How to Bet on Basketball

NBA BettingMost experts would agree that betting on football is the toughest to do, but certainly betting on basketball is a very close second. Basketball wagers are also second in total action each year behind only football, with college basketball’s March Madness NCAA Tournament now at Super Bowl levels.

Why is wagering on the NBA so difficult? One factor could be that superstars are treated differently by the referees in terms of foul calls. Did you ever see Michael Jordan called for an offensive foul in his career? Ever see LeBron James called for traveling in the final two minutes of a close game?

Here are a few basketball betting strategies to conquer those NBA and college basketball bets. The sport offers the same types of wagers as all the Big 4: live betting, pointspreads, moneylines, totals, futures and props.

The Star Factor

Certainly when considering an NBA futures bet on championship odds, regardless of the season, you’d want to stick with a team that has a superstar talent. The Miami Heat won their second-straight title in 2012-13 and will be betting favorites every year that LeBron James stays in south Florida. Michael Jordan led the Bulls to six titles, not only not ever losing in an NBA Finals but not even playing in a seventh game. Magic Johnson won five titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, and so did Kobe Bryant. Larry Bird led Boston to three. Tim Duncan has won four with the San Antonio Spurs. Hakeem Olajuwon won two titles with the Houston Rockets in the two seasons Jordan was playing minor league baseball.

The only team since 1980 to win a championship that didn’t feature a Hall of Fame talent in the starring role was the 2004 Detroit Pistons. These days, it often takes at least two superstars. LeBron has Dwyane Wade. Kobe had Shaquille O’Neal for three and Pau Gasol for two. Duncan has Tony Parker. Olajuwon had Clyde Drexler. Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Why did players such as Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing never win a championship? No other superstar on their teams. That’s why they were always NBA betting underdogs to Jordan’s Bulls.

It has been statistically proven that stars get the calls, especially in close games. At that point in their careers, they have earned the respect and benefit of the doubt from the referees. LeBron, for example, has fouled out five times in his career entering the 2013-14 season. He puts his head down and barrels into the line, and he won’t get called for a charge. Consider that when betting on the NBA.

As for betting on college basketball, NCAA stars rarely stay long enough to get favorable calls. Most certainly, however, the biggest-name coaches like Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo or Kentucky’s John Calipari are able to influence the referees. Some refs were flat-out afraid of former coach Bobby Knight. In college these days, the coaches are the stars.

Oddsmakers know that stars get the calls and set lines accordingly.

Front of the Jersey

Here’s a tip when learning how to bet on basketball. The front of the jersey absolutely plays a role in setting lines. Duke is the best example when it comes to college basketball wagering. The Blue Devils are the Yankees of college basketball. The books know this and because Duke is Duke, their basketball lines are often inflated. Because of the animosity toward Duke, the public often can influence the line down, making for better value closer to game time. The Blue Devils are the most “public” team in college basketball betting. North Carolina and Kentucky are like that.

In the NBA, the most public team is the Los Angeles Lakers because they are always good, always on television and always have stars. Because of their popularity, it’s rare you will see the Lakers as a big NBA wagering underdog. Backers of public teams like to be frontrunners. This again is true in college. The Miami Heat are now a very public team with LeBron.

Home-Court Advantage

Of the four major American sports leagues, NBA home teams win the most over the past decade, at around 60 percent. That usually translates to covers on NBA wagers. Why is that? It would seem like NFL and MLB teams would have a greater advantage because of field conditions. Gyms are gyms. However, home NBA teams average more free throws than their opponent per game. Players shoot better at home because they are used to the background. There’s a reason no NBA team has won Game 7 of the NBA Finals on the road since 1978. Home teams are 15-3 all-time in Game 7 of the NBA Finals with six-straight wins.

Obviously travel is a factor to consider when betting on basketball since it works against road teams. Also, if a player is a bit banged up, a coach is more apt to rest him in a road game rather than in front of the home crowd that paid big money for season tickets. Certainly San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich does that. For the most part, NBA trips aren’t just a single road game but usually a stretch of at least a few. It goes without saying that a tired road team wouldn’t be a good bet to cover. Tired legs usually mean short shots and also slower defensive rotations. That leads to blowout losses and home covers in NBA betting.

Some of the top college games won’t lose a home game all year. The Dukes and Kentuckys of the world rarely schedule a good non-conference opponent at home. There’s no point to, considering the schools will sell out their buildings regardless. That said, online basketball odds for top college teams are often very inflated at home.

When those top teams do go on the road in college basketball, it’s the biggest event of the season on the host team’s schedule and a great time to lean the underdog on college basketball betting. Teams get up for playing the best teams – especially if ranked No. 1 – and get a rare sellout crowd. Duke is the king of this and usually suffers a handful of road losses each season. Home basketball underdogs in those situations are a wise investment for your college basketball betting strategy. Teams that don’t play well on the road often don’t fare well in the NCAA Tournament at those neutral sites.

Garbage Time

What can frustrate even the best basketball bettors is garbage time. If the Chicago Bulls have a huge lead over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bulls are going to sit superstar Derrick Rose late in the game. The NBA season is a grind, so coaches want to rest their best players whenever possible. This can often lead to what was a comfortable cover to an against the spread loss on NBA odds. Many a basketball bet has been lost on a meaningless last-second layup, so take note when learning how to bet on the NBA.

In college, the top teams will want their reserves to get some playing time experience against weaker competition. Whereas on the flip side the weaker side will continue playing hard to the end as it’s that team’s only time in the spotlight. It’s always wise to fade big favorites in the NBA and NCAA when wagering on basketball.