NBA vs. College Basketball Betting: What’s The Difference?

Basketball is basketball, but there are some major differences between college and pro hoops. In fact, there are so many differences between the NBA and NCAA basketball that you should take different approaches to each one’s betting markets.

Here’s a one-to-one comparison of betting on the NBA and NCAA basketball, what sets each apart, what makes them similar, and the pros and cons of betting on each.

Key betting differences: NBA vs. College Basketball

This chart illustrates many of the key differences between NBA and NCAA basketball and their impact on betting:

NBANCAA BasketballImpact on Betting
ScheduleEach team plays 82 regular season gamesEach team plays 25-35 regular season gamesFewer games make for easier predictions
Games per Week3-41-2Tired and road-weary teams underperform; well-rested teams perform as expected
How many Teams30358 (D1)Talent disparity means easier-to-predict outcomes; parity makes it harder
Game Length48 minutes (4 x 12-min. quarters)40 minutes (2 x 20 min. halves)Longer games are higher scoring
Shot Clock24 seconds35 secondsLonger shot clock means lower-scoring games
Foul Out6 fouls5 foulsFoul trouble can reduce minutes played
Possession DisputesJump ballAlternating possession arrowTaller lineups win more possessions
Team Fouls/BonusTwo free throws after fourth team foul in a quarter1-and-1 free throws after seventh team foul in a half, two free throws after tenthAdditional free throws means higher-scoring games on average
3-Point Line23' 9" in the corners22' 1 3/4" and 21' 7 7/8" in the cornersNegligible difference with player shooting ranges now extending well beyond both lines
Key16' wide12' wideTighter key means easier blockouts

NCAA basketball is more suited to beginners

Several of the key differences between NBA and NCAA basketball make the college game a little easier to predict. Therefore, it’s better suited to beginning bettors. The shorter schedule, fewer games per week, less travel, and talent disparity are all key factors in making college outcomes slightly easier to predict than in the pros.

You might even find your knowledge of a local team gives you an edge over a sportsbook with so many college teams to cover. That said, picking winners at either level can be hard for novice and experienced gamblers.

Your sports betting should always be limited to times when circumstances appear to be in your favor. Plus, since no outcome is ever truly predictable, you should bet only what you can afford to lose.

Different bet types in NBA vs. NCAAB

The same standard bet types are generally available for both college basketball and the NBA. That means you can bet on moneylines, spreads, and totals for most games. How do betting lines work? A standard set of lines for an NBA game or NCAA basketball game might look like this at DraftKings Sportsbook Texas or Caesars TX Sportsbook:

Team A+3.5 (-110)+155Over 204.5 (-110)
Team B-3.5 (-110)-175Under 204.5 (-110)

Here, you’ve got the game’s point spread and the odds on spread bets, followed by the moneyline odds, and then the totals line with the odds on over and under bets. Let’s define those terms quickly, just in case you need clarification.

  • Point spread: Take the favorite minus the spread or the underdog plus the points.
  • Moneyline: Pick the outright winner with no spread.
  • Total: Pick the over or under on the total number of points compared to the line.

You may also find props where you can bet on player stats in a game. Props will almost certainly be available for NBA players. Texas has yet to determine whether it will allow prop betting on individual college players or prohibit such bets as some other states have. Player props can include bets against a stat line, head-to-head matchups on specific stat categories and yes-or-no questions about a certain player’s achievements in a game.

You may also find the same standard lines available live, allowing you to bet on both NBA and NCAA basketball in real time during games. The basketball lines will move as fast as the game does, so you’ll want a Texas sports betting app to keep up.

Spreads and totals are the two most popular NBA bets, while NCAA basketball spreads seem to be liked by bettors best. NCAA basketball sees some big favorites, and that means big point spreads that level the odds compared to the moneyline. These massive spreads can keep things interesting even if an outright win for the favorite is never in doubt.

Does NBA or NCAAB betting have more profit potential?

There are two ways to look at this question. With a longer schedule and season, the NBA may offer more basketball betting opportunities and, therefore, more potential for profit.

However, the larger number of teams in college basketball means the chances of mistakes by oddsmakers are greater. You should be able to find consistently more favorable lines, leading to the potential for a greater profit. Granted, there will be variance in both, and the edges you find will always be small enough that no profit is ever guaranteed.

Public betting differences between the NBA and NCAAB

The fewer games on a typical NBA betting slate compared to college basketball makes the public action easier to track. In other words, it’ll be easier to see who is betting on what teams based on how the lines move ahead of a game. Tracking this kind of movement can provide great value. You’ll often be able to bet what oddsmakers originally and almost always accurately predicted will happen in a game at a better price.

That may be harder to do when it comes to college basketball, where the public action is a little more spread out. However, most betting often surrounds marquee matchups featuring nationally ranked teams. You can just as easily track movement and public betting for the lines on these games.

Pros and cons of NBA betting

This chart illustrates the key pros and cons of betting on the NBA:

NBA Betting ProsNBA Betting Cons
Second-most popular betting sport (NFL is No.1)Heavy travel and busy schedule impact performance
Local and national media attention makes research easyInjury info is hard to track
More betting optionsAccurate spreads are hard to beat in the long term

Pros and cons of NCAAB betting

This chart illustrates the key pros and cons of betting on college basketball:

NCAAB Betting ProsNCAAB Betting Cons
More teams and games overallTough to research outside of nationally ranked teams and March Madness
Regular season betting leads to increased knowledge when March Madness arrivesDozens of games daily may be too much to handicap
Easier to focus locally and find an edge over the oddsmakersSpreads on marquee matchups are often very dialed in