7 Mistakes College Basketball Bettors Make Every Day

NCAA Basketball Betting Mistakes
I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I’m happy when the NCAA basketball season tips off every year. If you know how to properly evaluate college basketball games, you can find plenty of lines that offer value throughout the season.

I’ve made many mistakes betting on college basketball over the years, and I see many gamblers making the same mistakes today. Take a few minutes to learn how to avoid some of these errors by reading about the top seven mistakes that college basketball handicappers make every day.

1 – Ignoring Pace of Play Tendencies

Every team in the NBA seems to play at a high pace of play. But this isn’t the case in college basketball. You still see many college teams run slow deliberate offenses that run a lot of clock every time they have the ball.

This is important when you’re looking at betting the over or under, but it’s also important when betting on point spreads. A game that’s played slower makes it more difficult for the favorite to cover a large spread, because they don’t have as many opportunities.

One of the most difficult things to do when you’re evaluating college basketball games is determining which team is going to control the game when one usually plays fast and the other team usually plays slow. But you always need to be aware of how each team tries to play so you can use pace of play when you handicap games.

2 – Control of the Paint

Basketball has changed over the years, with teams learning how to win games using three-point shots to overcome a disadvantage in the paint. You often see this in NBA games, but it’s also true in many college basketball games.

The Paint

The college basketball teams with dominant big men can still control games, especially when they have a good coach. Teams that control the paint score more points close to the basket and tend to have a large rebounding differential in each game.

It’s easy to get distracted by long range shooting and fancy passing, but don’t ignore the teams that control the paint. A team that dominates the paint has a good chance to control the game.

3 – Guard Domination

I talked about controlling the paint in the last section, but teams with good guards can also dominate a game. The problem with most college basketball teams is they don’t have good guards. A great guard is almost as hard to find as a great center.

The first thing most bettors look at when evaluating college guards is their shooting ability. Shooting ability and scoring is important, but the best guards know how to create points for their teammates, protect the ball, and play good defense on the other end of the court.

A secret that I’ve used to make a lot of good bets over the years is to evaluate the experience of the guards on each team. In college, the team with the most experienced guards tends to have an advantage. I’ll take a pair of third and fourth year guards over a pair of freshman or sophomores almost every time.

I understand that there are some first and second year guards that have elite talent, but veteran guards can usually play with these guys, and they’re less likely to make a mistake in an important part of the game.

4 – Point Spread Bets on Big Favorites

If there’s one rule that I never break when betting on college basketball, it’s that I never bet the point spread on a college basketball team who’s a big favorite. I might make a moneyline wager, but the point spread is far too unpredictable to show a long-term profit.

NCAA Basketball Point Spread Example

Team Point Spread
Duke -12.5
UNLV +12.5

The first thing you need to understand is that college basketball players are still kids. And kids are unpredictable. They look like grown men because they’re big and athletic, but they still do things that normal kids do.

Another thing to remember is that the best teams tend to get the best shot from opposing teams. A big underdog can get up for a big game and play better than normal, making the final score closer than it should be. And the final thing to understand is that when a favorite gets up big, they start resting their best players and the other team can score a lot of points in garbage time.

On the other hand, sometimes, an outmatched team is mentally beat before the game is played and they don’t even put up a fight. So, betting on the underdog and getting a bunch of points is risky, too. I simply skip the point spread bets in these games and focus on other games that offer a better value or bet the moneyline.

5 – Waiting Until March Madness

When the tournament season rolls around in college basketball, it brings amateur gamblers out of the woodwork. They enter office pools and make bets on teams that they haven’t watched play all season.

March Madness Logo

This is okay for average sports bettors, but they’re missing hundreds of good betting opportunities that come up during the regular season. If this is you, and you wait until March Madness to bet on college basketball, consider checking out our top 5 March Madness betting tips.

The fact is that the sportsbooks set better lines during March Madness than they do on games during the regular season, because they know they’re going to get more action. This means you have a better chance to find value on regular season games.

If you want to be a winning college basketball bettor, you have to take advantage of every opportunity to find value that you can. You need to concentrate on the regular season more than the tournament.

6 – Ignoring Small Conferences

I make as much profit betting on small college basketball and football games than on pro games. Focusing on small college conferences is the fastest way to become a winning basketball gambler.

The sportsbooks don’t spend as much time evaluating and setting lines for small conference games as they do for the big conferences and the NBA. The books know they won’t get as much action on these games so they have less risk.

This gives you the opportunity to find games that offer value. You can easily spend more time watching small conference games and acquiring information than the sportsbooks do. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring small conference college basketball games.

7 – Ignoring Popular Team Bias

Do you know who the most popular college basketball teams are? If not, you need to make a list right now. A good place to start is with the teams that get the most national coverage. Teams like Duke and North Carolina spring to mind.

The reason why it’s important to know which teams are the most popular on the national scene is because these teams have more money bet on them by the public than other teams. Does this mean you should bet on them, too? The answer is that you should look at the lines and see if there’s value betting against them. You need to look at this in every game they play.

Duke and UNC Logos

You might be wondering what popularity, heavy betting, or national coverage has to do with winning more bets. The sportsbooks know who the most popular college basketball teams are by the amount of public money gets bet on them. The most sophisticated sportsbooks know how much of their handle comes from the public and how much of it comes from sharp sports bettors.

Sportsbooks understand that sharp sports bettors bet on value, so their money is going on a team they think has the best chance to cover the spread. Sharp sports bettors don’t care about how popular a team is. And you shouldn’t either.

When the public bets heavily on one side of a game and the sharps don’t even the game out, the books often move the line against the popular team to entice more bets on the other side to balance their books. Sometimes, the sportsbooks move the line before they set it because they know what’s going to happen.

This is why you can often find value betting against the most popular college basketball teams. You can get more points than you should, and this is how you find and take advantage of value when betting on college basketball.


College basketball offers many different opportunities than the NBA. The game is different and some things that don’t work in the pros still work in college. This means you have to learn how to evaluate the college game in a different way than you evaluate the NBA.

If you had to pick a single thing from the mistakes listed above that can help you become a better college basketball handicapper, start concentrating on small college games. This is the fastest way to find games and lines that offer value.