How to Read NCAA Basketball Odds & Bet CBB with Confidence

If you are looking to turn your love of college basketball into a money-making venture this comprehensive guide will show you how to bet NCAA hoops with confidence.  If you are just starting out wagering on the games, understanding the details and strategies can help you make bets successfully.

Even if you are experienced with CBB betting we will teach you more than just how to read the odds, but also give tips and strategies that will increase your chance of winning.

Understanding How to Bet on NCAA Basketball

college basketball game to bet on

College basketball betting presents a wide range of bet types and markets to choose from.  There isn’t as much parity as there is in the NBA and there are a whole lot more teams for the books to try and cover.

The most popular bets are on the money line, point spread, and totals.  You can then parlay those bets into a combination or adjust the lines with a teaser.

There are also specialty wagers that you can make like props as well as futures.

Let’s take a deeper look into each of these types of wagers so you know how to read the odds when you take a look at your sportsbook app.

What Does -110 Mean When Betting NCAA Basketball

The first thing you have to know is how to read the juice on your bets.  Most sides and totals will have a price of -110, which means you have to bet $1.10 for every $1 you hope to profit.

Favorites are listed with a negative (-) number and underdogs are listed with a positive (+) sign.  For the favorites, you are going to have to risk the amount in order to win $100.  For underdogs, you risk $100 to win the number displayed.

I’ll go into more detail with the specific bet types below.


When betting on CBB moneylines you are just taking the team that you think is going to win the game outright.  Since most games will be between two unevenly matched teams that means the books have to find a way to balance the action.

The way this is done is by having bettors risk more money on the favorites, and reward the people who take the underdog with a high payout for a victory.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

college basketball money lines

In the picture above the favorites are marked by the negative numbers.  Tennessee is the biggest favorite and gamblers will have to lay $1,000 down in order to win a profit of $100 on a Volunteers victory.  If you are brave enough to take Syracuse, you would get paid $664 for every $100 you risked.

The other two games are viewed as closer contests since the favorites are closer to -100.  You would have to wager $215 on Purdue and $300 on Marquette if you think those two teams will win.  If instead, you are handicapping upsets then Gonzaga would pay backers $180 for every $100 risked and UCLA $245 for every $100.

Hopefully, you now feel comfortable with money lines.  The good thing about this bet type is it’s easy.  If your team wins then you do too.  However, the downside is that you have to risk large amounts on favorites, and with underdogs, you might be taking teams that don’t have a high percentage chance of actually winning the game.

Fortunately, that’s why books invented point spreads.

Point Spreads

A more popular wager on the side of the game is with the point spread.  When doing your college basketball betting with point spreads you are still taking one team over another, but there is a spread handicap in there to even out the odds.  Let’s take a look at a few examples from the same games we looked at for moneylines.

Now if you like Tennessee instead of laying a lot of cash down to win a little, you can instead lay $1.10 for every $1 you want to win.  The catch of course is that the Vols have to win by 13 or more points for you to cash.

If you take Syracuse you can win your bet if they win outright, or…if they lose but by 12 points or less.

This is easier for most people to understand since the price is typically bet 11 to win 10 and the point spread is very easy to understand.  The books will want to balance the action out the best they can, so they are trying to set an accurate line that will get an even amount of action on both sides of the game.

Over/Unders (Totals)

The above two options are how you bet sides in NCAA basketball, but you can also wager on if a game is going to be high or low-scoring.  These types of wagers are called “over/unders” or totals and are pretty simple.  Let’s take a look at examples from the same set of games.

So for the Tennessee/Syracuse game, the total is set at 147.  The price on the over is a little higher at -115, which means you’ll have to lay $1.15 to win $1.  In order to win a bet on the over both teams have to combine to score 148 or more points.

If instead, you think defense is going to reign supreme you can take the under.  Your under bet will cash as long as both teams score 146 or fewer points.  The good news is that you only have to lay $1.05 to win $1 on the under.

If both teams combine for 147 points, the bet is considered a push and you get your risk amount back.

One thing to always remember when handicapping totals is that overtime is included. Many bettors have had their dreams of an under dashed by the teams being tied at the end of regulation, and maybe gamblers have had their day saved by having the over on the same event.


If you are looking for a way to increase your payouts or are just confident in more than one game then parlays are a great option.  The easy way to explain a parlay is it’s a combination of bets (moneylines, spreads, and totals) that are bet as a group in an all-or-nothing proposition.  Below is an example of what a three-team payout would pay for a $5,000 wager.

CBB Parlays






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