Arguments Against Betting on Major College Basketball

Thumbs Up and Down Bubbles With a College Basketball Background

Are you sick of losing Sundays during the NFL season? How about the inconsistency of betting the NBA? Perhaps you’ve considered the solution to be college basketball.

Although sometimes it can get lost in the shuffle of all the sports taking place throughout the winter and early spring, many sports bettors recognize that the sheer volume of games means a great opportunity to cash in. On the other hand, it might mean more opportunities to lose.

In this article, I’ll lay out four arguments against betting on major conference college basketball (Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC, PAC 12, Big East, AAC), and provide some alternatives.

College Basketball Players Are Too Inconsistent

You were 18 once. Now imagine being a nationally-known star basketball prospect who has been thrust into the spotlight. No matter how talented or composed you are, there are going to be some growing pains.

One of the main differentiators between athletes who have long careers in the NBA and those who flame out is consistency. It’s crucial to know what you’re getting from a certain player on a day-in day-out basis. If you’re the type of person that likes betting on sports, this is especially important.

The bottom line is that players are going to perform unpredictably in their first college season. Even a top prospect might put up 10 points the game following a 30-point performance.

Obviously, sports betting in general is wildly unpredictable. Don’t make it even more difficult by relying on unproven players who are on a bigger stage than they’ve ever seen before.

Too Many Big Spreads Before Conference Play

This one is seen all the time in college football, especially at the beginning of the season. The same can be said for basketball. If you’ve ever sat there and wondered whether or not that spread of -28.5 is just too much for you to play, I understand, and I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way.

Successful college basketball bettors tend to be college basketball fans. College basketball fans are generally going to be following major conferences more than mid-majors. That means the majority of college basketball bettors are going to be checking out the odds on ACC and Big 12 games rather than Horizon League and Big Sky contests. This is something your bankroll wishes you’d reconsider.

NCAAB Trojans Player on Court

When looking at matchups in the first few weeks, typically the time when teams play non-conference games against weak opponents, you’ll notice the huge discrepancies in talent which is reflected in the point spread.

Blowouts happen all the time. The question you need to ask is: “Do I really want my money riding on whether or not Duke scores when they’re up 28 points with 36 seconds left?” In my opinion, the answer is no.

Perhaps it’s just personal preference, but I’ve always stayed away from games that have “blowout” spreads. In college basketball, this phenomenon is just too common among the major conference teams early in the year.

Better Sports Betting Options Are Available

If you’re betting on college basketball to win money more than you are for the entertainment factor, I’ve got good news – there are much better opportunities to win when you look outside the major conferences.

Mid-major conferences have been a favorite among serious gamblers for years. When you consider the amount of action they get in comparison with major conferences, it makes perfect sense why hardcore sharps prefer staying away from the marquee matchups.

Those who are truly plugged into the sports betting industry know that the less money a game receives, the less likely the sportsbooks are to adjust their odds. In fact, mid-major college basketball is one of the few times when it’s actually possible to get a slight edge on the house.

If you’re only playing the games that show on ESPN, for example, games involving Duke, UNC, Michigan, etc., you might as well be betting on the NFL (which everyone knows is notoriously difficult to win). The big-time, major conference teams are going to receive too much action on game-to-game basis to be consistently profitable. In short, there’s just no edge to be gained.

Need another reason to consider going smaller when it comes to betting on college basketball? Just think about the players!

It’s common knowledge that the top players in the country typically spend only one year at the college level. Even while they are in school, their focus is (understandably) going to be on getting to the NBA – winning in college simply comes second.

College Basketball Louisville Player Driving the Ball

At which schools are these one-and-done’s typically playing? It’s not mid-majors, that much is certain.

When you look at smaller conferences, you might be surprised at how much time the teams have spent playing together as a unit. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to have an advantage over their opponent (because all the other teams are in the same position), it does mean you can expect a more consistent performance.

At the end of the day, bettors love predictability. Even though the outcome of a game is inherently unpredictable, there are less variables involved with a starting five comprised of three seniors, a junior, and a sophomore than the five freshman that regularly start for the NCAA’s best teams.

The Sportsbooks Have Too Much to Gain

This one is somewhat of a combination of earlier sections, but it helps illustrate the point about why I feel strongly that it’s best to avoid betting on big conferences when it comes to college basketball.

Sportsbooks are going to be much more concerned with evening out the action that comes in on big games. Contests that receive the most attention, and subsequently the most action, are where the house makes its money.

If you’re unfamiliar with how the final odds come to be, it’s all about the money that the sportsbook receives. As it comes in on one side or the other, the spread and moneyline shift slightly so that it’s around 50-50 on either side. The sportsbooks are happy to collect the juice (or vig) and call it a day.

So with this in mind, the logical alternative would be to bet on games that aren’t receiving as much action. That means the lines are less likely to change, and even if they do, some information can be taken from the shift.

What information am I talking about? The answer is: smart money.

It’s a common saying in sports betting that it’s in your best interest to “follow the smart money.” However, if you’re betting on a game that’s receiving a ton of public money, it’s impossible to differentiate between smart money and the public – which I think is fair to call dumb money.

NCAAB Gonzaga Players Celebrating

If one or two sharps with deep pockets put a bet in on a smaller event, it’s likely that they’re the ones responsible for any changing of the odds leading up to the start of the game.

For example, if you’re looking at Bowling Green vs. Toledo, with Toledo opening as a 5-point favorite and then seeing it dwindle to -2, you know that smart money is coming in on Bowling Green. The spread will have been adjusted because the sportsbook wants to get more money on Toledo in order to even things out.

Yes, following line movement takes a good deal of attention and knowledge of how betting markets work. The good news is that anyone can do it if they’re willing to put in the time. If you’re serious about making money through sports gambling, it’s definitely worth your while to get familiar with evaluating what line movement really means.


When it comes to NCAA basketball, the sheer number of programs in Division 1 means that there are nearly endless games to bet on. Profitable bettors know that a winning strategy, before anything else, starts with choosing the right games.

Let casual college basketball fans battle it out in the major conference arena. Stick to the games that are flying under the radar and take advantage of the opportunities they present. Your bankroll will thank you.