981, 1984 and 2019. The team won it all in its last appearance. The only other two VA-based teams to reach the Final Four are George Mason and VCU. George Mason made it in 2006 before falling to Florida. VCU’s run came in 2011 and was ended by Butler.

What’s a good starting strategy for betting on NCAAB?

Along with out general basketball betting tips above, here’s a simple five-point plan that makes for a great starting point for NCAAB betting.

  1. Research college basketball odds and lines while shopping for best prices.
  2. Break down strengths and weaknesses on both sides while sticking to key stats.
  3. Consider overall records, but also zero in on recent play and any common opponents faced.
  4. Use power rankings to help handicap spreads, and also research team splits for home/away, spread and totals.
  5. Review news and notes surrounding the game, and research recent historical meetings between the two programs.

Once you have mastered these five steps, you can begin adding and subtracting items with the goal of building out your own handicapping system. In a perfect world, you’ll build out something that you can call your own before too long, and hopefully, it will point you toward more winners than losers over the long run.

Who picks the teams for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament?

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee tackles the herculean task of selecting the teams, as well as seeding and bracketing the tournament. There are 32 automatic qualifiers, the winners of the conference tournaments, while the remaining 36 spots fall on the committee. The 10-member panel goes through various metrics to select the best of the best to fill out the remainder of the field.

When are NCAAB lines released?

In general, odds and lines for NCAAB games will be released the night before a game, and typically no later than the morning of the contest. At times, the numbers for marquee games will be released a few days in advance of the tilt. For March Madness, odds for the opening games will come out days ahead of the tournament start. In between rounds, odds will also be expedited for the next set of matchups.