College Basketball Betting Guide 2020-21

The 2020/21 NCAA college basketball season start date was pushed to Nov. 25, but there will be a season of some sort for sure.

Regardless of it being in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s a long haul from the season-opening tourneys to the grind of the conference schedule to the regular-season wrap-up in March. After playing up to 31 regular-season games, the 32 conferences play for automatic tournament bids while 36 teams hope they’ve done enough to earn an at-large NCAA Tournament invite.

When the field for the tourney is finally announced on Selection Sunday, March Madness betting takes off in earnest when the play-in games hit on Tuesday and doesn’t stop until the Final Four is in the books.

How can you bet on college basketball games in the US along the way? Here’s your complete guide to legal online college basketball betting in the US including live NCAAB odds from legal online sportsbooks in multiple states.

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NCAA basketball odds 2020-21

As soon as the season begins you’ll find real-time NCAA basketball odds at legal US online sportsbooks below. Use the drop-down menus to change between states and see point spread, moneyline or totals boards.

Click directly on any set of odds to claim your bonus and register a new sports betting account. If you don’t see the team you want to bet on, check our full NCAAB odds board here.

The odds to win the national title will fluctuate over the course of the season. Check the second tab for the current National Championship odds (and Final Four odds) at US online sportsbooks:

What other college basketball bets can I make?

Compared to the full range of NBA betting options, college hoops offers fewer betting options for game props. For example, there aren’t any line and total parlays or a race to 20 points.

Player props (e.g., player to score the first basket, player total points/rebounds/assists over/unders and player performance doubles) are also minimal.

However, there are the core bet types, including spreads, moneylines and totals, and some simple game props like odd/even for total score. You can also bet on the prospective winner of the Wooden Award for Best Player.

Moneyline bets, point spreads and over/under totals can also typically be built into multi-leg parlays and/or round robins.

Best betting apps for college basketball lines

With online sportsbooks now operating in several states (and the list of legalized sports betting states growing), you can access a full slate of NCAA basketball games every day in those states. The list of sportsbooks currently open is always expanding.  Most of the apps are compatible with iOS and Android.

1. DraftKings Sportsbook App – $50 Free Bet

Originally (and still) a major player in daily fantasy sports, DraftKings has transitioned rather seamlessly into real money sports betting in legalized states with its online sportsbook and betting app. The DraftKings sportsbook has a huge lineup of pro leagues, international sports and, specifically, college basketball to bet on. Under the College Basketball tab you’ll find:

  • Game Lines
  • Halves
  • Team Futures
  • Player Futures
  • Game Props
  • Team Props

Outside of any legal restrictions on betting on college basketball in particular states (for example New Jersey), you’ll find a full slate of daily lines on all Division 1 CBB teams. Check the current lines at DraftKings Sportsbook and claim your welcome bonus via the link below:

2. FanDuel Sportsbook App – $1,000 risk-free bet

Similarly, FanDuel also got its start as a Daily Fantasy Sports powerhouse and transitioned into real money sports betting in the US as individual states legislated.

The list of sports betting markets (sports offered) is comparable to DraftKings and you’ll find dozens of options for betting on pro sports, international leagues, player futures and props and, of course, college basketball.

You’ll find FanDuel’s college basketball betting menu under the heading “CBB” on both the online sportsbook and the betting app.

Check the full slate of college basketball lines & futures at FanDuel via the link below:

NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball tournament (March Madness)

Here are the key dates and venues for March Madness 2021:

  • March 14: Selection Sunday
  • March 16-17 First Four: Indianapolis
  • March 18-20 First and second rounds: Indianapolis
  • March 19-21 First and second rounds: Indianapolis
  • March 25-27 Midwest Regional: Indianapolis
  • March 25-27 West Regional: Indianapolis
  • March 26-28 South Regional: Indianapolis
  • March 26-28 East Regional: Indianapolis
  • April 3-5 Final Four Indianapolis

Check our full guide to March Madness 2021 including live odds, free bracket contests, betting systems and more on the pages below:

5 essential college basketball betting tips

  1. Narrow your focus and do your research: Since there are 351 Division 1 college basketball teams, you need to select a conference or region and then build out your focus. There are games on the schedule seven days a week, so don’t overload yourself and try to play every game every day.
  2. Become a local newshound: Once you have identified your area of focus, build your base with local news outlets. For example, create a Twitter list to include the area school’s account, local news beat writers, student newspapers and local TV and radio stations. You will learn a variety of tips and news throughout the season from these sources.
  3. Research and take advantage of free info: The flip side of having 351 teams also means many excellent research and data resources are available, including ESPN, CBS Sports and Fox Sports. Also, there are summary, stat and trend sheets widely available online and useful stats from the NCAA website and Sports Reference.
  4. Watch the games and read the box scores: This tip is blatantly obvious, yet vital. Watch the games (live, or on replay or detailed summary highlights) and then form your visual opinion. Understand the box scores to identify first-half and second-half trends, player minutes, 3-point shooting and rebounding advantages. Additionally, forming an opinion on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the teams and conferences as the season builds. That way, if seven teams go to the Big Ten, you can offer your opinion as to whether the conference is relatively “strong” or “weak” as the season progresses and into the NCAA Tournament.
  5. Identify ‘trap’ and ‘revenge’ games: “Trap games” involve a situation where a team is looking toward a future opponent and looking past their opponent on a given night. If Michigan State is locked in on a big conference matchup on Saturday at Michigan, they may not put in the optimal effort against Northwestern on Wednesday. “Revenge games” can also offer an excellent betting angle. They could be in the form of a conference matchup where a team loses on the road but then has the chance to avenge that defeat later in the season on their home court. It could also involve a holdover from a tough loss the previous season, where bad blood is still boiling. A hard foul or the perception that the other team “ran up the score” in the second half can all carryover as motivation into the game. So, this is another reason to keep apprised of your local news sources for these types of storylines.

What else to keep in mind when betting NCAA championship

When looking at a futures bet for the 2020-21 national champion, keep in mind:

  • It’s been 23 years since any school west of Lawrence, Kansas, has won the title.
  • The eastern time zone has produced 21 of the past 22 national titles.
  • The West has had only three champions in the 44 years since John Wooden retired.
  • It’s been 14 years since a team repeated as national champion.
  • For that matter, Florida is the only team to do it in more than a quarter-century.

How to “Squeeze the Lemon” in College Basketball

One other situation to note is what is referred to as the “squeeze the lemon” angle. This is when a hard-fought game is played until to the final buzzer, or better yet, into overtime. Both teams will potentially be tired or vulnerable in their next match.

One example of this last year was on Jan. 12 when Duke traveled to Florida State and pulled out a last-second win. It was an emotional, hard-fought contest, with both teams gassed after putting out a maximum effort. Again, it helped to watch this game for perspective as both teams had to turn around and play on Jan. 14 with Duke losing outright as a 17-point favorite at home to Syracuse and Florida State losing by 13 points as a 5-point favorite at Pittsburgh.

All of these situations present themselves multiple times throughout every college basketball season; you just need to know when (and where) to look for them.

To shop for college basketball lines, you should track the lines for the games you are interested in by monitoring online sportsbooks in your legal gambling state. There will be variances across moneyline, spread and totals pricing which will give you opportunities to find better odds for the teams you want to bet on.

Opening USA Today, AP polls for 2020-21

There are two national polls, USA Today and The Associated Press (AP), which are updated weekly during the college basketball season. Check the current AP Top 25, updated every Monday throughout the season. Here how the top 25 look(ed) to begin the season:

2020/21 NCAA Basketball preseason AP Top 25 poll

1GonzagaBulldogsWest Coast
2BaylorBearsBig 12
Big East
Atlantic Coast
5IowaHawkeyesBig Ten
6KansasJayhawksBig 12
7WisconsinBadgersBig Ten
8IllinoisFighting Illini
Big Ten
9DukeBlue Devils
Atlantic Coast
11CreightonBluejaysBig East
13Michigan State
SpartansBig Ten
14Texas Tech
Red Raiders
Big 12
15West Virginia
MountaineersBig 12
16North Carolina
Tar Heels
Atlantic Coast
17HoustonCougarsAmerican Athletic
18Arizona State
Sun Devils
Pacific 12
LonghornsBig 12
20OregonDucksPacific 12
21Florida State
SeminolesAtlantic Coast
22UCLABruinsPacific 12
23Ohio State
BuckeyesBig Ten
24RutgersScarlet Knights
Big Ten
25MichiganWolverinesBig Ten

NCAA men’s basketball schedule

An NCAA selection committee will meet to decide which 68 schools will be part of March Madness. Of the 68 schools, 32 qualify automatically by winning their conference tournament; the other 36 “at-large” schools are selected by the committee.

November-December: Thanksgiving and holiday tournaments, non-conference games and select conference games
January-February: Conference schedules
March 8: End of the regular season
March 9-15: Conference tournaments
March 14: Field of 68 announced
March 16: Tournament begins
April 3: National semifinals
April 5: National championship

Betting NCAA online vs. retail sportsbooks

Betting apps and online sportsbooks offer several key advantages over retail sportsbooks:

  • Convenience: Sports betting apps let you place bets from wherever you are within a legal state’s borders. As long as you confirm your location, you’re free to wager real money.
  • Sign-up bonuses: Most sportsbooks offer some form of a bonus for new customers. If your state has multiple sports betting apps, you can sign up and qualify to receive a bonus for each one.
  • Multiple sports and betting options: Apps allow you to choose a variety of US and global sports properties, including college basketball, with a multitude of sports and sport-specific betting options available at your fingertips.
  • Live, in-play wagering: You can place bets on your phone while the college basketball game is in progress. From the first half to halftime to the second half via point spreads, moneylines and totals wagers. Odds and pricing adjust in real-time with the ebb and flow of game action and scoring.
  • Finding the right price: Sports betting apps provide the flexibility to find the right price within a few taps. In New Jersey, for example, without mobile sports betting accounts, it would not be feasible to compare the pricing on a specific game at every Atlantic City sportsbook. However, using these apps, you can review all the prices and place bets from anywhere.
  • Stats and research resources: In addition to the convenience, sports betting apps, such as the DraftKings Sportsbook app, offer a useful stats portal, which provides a game preview, the statistics and betting trends.

NCAA College Basketball Betting FAQ

Which team/university has won the most NCAA championships?

UCLA has won 11, and Kentucky has won eight.

Which team/university has the most Final Four appearances?

North Carolina has appeared in 20 Final Fours, and Kentucky and UCLA both have made 17.

How much is bet on college basketball every year?

It’s difficult to put an exact number on this up to this year, as states are still in the process of opening up college basketball betting lines. If you look at overall statistics for just office/bracket pools for March Madness alone, according to an article on ESPN it is estimated over $10 billion is bet with just 3% of that done through legal sportsbooks.


Who picks the teams for the NCAA Tournament?

A committee chairman oversees a panel of 10 who are responsible for selecting, seeding and bracketing the field for the NCAA Tournament. Their conference nominates each committee member.

Those who are selected will then serve five-year terms and represent a cross-section of the Division 1 membership. Currently, the chair of the committee is Bernard Muir, the director of athletics at Stanford.

The rest of the committee members are:

  • Mitch Barnhart, director of athletics, University of Kentucky
  • Tom Burnett, commissioner, Southland Conference
  • Janet Cone, director of athletics, University of North Carolina Asheville
  • Bernadette McGlade, commissioner, Atlantic 10 Conference
  • Michael O’Brien, vice president and director of athletics, University of Toledo
  • Jim Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation, Northwestern University
  • Chris Reynolds, vice president for intercollegiate athletics, Bradley University
  • Craig Thompson, commissioner, Mountain West Conference
  • Kevin White, director of athletics, Duke University

Who sets the NCAA betting lines?

The process for setting NCAA basketball lines is like other pro and college sports. Essentially, casinos and bookmakers will attempt to try to set a line that balances the dollars being wagered on each side, so the casino has no principal risk. After the opening line is set, the line will then fluctuate as money comes in on either side of the bet.

A line may open as Virginia is a -5 favorite versus North Carolina. But if the public feels that North Carolina has a great chance to cover the spread (or even win the game outright), a majority of the money might come in at North Carolina +5 and balance out the line. Then, the book would adjust the line down, e.g., Virginia -4.5 or -4, to balance out the money totals.

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

For the reasons above, bookmakers must manage their specific market and liability circumstances. So, DraftKings could potentially have a different balance of money for a West Virginia-Indiana matchup compared to what William Hill is handling, which results in differing betting lines.

What are the second-half NCAA lines?

The second-half lines are typically set as part of the in-game betting offering. The line will be a stand-alone number for the second-half scoring, regardless of the final total score. A team may be trailing 42-28 at halftime. They outscore their opponent 36-30 in the second half to “win” the second half betting line but lose the game 72-65.

Why can I not bet on NJ NCAA teams?

Betting on Rutgers, Monmouth, Seton Hall, Rider, Princeton or any other college team based in New Jersey is illegal under the state’s sports betting statute. Sportsbooks in New Jersey can’t offer games involving these teams, or any college games occurring within the Garden State (except for tournament play).

Are there any restrictions on college basketball betting in the US?

In terms of placing bets on college basketball, here’s a summary of restrictions for each legal state:

  • New Jersey: You can wager on college basketball, providing that the game doesn’t involve a university or venue in the state.
  • Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Iowa, Indiana and Arkansas: No restrictions.
  • Delaware, Virginia, Illinois, Rhode Island and New York: Betting isn’t allowed on in-state college teams.
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