There’s nothing quite like betting on college basketball. Star-studded Thanksgiving Day tournaments, rivalry games, conference matchups, and of course March Madness make for four months of exciting opportunities for gamblers. Here we will explain how the schedule is made and break down how gamblers can take advantage to make the most informed decisions when they’re ready to wager on college hoops.
NCAAB TV Schedule
Bettors have ample options to watch NCAA men’s basketball games. For starters, there are 350 Division I teams that make up 32 conferences. Though the smaller conferences do not often air their games nationally, there are streaming options like ESPN+ to catch their games.
Of the major conferences, the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 all have their own networks. ESPN, CBS and FOX Sports air nationally-televised games of the other major conferences. The NCAA Tournament is aired on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV.
CHECK OUT: Our Expert College Basketball Picks
What Are The Most Popular Early Season Tournaments?
There are about a dozen early-season tournaments that take place in college basketball each season. From New York to Puerto Rico, these tournaments highlight the non-conference season with high-major teams squaring off against one another in intimate settings and are usually nationally televised. Here are the three biggest each season:
Taking place each season during Thanksgiving Weekend, the Maui Invitational routinely includes some of the best teams in the country. Consider the programs with the most Maui Invitational victories in the tournament’s history: Duke (5), North Carolina (4), Kansas (3) and Syracuse (3). The eight-team tournament that takes place in Lahaina, Hawaii, is single elimination, with Round 1 losers heading to a consolation bracket. All teams are guaranteed at least three games.
The Battle 4 Atlantis takes place in late November each year in the Bahamas. The event is unique for its setting, which is played in a grand ballroom turned into a venue that can hold 3,500 fans. It’s also unique because of its lighting, which illuminates the court and blacks out the crowd. Though the tournament is relatively new, tournament winners of the eight-team single-elimination tournament include Duke, Villanova (twice), Virginia and Michigan.
It’s not a tournament, but the Champions Classic is as star-studded as any annual set of games. Started in 2011, the event tips off the NCAA basketball season each year and includes blueblood programs Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky. The venue rotates between Madison Square Garden (New York), the United Center (Chicago) and Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis). The four teams rotate matchups and there is no bracket, but the pair of games is routinely the most hyped of any non-conference game in the country each season.
CHECK OUT & COMPARE: College Basketball Odds From The Top Online Sportsbooks
Why the College Basketball Schedule Matters
While college basketball teams will all play uniform conference schedules, non-conference scheduled games are all different. Athletic directors have a difficult task in balancing putting enough wins against easy opponents on a schedule while also not doing damage to that team’s RPI, a ratings percentage index that ranks teams based on wins, losses, and strength of schedule.
Simply filling up on easy wins against bad teams will do damage to a team’s RPI, ultimately hurting its chances of earning a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. But loading up a schedule with difficult opponents, while potentially helping RPI, could result in losses and a worse record.
Homecourt advantage plays a significant part when considering schedules and betting on games. College basketball arenas are usually much smaller and fans are usually much rowdier. College players aren’t professionals, meaning those external forces have more of an impact. While there are much fewer games than in the NBA, and thus fewer back-to-backs, considering how much rest a team has had when compared to its opponent is important to look at as well.
It’s also critical to analyze a team’s bracket – and path to a championship, whether a conference or national – before making NCAA basketball futures bet. Look at the other teams that a team would potentially have to go through to advance. There isn’t any reseeding in college basketball tournaments, and all tournaments are single elimination.
How are College Basketball Schedules Created?
College basketball schedules are built in three parts: early-season invitational tournaments, the non-conference season and the conference season. The first two sections are built out by the athletic departments, oftentimes years in advance.
Athletic directors reach out to organizers to take part in early-season tournaments. They’ll also reach out to other programs about setting up non-conference games; sometimes those are single games, while other times teams agree to a multiyear series in which games are played at both home venues. "Buy games" are also in play for high-major teams, who pay inferior teams to play them in what are essentially warm-up non-conference games.
NCAAB Schedule FAQs
When are college basketball schedules typically released?
Often opponents are known because of home-and-home agreements and journalists often receive tips from sources on non-conference games that are scheduled. Still, the official list of non-conference scheduled games for a team is often released over the summer, while each team’s conference schedule is released later in the summer, usually in late August or early September.
How many games does each NCAA team play?
Teams will play the same number of conference games as their conference peers, but the number of non-conference games a team plays is often different. Because programs schedule their own non-conference games, including early-season tournaments, buy games and home-and-home agreements, the number of games is different among all teams. Teams that advance farther in the postseason, either the NCAA Tournament or NIT, will play more games than teams that do not. Most teams play between 30 and 40 games each season.
How many conference games does each NCAA team play?
Unlike the four major professional sports leagues, not all conferences contain the same number of teams and play the same number of games. The smallest number of games played in a conference is the Ivy League, which plays 14 conference games each season. Six different conferences, including the Big Ten and the ACC, play 20 games each season. Other conferences play 16 or 18 conference games.
How long does the NCAA basketball regular season last?
The college basketball season routinely begins in early November with annual invitational tournaments consisting of teams from different conferences. The non-conference portion of the schedule usually lasts until Christmas, with the turn of the calendar to the new year marking the start of the conference season. The conference schedule lasts until early March, followed by conference tournaments that lead into the start of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament in mid-March.
When is the NCAA Tournament field announced?
The NCAA Tournament field is announced each year on Selection Sunday, the Sunday before the third Thursday in March.