How to Bet on March Madness College Basketball

There are many ways to bet on March Madness college basketball. This includes point spreads, moneylines, totals, props, and futures.

March Madness is here. Selection Sunday is today. A total of 68 teams will be invited to the NCAA Basketball Tournament

Millions will create March Madness brackets. Some will play for free. Others will throw a few dollars into a pool hoping their brackets don’t bust. Many will also place sports bets on the NCAA Basketball Tournament. There are many ways to go about that.

Point Spreads

The most common way to bet on March Madness is point spreads. This is when a team is a favorite and another is an underdog. The favorite lays points. The underdog gets points. For example, if a team is a three-point favorite, a bet on them wins if the favorite beats the underdog by four or more points. It loses if the favorite wins by one or two points, or loses to the underdog outright. 

The game pushes if the favorite wins by exactly three points. In a push, all bets are returned, just like in games like blackjack.

Some point spreads are half-points. This prevents a push.

Seeding has little to do with point spreads. It is common to see some nine, ten, and sometimes eleven and twelve seeds favored in the first round. A team that appears hot may be favored later in the tournament over a team with a lower seeding. This is not a mistake. This happens when bookmakers think a higher-seeded team is better or there is a matchup that leans toward that team. 


A moneyline also has a favorite and an underdog. However, there is no point spread. The only outcome that matters is which team wins. A bettor lays the favorite on a moneyline. The underdog is plus money. If a moneyline is -200 on the favorite, the bettor lays $200 to win $100. If a moneyline is +200 on the underdog, a bettor wins $200 for every $100 wagered. 

There will be a split on moneylines. An even game starts at -110 on both sides. The split widens as the favorite gets larger. For example, a -200 favorite is usually paired with a +160 underdog. 


Totals are also referred to as over/unders. A total covers the number of points scored in a game or half. The bettor chooses whether the game goes under or over the posted total. Totals may push. Some of these bets also come in half-point numbers to avoid pushes.


Futures bets cover which team wins all or part of the tournament. The most popular futures bet is which team wins the entire tournament. There are also futures bets on the college team that wins a regional bracket. These are also available in conference tournaments. 

College Basketball Prop Bets

There are many types of college basketball prop bets. Some are on individual players, which are banned in about half of the states with legal sports betting. Others involve team totals, like the number of points scored in a half or full game, the number of free throws made or attempted, assists, shots blocked, or three-point buckets. 

Another type of NCAA Basketball Tournament prop bet relates to which conference wins cuts the nets. For example, one can bet on an ACC or SEC to win it all. This gives them all the teams in that conference. Another college basketball team prop is the type of team that wins the tournament. This may be a bet that says “Will a team called the Tigers win the NCAA Basketball Tournament?” It may also include team names that involve all cats or animals. 

Another type of college basketball prop involves the first team to a certain score. Examples include the first team to 10 or 20 points. 


Parlays combine two or more outcomes. These may be prop bets, point spreads, moneylines, and totals. Same game parlays are less common in college basketball tournaments compared to pro sports playoffs due to the number of states that ban player props. While point spreads and moneylines may be in parlays, they may not be from the same game. 

The more legs a parlay has, the higher the payout. That is because it is less likely for it to win. If any leg of a parlay loses, the entire ticket is lost. If one leg pushes, it is removed from the parlay. If all other legs win, the ticket pays as if it had one less leg.

Live Betting

Live betting is available on all March Madness games. Point spreads, moneylines, and totals are common types of live betting on college basketball. Microbetting is available at some sportsbooks. These types of wagers ask a bettor to decide what the next action will be. That includes whether it is a three-point shot, a two-point bucket, a miss, a blocked shot, or a free throw. 

Halftime wagers are a form of live betting. These are posted almost immediately after teams head to the locker room. 

Bet March Madness Responsibly

Whether you buy into March Madness bracket pools or bet on point spreads, it is important to play within your bankroll. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of March Madness. Making small bets to make the games interesting as opposed to making large ones you can’t afford will make the tournament fun. 

Never bet more money than you can afford to lose. When you bet responsibly, you will be able to stay in the game and not turn March Madness into a nightmare.