College Basketball futures are odds that allow you to make bets on upcoming events throughout the NCAAB season. These odds are determined by different factors like recent results, standings, winning streaks, and the time of the season. Due to this, college basketball odds are always changing.
No sport has a better ending to its season than college basketball. After the regular season winds down and the day-to-day college basketball odds grind comes to a halt, college teams play a conference tournament, which gives every team—elite or terrible—a chance to win the league title over a wild four or five-day span.
Then comes March Madness, three weeks of nearly constant basketball, with upsets and fantastic finishes that narrow down a field of 68 teams to 16, then four, and then one national champion.
Obviously, everyone’s focus—from players to coaches to fans—is on March, which is what makes college basketball the perfect setting for futures betting.
Futures betting refers to placing a bet on something that will be decided at a later date, usually weeks or months into the future. Obviously, this makes it more difficult to predict, and the odds (and payouts) are usually much higher than they are on game-day bets.
The most popular college basketball futures bets involve which teams are standing after each March milestone event. You can bet on which team will finish first in its conference during the regular season, who will win its conference tournament, who will make the Final Four, and who will win the championship game.
You can start placing futures bets before the season even tips off. As the games are played, and things become clearer, the odds are adjusted, allowing you to continue placing futures bets throughout the year.
Futures odds are usually listed as a moneyline, giving you an indication of how much you would win, or lose if you placed the bet. They use a $100 baseline, although your bet could be much higher and lower. It will be scaled based on the $100 moneyline odds.
Moneylines can be positive or negative numbers, and they have different meanings depending on which sign is in front of the number.
Especially early in the season, when literally every team in the nation is still a contender, with at least some chance of winning its conference or the basketball tournament, you’ll see positive moneylines when looking at college basketball odds.
A positive moneyline means that oddsmakers think the event predicted in the bet is unlikely to occur, and the payoff is larger—often much larger—than the money you are risking. In sports betting, positive odds indicate the underdog. The amount of the moneyline indicates how much you would earn with a $100 bet.
So, for instance, prior to this season, Kentucky was listed with +1400 odds of winning the national championship. That means if you bet $100 on Kentucky at that point in time, and they ended up winning, you would win $1,400.
As we said, the amount is scaled. So if you bet $50 on Kentucky, you’d win $700.
A negative moneyline means that the event predicted by the bet is very likely to occur, in the eyes of oddsmakers, and the payout will be less than the amount you risk. For instance, late in the season, if Duke had a two-game lead in the ACC with three games left to play, their odds of winning the regular season title might be -800. That would mean you’d have to bet $800 to win $100.
Again, it’s scaled. So if you bet $200, you’d win $25.
If you’re going to have success in the college basketball futures market, it’s crucial that you understand how to read the odds.
Any team can have a bad night, or have a star player turn an ankle or commit a few early fouls and have to sit on the bench. When it comes to NCAAB futures, the odds are updated on a near-daily basis after every basketball event.
Basketball fans know that it’s that exciting unpredictability that gives March Madness its name—anything can happen.
Regular-season conference title odds are much more stable betting markets, with the best team in the conference more likely to win the title game. The payoffs won’t be as high, but neither will the uncertainty.
For tournament futures, you’ll want to do your homework. There are plenty of analytics sites like KenPom and Bart Torvik, that help you determine who is good and why they’re good. Under the pressure of March, it’s key to know if your team is likely to lean on an unreliable shooter in an unfamiliar arena, or if they have a veteran playmaker who will keep their cool on the court.
The college basketball season is broken into three basic chunks: November and December is the non-conference season, where teams play with unfamiliar opponents. Often a big, successful program like UNC or Kentucky will pay smaller conference teams like Mercer or Elon to come to their arena for games, giving them a chance to work out the kinks in a mismatched game to get the year started on the right foot. There are also a few high-profile made-for-TV games between top teams during the non-conference season.
January and February are the height of the competitive conference season, where teams play the same familiar rivals, usually twice—once at home and once on the road—in a 16, 18 or 20-game “season.”
The ACC (home to Duke, UNC, Virginia and several other top East Coast teams) is one conference.
The Pac-12 (Arizona, UCLA, and other West Coast powers) is another.
The SEC (Kentucky, Tennessee and other deep South schools), Big 12 (Kansas and other Midwest/southwest schools) and Big Ten (Michigan, Wisconsin and other Midwest snow belt schools) are the other major conferences.
This second chunk of the season is the basis for this future. Which team will have a better record—in conference games only—than its rivals?
You’re betting on Duke to finish ahead of UNC and the other ACC schools, or Kansas to be better than Kansas State, TCU and the other Big 12 schools.
It’s based on 16 games with everyone in the conference playing everyone else, so it’s considered a more stable bet.
The third chunk of the basketball season is the tournament season, and it’s made up of two events. First, each of the conferences hold their own conference tournament. All the teams that spent the last two months playing each other now do it again, in a single elimination bracket. The winner gets to hoist a banner in their gym and also gets a free bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Motivation is key when betting on conference tournament futures. Some elite schools will all but ignore the conference tournament. They’re assured of getting an NCAA bid based on how successful their season was, so they often rest players with nagging injuries or just appear uninterested in playing rivals for the third time. Other schools want to win the tournament desperately and sell out to get those key March wins in the last chance to impress the NCAA selection committee.
Then comes the Big Dance, the 68-team single-elimination tournament. Every conference tournament winner gets in, and then a committee selects a number of “at large” teams who didn’t win their tournaments but had a successful season and deserve to keep playing.
Teams could get to play close to home or be sent across the country. They could play an unfamiliar team or a well-known opponent. It all adds to the uncertainty of March Madness.
After the first weekend, 16 teams—the Sweet 16—are left. After the next week, the field is cut to the Final Four, and then a champion is crowned in the third weekend. You can bet futures on whether a team will make the Final Four, although futures on winning the national title are usually more popular.
You absolutely can. You’ll be given the chance to bet on literally hundreds of teams to win the tournament, win their conference or make the Final Four. Online sportsbooks have similar odds and payouts. The futures begin taking action prior to the start of the season and continue until March.
There’s no one way to bet on basketball. A mixture of game bets and futures promises to give you a variety of time frames, with payouts spread out throughout the year.
There is a lot of money available in futures betting. Even the best teams will have long odds, simply because there are 20 teams with legitimately strong shots at winning the national championship in a given year. So if you pick correctly, your payout will likely multiply your money by several factors. The odds on the best teams shrink as the season goes on, but even on the eve of the tournament, you’ll have the opportunity to significantly boost your bankroll if you pick correctly.
You’ll want to look at a team’s roster—who did they lose from last season? Who did they add, as freshmen or transfers? What do the major polls and analytics sites think of their chances? The two teams that played for last season’s national championship—Kansas and North Carolina—are near the top of the list when looking at best odds. Gonzaga, who was No. 1 in the polls much of last year, is also rated highly. Houston, Baylor, Kentucky, Arkansas and Duke are also on the list of contenders.