Betting NBA Totals Versus College Basketball Totals

There is a difference in betting NBA totals versus college basketball totals.

Key Points

– The wide variety of styles of play in college basketball is one of the key differences when betting NBA totals.

– NBA bettors can take advantage of greater betting limits when it comes to totals.

Betting NBA Totals Versus College Basketball Totals

The betting public often makes the mistake of thinking that betting on basketball is always betting on basketball regardless of whether it is college or the NBA. After all, in both sports the objective is to score more points than the other team. 

Smarter, more experienced bettors know that betting on the two sports is very different. It’s almost as if you are betting on two different sports. One area where the differences are pronounced is in betting totals. 

Here, we look at four ways in which betting NBA totals is different from betting totals in college basketball. 


Points Per Game

The NBA obviously features more points per game than the college game does. There are a couple of key reasons for that. The college game is eight minutes shorter than the NBA where teams play four 12-minute quarters compared to two 20-minute halves in college.

The college shot clock at 35 seconds is 11 seconds longer than the NBA shot clock. Pace can be much slower in the college game. The result is that game totals are set much higher in the NBA. 

NBA totals of over 200 are common. They are unheard of in the college game where many totals are often less than 140. Some college totals are even less. Because college totals are so much lower, each point is more significant. One point is a significantly bigger percentage of the total score of a college game than it is in the NBA. 

A total exceeded by seven points in a college game is a much bigger deal than one surpassed by seven in the NBA. When betting NBA totals, one has to adjust mentally to the increased scoring and faster tempo. Bettors can’t think like a college basketball bettor when betting on the NBA. 

Players Impact Totals

When an NBA star like LeBron James sits out a game, there is a noticeable impact. However, when a college team’s best player sits out, the effect is even greater. 

One star college player makes a huge difference in a team’s scoring. Remember, college teams score fewer points. A star player that averages 20 points per game might account for one-third of a team’s scoring. Making up for that is much more difficult in the college game.

Plus, these injuries or roster changes are not as highly publicized for college games. In the NBA, teams are more heavily scrutinized and the league requires injury updates a certain number of times per day. This makes it a bit more difficult when betting NBA totals compared to the college game. 

Betting NBA Totals & Style of Play

NBA teams are all made up of the best of the best. They are all elite athletes, many of whom were the best players on their college team, in their college conference, and among the best in the nation. 

College teams do not have that luxury. Keep in mind that there are over 350 NCAA Division I basketball teams. With so many teams, there is a profound difference between the best teams in the nation and the worst. In certain college games, there may be a time when you adjust your betting unit size on a game total.

To compete, many teams adopt different styles of play. There are teams that run up and down the floor and shoot three-pointers all night. Others stick to a strong defense. Take Virginia as an example. The Cavaliers have been a top-10 team for most of the last decade. Rarely do they get four- and five-star caliber players, but they play outstanding defense.

In the NBA, most teams play man-to-man defense. Some teams are better than others, but on any given night, a team can explode for 120 points or more. For the most part though, the differences in tempo among NBA teams are not as big as those in college basketball. This is a key when betting NBA totals. 

Betting NBA Totals Versus College Basketball Totals

Betting Limits

When betting NBA totals, bettors have the advantage of higher betting limits. Sportsbooks set their limits based on the amount of action they figure they will get on a given game. It’s a measure of the risk they are willing to take.

With smaller limits though, it will take less money to move a total in college basketball as compared to the NBA. If a total moves significantly in an NCAA game, bettors can be almost certain that sharp money has come in heavy on one side of a total. These big line moves are a big deal.

Bettors will often see more variation among sportsbooks with NCAA totals. In betting NBA totals, there is not as much variance. It still, however, pays to shop around for the best number.