College basketball is one of the most exciting and action-packed amateur sports in the world. There are several wagering options available between the spread and total, the projected sum of points in the game. Naturally the public will often want to take the over in big games, but how do these propositions actually fare throughout the season?
According to season trends data on Covers, to date in 2019, games have gone under 52% of the time (2,513 unders out of 4833 games). College basketball is a relic where many teams still pay attention to playing defense and the players aren’t collectively as good of shooters as in professional leagues like the NBA. Interestingly, when it comes to spreads in college, favorites are winning 50.08% and dogs 49.92%, nearly split down the middle. This is a pretty good indicator that oddsmakers pay a lot of attention to keeping spreads tight but are usually biased towards games going under against the public’s desire for high-scoring affairs.
Also not every over under is equal. Further analysis of the top 25 teams reveals that their totals are more likely to go under than the average game at a rate of 54.5%. This makes sense as the bigger the game the more money on it and exposure for the books generally towards the over. So by game-time these totals end up being inflated by several points based on public money, active streaks and other factors like sharp player action, injuries and venue.
Top 25 College Basketball Totals Records
When it comes to going over, you often are looking for games that feature up-tempo offenses. So it’s no surprise that in the top 25, the best over teams are currently LSU (11-7 over/under at 74.4 possessions/game), Kansas (11-7 over/under at 72.5 possessions/game) and Tennessee (13-11 over/under at 72.5 possessions/game) while the average team possessions per game nationwide are only 71.4. A few extra shots can make the difference on any total and when two fast tempo teams get together you can see this effect exasperated.
Likewise, the best under teams usually feature stout defenses and slow-tempo offenses like Virginia (12-16 over/under at 63 possessions/game), Washington (9-20 over/under at 69.2 possessions/game) and Kentucky (10-19 over/under at 70 possessions/game). Nothing can cook an over quicker than teams walking it up and down while taking the full shot clock on almost every trip up the court. Duke is also one of the top under teams (8-19 o/u) yet they run one of the fastest paces in the country at 75.8 possessions per game, so what gives? Well, Duke is still one of the favorites to win the March Madness Tournament and considered the top team in the nation by many experts featuring three lottery draft picks in the next NBA draft, thus their game totals are usually inflated based on public perception and betting percentages.
So the next time you watch a college game, you may want to consider several factors like the tempo and offenses vs. defenses playing to better project the number of points to be scored, then consider where the money is going before finally deciding whether the game will go over or under.