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How to Bet on College Basketball Games in Tennessee

The NCAA has 350 Division I basketball teams across the nation. Twelve of those 350 teams reside in Tennessee, including two of the state’s most popular programs in the Tennessee Volunteers and the Memphis Tigers. Whether you are a die-hard college basketball fan all season long or just a casual fan that gets hyped up when March Madness rolls around, the legalization of sports betting in Tennessee is going to provide you with the opportunity to get in on the action during the NCAA betting season.

How to bet on NCAA basketball games in Tennessee

Online sportsbooks and sports betting apps in Tennessee

Sports betting was legalized in Tennessee in 2019, and regulations on how the state would operate sports betting were finalized in April 2020. These regulations included the decision to allow only online sportsbooks in Tennessee and no retail or “brick-and-mortar” sportsbooks. College basketball bettors can choose from a handful of excellent online sportsbooks that are legal, regulated, and equipped with nice websites and attractive mobile apps on which to place your bets.

College basketball bet types

Another regulation that was passed in the finalized sports betting laws was a prohibition against TN sportsbooks taking live betting or proposition wagers on college sports, including NCAA basketball. The law does allow for Tennessee residents to bet on college basketball games in other forms though, including:

  • Moneyline: A moneyline wager is a bet on which team will win the game outright. Moneyline betting odds list favorites with a “-” in front of them and underdogs with a “+” in front of them. The “-” lets bettors know how much they would have to bet to win $100, so to earn $100 on a -190 favorite you would need to risk $190. The “+” indicates how much you would win if you bet $100 on the game. A +160 underdog would net you a profit of $160 if you were to wager $100 on it or a $320 profit if you were to bet $200 on it.
  • Against the spread: Another way that bettors can bet on college basketball teams is by placing an against the spread wager. The sportsbook sets a point handicap on each team to make betting on the favorite or underdog a more level proposition. For example, if the Memphis Tigers are -4.5 against the SMU Mustangs, Memphis would need to win by five points or more to cover this 4.5-point spread. SMU +4.5 tickets would payout if the Mustangs lose by four points or less or win the game.
  • Totals: Totals, which are also referred to as over/under bets, allow college basketball bettors to bet on whether they think the total combined number of points scored between two teams will go over or under a posted total that the sportsbook decides on. If a Tennessee Volunteers at Vanderbilt Commodores game has a total set at 151.5, bets on the Over 151.5 will win if Tennessee and Vanderbilt combine to score 152 points or more and bets on the Under 151.5 will hit if the total score does not surpass 151.
  • Futures: Futures bets are wagers on long-term events, such as which team will win the NCAA Tournament or what team will win the SEC Conference Tournament.
  • Parlays: Parlays allow bettors to combine multiple bets they like into one single bet that only wins if ever bet selected is graded a winner. Payouts get larger when you add more picks or higher-risk picks like moneyline underdogs.

NCAA basketball teams in Tennessee

Tennessee is home to 12 NCAA Division I basketball teams:

Austin Peay Governors NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: Ohio Valley
  • Location: Clarksville, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 8
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 5
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 7
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: Sweet Sixteen in 1973

Belmont Bruins NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: Ohio Valley
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 11
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 8
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 8
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: Round of 64 (eight times)

Chattanooga Mocs NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: Southern Conference
  • Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 19
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 11
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 11
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: Sweet Sixteen in 1997

East Tennessee State Buccaneers NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: Southern Conference
  • Location: Johnson City, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 11
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 11
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 11
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: Sweet Sixteen in 1968

Lipscomb Bisons NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: Atlantic Sun
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 3
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 1
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 1
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: Round of 64 in 2018

Memphis Tigers NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: American Conference
  • Location: Memphis, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 14
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 11
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 26
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: NCAA Finals Runner-Up in 1973 and 2008

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: Conference USA
  • Location: Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 10
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 7
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 9
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: Round of 32 (six times)

Tennessee Volunteers NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: SEC
  •  Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 10
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 4
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 22
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: Elite Eight in 2010

Tennessee State Tigers NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: Ohio Valley
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 2
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 2
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 2
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: Round of 64 in 1993 and 1994

Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: Ohio Valley
  • Location: Cookeville, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 7
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 1
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 2
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: Regional Quarterfinals (first round in 1958 and 1963)

UT Martin Skyhawks NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: Ohio Valley
  • Location: Martin, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 1
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 0
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 0
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: N/A

Vanderbilt Commodores NCAA basketball history

  • Current Conference: SEC
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Regular Season Conference Championships: 4
  • Tournament Conference Championships: 3
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 15
  • Best NCAA Tournament Performance: Elite Eight in 1965

Top 5 NBA players who played college basketball in Tennessee

  1. Bernard King, Tennessee, 1974-1977: Out of all of the alumni that have ever played college basketball in Tennessee, Bernard King is the only one that has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. King averaged 22.5 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game throughout his career, finishing with 19,655 points and 5,060 assists. He made the NBA All-Star team four times and the All-NBA First Team twice in his prolific career.
  2. Derrick Rose, Memphis, 2007-2008: Derrick Rose was the first overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft and was a bonafide superstar before suffering a devastating torn ACL injury in the 2011-12 season. Rose won Rookie of the Year in 2009, was a three-time NBA All-Star from 2010-2012 and was the league’s most valuable player in 2011. He is still a great player when healthy, but injuries have hampered his career and held him back from reaching his former heights.
  3. Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, Memphis, 1990-1993: Penny Hardaway is a Tennessee man through and through. Hardaway was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, played for the Memphis Tigers for three seasons in college and has returned to his alma mater as the team’s head coach since 2018. Like Derrick Rose, Hardaway’s immense potential in the NBA was cut short due to injuries, but he still managed to compile four NBA All-Star appearances and two All-NBA First Team selections.
  4. Dale Ellis, Tennessee, 1979-1983: Second only to Bernard King in NBA scoring among players that played college ball in Tennessee, Ellis racked up 19,004 points over his NBA career. His best years came from 1986 through 1991 with the Seattle Supersonics as he racked up 25.5 points per game over that stretch. Ellis finished his career with a .403 three-point shooting percentage.
  5. Tobias Harris, Tennessee, 2010-2011: Tobias Harris has established himself as a reliable scorer in recent years, averaging at least 18 points per game over the last three seasons. At just 28 years old, Harris already has 9,694 career points under his belt. He’s got a shot at chasing down Bernard King and Dale Ellis in the scoring department if he can stay healthy over the second half of his career.

NCAA basketball betting FAQ

How does the NCAA basketball regular season work?

There are 350 Division I college basketball teams spread across 32 Division I basketball conferences. All of these teams play 27-29 regular-season games; the first two months of the season in November and December are generally comprised of out-of-conference games, while the final three months of the season in January, February, and March are played against conference foes.

Each team’s record against in-conference opponents is used to determine the seeding of conference tournaments, which take place in March. The team that has the best record in the conference will earn the No. 1 seed in that conference’s tournament, the second-best team will earn the No. 2 seed, and so on. The winner of every conference tournament is crowned champion of its respective conference and earns an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

How does the NCAA Tournament work?

The NCAA Tournament field is made up of 68 teams. A committee made up of 10 rotating school and conference administrators come together every year to determine which teams should be included in the field of 68 and what their seeding should be. The 32 teams that won their conference tournaments earn their spots automatically while the other 36 teams are awarded at-large spots based on several factors, including their records and their strength-of-schedule.

Once the field is set and the seeds are determined, they are released on “Selection Sunday”, and March Madness is ready to begin. In the “first four” round, the four lowest-ranked automatic-bid teams clash in two games with the winners advancing into the Round of 64 as No. 16 seeds. The four lowest-ranked at-large bids compete in two play-in games in hopes of advancing into the Round of 64 as No. 11 seeds.

The Round of 64 is broken into four regions. In each region, the No. 1 seed faces the No. 16 seed, the No. 2 seed faces the No. 15 seed, and so on down to the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup. The first set of 16 first-round games are played on Thursday, and the remaining 16 first-round games are played on Friday.

With the bracket whittled down to 32 teams, the Round of 32 begins with eight games on Saturday and wraps up with eight games on Sunday. The 16 teams remaining have advanced into the “Sweet Sixteen.” Four games the following Thursday and four the following Friday cut the field down to the “Elite Eight,” and two games on Saturday and two games on Sunday set the “Final Four.”

All four regional champions travel to the same destination for the national semifinals the following Saturday. On Monday, the remaining two teams meet in the NCAA Championship Game to determine who will be crowned the champion of the season. The tournament’s single-elimination format leaves no room for error and creates the potential for major upsets and “bracket-busters” every season.

Why can’t I live bet on NCAA basketball games like I can in the NBA?

The decision not to include live betting or player props on college games into events that were legal to bet on in Tennessee came when the state approved its sports gambling regulations in 2020. This decision was likely made in an attempt to protect the integrity of the college game and to avoid potential game-fixing.

Will I be able to bet on March Madness games?

Yes. While you can’t live bet on games as they are happening, you will be able to be on individual NCAA games during both the regular season and the postseason.