The Distribution of Totals for Betting Basketball

In the thrilling world of basketball betting, understanding how totals are distributed is key to making informed wagers. This post delves into the nuances of totals betting in basketball, a topic that fascinates both seasoned bettors and newcomers alike.

Basketball, with its dynamic gameplay and high-scoring nature, offers unique opportunities for totals betting. Totals, also known as over/under bets, involve wagering on the combined score of both teams in a game. The complexity of predicting these scores makes for an exciting challenge.

In this blog, we will explore various factors that influence the distribution of totals in basketball betting. Whether you’re looking to refine your betting strategy or just starting out, this post promises valuable insights into one of the most popular forms of sports betting.

So, let’s dive into the exciting world of basketball totals and unlock the secrets to successful betting!


This data comes from the past sixteen years of games in both college basketball and the NBA. Our college basketball dataset contains over 62,000 observations! Having a dataset of this size is very helpful in locking in a solid analysis. Our NBA dataset has just short of 19,000 observations which is also sufficient to get to some accurate numbers.

Now seems like a good time to mention a strange paradox within the data. Numbers at the high end of college basketball and the low end of NBA don’t line up as closely as one would imagine. Given the the sports have nearly identical rules and no real differences that would alter the distribution of numbers, this seems bizarre. Normally, without a very compelling explanation, I would chalk this up to chance. However, we are talking about over 80,000 observations here! This is more than enough data to confirm that this isn’t simply by chance.

NBA Total Point Values

Below is a list of probabilities of a total falling exactly on a number for a full game total in the NBA:

180-194: Odds-2.7%, Evens-2.5%
195-206: Odds-2.6%, Evens=2.4%
207-214: Odds-2.5%, Evens=2.3%
215-223: Odds-2.5%, Evens=2.2%
224-230: Odds-2.4%, Evens=2.1%
231-240: Odds-2.3%, Evens=2.0%

The main thing to note here is that odd numbers will have a slightly higher chance to hiy than even numbers because one has to account for the chance of a tie at the end of regulation. As the spread of a game increases, then this gap will narrow. For example, if the Lakers are a 16 point favorite over the Hawks, then their chance of being tied at the end of regulation is much lower than two teams that are evenly matched.

NCAAB Total Point Values

Below is a list of probabilities of a total falling exactly on a number for a full game total in college basketball:

115-126: Odds-2.6%, Evens-2.3%
127-136: Odds-2.5%, Evens=2.2%
137-152: Odds-2.4%, Evens=2.1%
153-161: Odds-2.3%, Evens=2.1%
161-172: Odds-2.2%, Evens=2.0%

As noted above, these is some discrepancy here between the NBA and NCAAB. College basketball is much more variable than the NBA.

So What is a Point Worth?

Now that we know the distributions, it is just a small math problem to figure out how much a point is worth at each of these values. Since all of our numbers fall between 2.0% and 2.7%, the list below will cover what a half and full point is worth at each of these distributions.

2.0% Half Point-4.1 cents, Full point-8.2 cents
2.1% Half Point-4.3 cents, Full point-8.6 cents
2.2% Half Point-4.5 cents, Full point-9.0 cents
2.3% Half Point-4.7 cents, Full point-9.4 cents
2.4% Half Point-4.9 cents, Full point-9.8 cents
2.5% Half Point-5.1 cents, Full point-10.3 cents
2.6% Half Point-5.3 cents, Full point-10.7 cents
2.7% Half Point-5.5 cents, Full point-11.1 cents

Hope that this is a helpful cheat sheet!