March Madness is the busiest time of year for sports betting in North America. But there’s more to college basketball than the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. No matter what time of year it is, there’s always a bet waiting for you on the NCAAB odds board at Bovada Sportsbook. This easy-to-read guide will show you how to bet on NCAA basketball by explaining the different wagers you can make at Bovada. And for good measure, we’ll throw in some tips at the end that will help you make sharper bets.


NCAAB Spreads

The point spread is the most common way to bet on college basketball. The favored team in a game has to win by a certain number of points in order to “cover the spread” and pay out their supporters, while on the flip side, the underdog will cover as long as they don’t lose by that same amount. If the winning margin is exactly the same as the spread, it’s a push, and all bets are returned.

As an example of what you’ll find on the NCAAB betting lines at Bovada, here’s the point spread for the 2019 National Championship Game between the Virginia Cavaliers and the Texas Tech Red Raiders:

  • Texas Tech   +1 (-110)
  • Virginia        -1 (-110)

The Cavaliers were the designated home team for this game at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, so they’re listed at the bottom, as is tradition for North American team sports. Virginia were slight 1-point favorites, which you can tell by the negative sign next to their spread. This means they needed to beat Texas Tech by more than one point in order to cover, while the Red Raiders (underdogs, as indicated by the positive sign) only needed to win straight-up. A 1-point loss by TTU would have resulted in a push.

The numbers in parentheses represent the juice, or vigorish, you pay on each of your bets. This is the commission the sportsbook charges to process your wager. Bovada uses the American odds format to express these numbers; in this case, as with most basketball games, the juice is –110, meaning you bet $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10, or any multiple thereof). You can assume the vigorish is –110 anytime it’s not quoted as part of the betting line.


NCAAB Moneyline

The moneyline is the old-school fixed-odds way to bet on college basketball. You bet on either team to win – no point spread attached. Here’s the moneyline for our example game:

  • Texas Tech    +100
  • Virginia          -120

Again, the American odds format is used here; with a win, the favored Cavaliers would pay $100 for every $120 wagered, while the Red Raiders would pay even money. There are no pushes with the moneyline. As it turned out, Virginia won 85-77 in overtime, paying out their supporters on both the moneyline and the spread.


NCAAB Totals

The total has become increasingly popular over the last 50 years of sports betting. It works a lot like the point spread, but instead of picking a side, you bet on whether the two teams will combine to score over or under the posted number of points. Let’s return to our example game:

  • Texas Tech     O 120.5 (-115)
  • Virginia          U 120.5 (-105)

The line for the Over is always listed on top – we provide the uppercase “O” at Bovada to help you navigate the lines more easily. For the Over to pay out $100 for every $115 wagered, the final score needed to be greater than 120.5 points; otherwise, the Under (designated by the uppercase “U”) would pay out $100 for every $105 wagered. As it turned out, Texas Tech and Virginia didn’t even need overtime to eclipse the posted total.


NCAAB Buying Points

If you’d like a little insurance for your spread bet, you can “buy” an extra half-point for 10 cents of juice, meaning your vigorish will go up from –110 to –120. You can do this up to three times; for our example game, you could have bet the Raiders as high as +2.5 (–140), or Virginia Tech at PK (–130), with “PK” standing for “pick ‘em.”


NCAAB Futures

Instead of betting on a single game, you can bet on an event that won’t be resolved until sometime in the future – which is why we call it the futures market. For college basketball, you can bet on which team will win March Madness, or who will win the various conference titles. The Cavaliers had +1800 odds to win the NCAA Tournament when the 2018-19 season got underway.


NCAAB Props (Team, Player, Season)

A proposition bet – props, for short – asks you to wager on something other than the outcome of a game. A team prop can be something as simple as which team will score first; a player prop might ask you which player will score first, and the most popular season prop is how many games a certain team will win before March Madness tips off.


NCAAB Specials

Any prop bet that doesn’t fall into the three categories mentioned above can be classified as a special. This includes odds for who will win Player of the Year honors, or who will go on to be selected No. 1 in the next NBA Draft.


NCAAB Live Betting

Imagine being able to bet on a game while it’s in progress. The dream is real; live betting lets you bet on spreads, moneylines and totals throughout the game, with the odds updated in real time. You can also bet on things like whether the next shot attempt will be a make or miss. Tap or click on the LIVE button at the top-left of the NCAAB odds page at Bovada to see which games are available for live betting.


NCAAB Betting Tips

Knowing how the NCAAB Vegas odds work will help you understand the betting process. After the sportsbook publishes their opening line for a game, they have the option to move that line up or down, in response to the betting action they receive. For our example game, the spread opened at Virginia –1.5 with the standard –110 vigorish. Then the Cavs moved to –1.5 (–105), with the Raiders moving in turn to +1.5 (–115), before both teams eventually landed on the closing line.

Why does a sportsbook change the odds like this? In theory, it’s a good idea for the book to collect the same amount of money on each side of a bet; that way, they can pay off the winning bets with the money they’ve collected from the losing bets, and keep the juice as their profit for handling the game. Texas Tech was a popular underdog heading into the National Championship Game, so to encourage more people to bet on Virginia, their spread went down from –1.5 to –1, improving their chances of covering.

Keep in mind that the odds you get when you place your wager are the odds used to determine your result, no matter how the lines have moved from open to close. Anticipate these line moves, time your wagers correctly, and you’ll get the best price you can before tip-off.

Now that you know how to bet on March Madness and all of the upcoming college basketball games at Bovada Sportsbook, check out our NCAAB odds page and see what’s in store for the new season. Fresh odds and analysis will be provided year round at Bovada, so keep hitting that Reload button, and we’ll see you on the hardcourt.