How do point spreads work on College Basketball?



How Do Point Spreads Work on NCAAB?


The college basketball season is a happy time for bettors and sportsbooks alike. With hundreds of games taking place following a long wait, everyone is eager to get the betting action going. And for college basketball bettors, point spreads are always going to be among the most popular bets. College basketball point spreads are as much a part of the season as the March Madness brackets.


If you are looking for an opportunity to get into college basketball spreads betting, then this guide was made for you. Learn about how point spreads work, how to make the best out of college basketball point spreads, and to win big. There are different strategies available to use, and many different ways to win your bets as well.


College Basketball Point Spreads Explained


Before we get started with college basketball spreads, it is important to answer a simple question: how do point spreads work? If you are new to betting, it’s only fair to ask this question, but even for experienced bettors, it doesn’t hurt to recap.


At first glance, the point spread bet might not look that different from a moneyline bet (wagering on the match result). However, there is one key distinction between the two: in a moneyline bet, you will win as long as you wager on the winning team. That, however, is not the case in a point spread bet.


Each team carries a handicap, similar to the one you would see in golf, for example. The favorite will always carry a negative number, while the underdog carries a positive number. In order to win the bet, the team must cover the spread, which means:


  • For the favorite: winning by a margin large enough to cover its handicap. If a team is a -9.5 favorite, then it must win by at least 10 points to cover the spread. Any winning margin below the 9.5 line will result in a loss, even if the team wins the game.
  • For the underdog: winning the game outright by any score, or losing by a margin smaller than the handicap. Using the example above, if a team is a +9.5 underdog, then it will win the bet even if it loses the game, as long as the margin stays below the 9.5 line, or if it wins outright by any score.


Bettors rely on a few different systems for point spread bets. One of them is the KenPom betting system, created by Ken Pomeroy. Another popular choice among bettors is the Sagarin system, created by Jeff Sagarin. Both betting systems can be used for spread bets.

College basketball point spreads today use both systems as reference. Back when point systems were relatively unknown, the bookmakers’ lines frequently deviated from the KenPom and Sagarin lines. Whenever that happened, bettors would usually strike and score big wins.


College Basketball Point Spreads Tips


  • If you want to use the KenPom or Sagarin point systems, then remember that neither will take injuries and other pre-game events into account. Both systems only take cold numbers and stats into consideration. In the event of an injury to a key player, bookmakers may shift the line dramatically, which can offer an opportunity to score a decent win if the operator overvalues the injured player’s influence. Some betting systems have shown that late-in-the-season games offer higher potential for upsets. In a late-season match between two teams with nothing to fight for, taking the underdog is usually worth the risk.
  • While point spread lines usually don’t change much from one bookmaker to another, it’s worth checking the betting odds at multiple sportsbooks. You always have a chance to find better odds for today’s college basketball point spreads. Even small line variations can make a big difference as well.
  • It’s also important to keep track of key numbers in college basketball spreads. Key numbers are the most common winning margin in a sport. For college basketball, these numbers are, in order, 3, 2, 5 and 4. Most bookmakers college basketball point spreads will oscillate between these values, unless it’s a heavily one-sided matchup.


College Basketball Point Spreads Examples


  • Understanding a point spread bet is very simple. Let’s use Team A and Team B as an example. The bookmaker has Team A as a -6.5 favorite, consequently making Team B a +6.5 underdog. What does that mean? If Team A beats Team B by at least 7 points, then Team A covers the spread. Now if Team B wins by any score or loses by 6 points or less, then Team B covers the spread.
  • Calculating the point spreads for a match using a points system is relatively easy. KenPom has already updated its ranking for the 2022 season, listing Kentucky as the favorite to win with an adjusted efficiency margin (AdjEM) of 29.77. Tennessee is the closest competition in the SEC, with an AdjEM of 27.10. In order to calculate the spread for a game between the Wildcats and the Volunteers, you simply need to subtract their AdjEM, which would make Kentucky 2.67 favorites.
  • The Sagarin system has four different ratings. However, all four take the game score into account, which means that the updated ranking only becomes available after the start of the season. Sagarin also takes the home court advantage into account, which usually adds something between 2.1 and 2.45 points in favor of the home team. Using the 2021 season numbers for Kentucky and Tennessee, the Vols would be 7.45 favorites at home and 2.63 favorites as the away team. 


Pros vs Cons of College Basketball Point Spreads




  • The college basketball season has lots of betting opportunities for point spreads. With an average of 20-plus games per team and 363 schools competing for glory, it means you will have hundreds of games to place a wager on.
  • Point spread is one of the most popular betting markets, and particularly in college basketball. There are lots of sportsbooks available for punters as well, so there is no shortage of betting options once the season rolls around.



  • All sportsbooks now follow the lines provided by betting systems. While bettors can still win by doing the same, there are fewer opportunities to score bigger wins, since there is virtually no difference between the bookmakers and KenPom or Sagarin lines.
  • Keeping up with 300-plus teams over a single season is extremely demanding. There are many good point spread bets available in games involving the less popular teams as well, so ignoring them isn’t much of an option. If you are willing to invest the time, it can definitely pay off.




College basketball point spread bets are among the top markets for bookmakers. They are extremely popular among bettors, who also have a variety of point spread systems at their disposal, like KenPom and Sagarin. You will also have hundreds of games to wager on over the course of the season. Keeping up with all of that can get tricky, but college basketball point spread bets can provide some valuable payouts.

FAQs: How Do Point Spreads Work in NCAAB?

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