Ultimate March Madness Betting Guide. Learn betting strategies for a profitable tournament season. Perfect bracket contests are for chumps! Read on.
Cached 2021-06-20 14:01:37
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Note: The entire 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will be contested in Indiana. The Elite 8 and Final 4 will both play in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.
|Selection Sunday||TBS 6:00PM ET
|March 14, 2021|
|First Four||Bloomington, IN||March 18, 2021|
|First Round Begins||Various Sites, IN||March 19-20, 2021|
|Second Round Begins||Various Sites, IN||March 21-22, 2021|
|Sweet 16||Banker’s Life & Hinkle Fieldhouses||March 27-28, 2021|
|Elite Eight||Lucas Oil Stadium||March 29-30, 2021|
|Final Four||Lucas Oil Stadium||April 3-5, 2021|
Don’t Enter Perfect Bracket Contests
Don’t pay to enter a March Madness bracket contest! It’s a losing investment. And free contests just waste your time. The chances of a perfect March Madness bracket are almost none. Different prediction models reveal daunting odds.
Random pickers face impossible odds, 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,777,808. That’s 1 in 9.2 quintillion, according to Forbes.
Knowledgeable pickers will do better, 1 in 128,000,000,000. That’s 1 in 128 billion, according to Professor Jeff Bergen of Depaul University. He describes the calculation in this video.
Slightly Better Options
FiveThirtyEight modeled predictions off the 2015 tournament field. Odds narrowed to 1 in 1,610,543,269. That’s still 1 in 1.6 million for highly capable sports handicappers!
Warren Buffet, the oracle of Omaha, famously offered $1 Billion to any Berkshire Hathaway employee with a perfect bracket. A consummate numbers man, Buffet knew he would never pay. And he was right!
How to Win March Madness Betting
1. Fade The Public Against the Spread
Recreational bettors frequently bet popular teams during March Madness. Lines are ignored. They believe big names like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky will all have blowout wins. Money flows in for these teams.
Suppose Duke vs. Virginia opens Duke -10. Duke must win by 10 or more points.
First research Virginia’s record against the spread. Check how often they’ve covered as underdogs.
Second check the line. Suppose it’s just moved to Duke -13.5. This indicates the public likes Duke. Remember the sportsbook wants to balance its action. Making it harder for Duke to cover encourages action on Virginia. Should you still follow the public? No!
Take Virginia if they’ve consistently won against the spread. Bet against the public when line moves present an opportunity!
One 2008 bettor discovered a profitable relationship. A 0.5 pt line increase for the favorite with 65% or more public taking the favorite lost against the spread 80% or more. That means he took the underdog ATS to win.
Wait until 30 minutes before tipoff to see which underdogs get action. This is sharp money coming in. Bet with the sharps.
2. Spread and Total Straight Bets
Carefully shop sportsbook lines. Your efforts will be rewarded!
Identify good total betting opportunities from a sportsbook’s spread and total numbers. See our calculation here. An edge exists if the calculation reveals an inconsistency.
If the projected total is under the sportsbook’s total, bet the under. If the projected total is over the sportsbook’s total, bet the over.
Finding good spread bets isn’t hard if you can handicap college basketball. Look for matchups where the sportsbook’s spread overestimates a favorite’s ability to cover. Here you’ll take the underdog.
Also look for matchups where the sportsbook’s spread underestimates a favorite’s ability to cover. Here you’ll take the favorite. It’s OK to be a chalk eater. A small win is better than a big loss.
Review each team’s seasonal performance against the spread here.
3. March Madness Prop Bets
Will a #1 seed win the tournament?
- Yes +120
- No -160
Those numbers mean Yes bets $120 to win $100. No bets $100 to win $160.
Analyze historical trends and bet smart. Between 1985-2016 a #1 seed has won 61.2%, 19/31 times. It’s not a sure thing. #2 Villanova fans still celebrate upsetting #1 North Carolina 77-74 in 2016. 🙂
But it is more likely than not. 61.2% occurrence over 31 years is somewhat reliable. Bet Yes $120 to win $100.
How many #1 Seeds will make the final four?
- 0 +450
- 1 +150
- 2 +180
- 3 +500
- 4 +2000
Through 2017 at least one #1 seed makes the Final Four 40.38% of the time. The bettor will collect $150 for risking $100. Note +450 for 0 teams making the Final Four. That means it is less likely and therefore more risky. Reorder the lines in your head. You’ll see 1 or 2 #1 teams are most likely.
Hoping all 4 #1 seeds make the Final Four? It’s happened once since 1985, 4% of the time. That’s why $100 wins $2,000. That’s a risky longshot.
These props combine three different elements which don’t rely on sportsbook lines.
One is the tournament seeding process. Stay on top of Selection Sunday! Minor rule changes have been made over the years. Understand why teams get top seeds.
Two are historical occurrences discussed above. Some are reliable. Some are not.
Three is each team’s potential regardless of its seed. If a #1 team is over-seeded don’t bet that all 4 #1 seeds will make the Final Four. If a #3 team is under-seeded bet at least 1 #3 team will make the Final Four.
Review past Final Four appearances by seed. See our table below.
4. Ignore Early Round #1 and #2 Seed Parlays
Not worth it: All #1 moneyline 4 team parlay. Might be worth it: All #1 and #2 moneyline 8 team parlay.
A #1 seed has only lost once. That was in 2018 when #16 UMBC beat #1 Virginia 74-54.
Otherwise, a 4 team moneyline parlay should be easy money, right?
Not if you want to bet $1000 to win $50. It’s nearly a sure thing. But it wastes your bankroll. Most sportsbooks don’t offer moneylines for these games.
A #1 and #2 seed 8 team parlay would pay better. This assumes ML odds are available for each game. Sharp books might offer them. Payout could be better, $100 to win $40.
Remember you run the risk of a #2 upset. This has happened! See tables below.
Consider reviewing your sportsbook’s March Madness prop bets. These obvious winners could be packaged differently with less favorable odds. Don’t bet them blindly.
Stick to early round straight bets or lower seed parlays. Oddsmakers are well aware which teams are likely to win. Obvious winning bets will pay nothing and tie up bank roll.
Best March Madness Buzzer Beaters
It ain’t over till it’s over!
March Madness Betting Tips
- Refresh your bankroll before the tournament begins. Deposit early to avoid last minute credit card processing glitches.
- Don’t take March Madness sportsbook bonuses if they’ll hurt your profit potential. Bonus play through requirements don’t justify the headache. This is another way sportsbooks claw back profit from recreational bettors.
- Shop college basketball lines at multiple sportsbooks. SB3 has live odds here.
- Search for under-seeded parlay opportunities during early rounds. #1 and #2 team parlays will not have favorable moneyline odds. Look at teams seeded #4-#12.
- Don’t ignore good prop bets. Some are favorable to savvy bettors. Always visit your sportsbook’s prop bet page before March Madness begins.
NCAA D1 Basketball Tournament History
The first NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament took place in 1939. Seeding began in 1979. Tournament format has changed over the years with gradual inclusion of more teams. 68 teams have participated since 2011.
32 teams receive automatic bids if they are conference champions. 36 additional teams are picked on Selection Sunday. The selection committee is comprised of 10 members serving 5 year terms.
Seeds are determined in sets of 4. Teams 60-68 must play-in to the tournament for seeds between 11-16 depending on selection committee ranking. These equally seeded teams, or “teams on the bubble”, battle each other for an automatic tournament berth.
In 2012 it was revealed the committee ranks teams 1 to 68. They assess the likelihood a team can win the tournament. Despite these expert predictions, the occasional Cinderella team has lasted longer than expected.
Most games are nationally televised. TV audiences for the Final Four are second only to the Super Bowl in annual viewership. This makes March Madness Betting particularly exciting. Popular sports commentators like Dick Vitale, known for his energy, insight and voluble banter have made their careers on March Madness. Vitale famously exclaimed, “It’s Awesome, Baby!”.
March Madness Betting Tables and Reference
More Likely Than a Perfect March Madness Bracket
|Killed by a falling coconut||1 in 250 million|
|Killed by a vending machine||1 in 112 million|
|Naturally having quintuplets||1 in 60 million|
|Killed by a shark||1 in 3.7 million|
|Struck by lightning this year||1 in 700,000|
|Royal flush in first poker hand||1 in 649,740|
|Having Conjoined Twins||1 in 115,300|
|Pogo stick injury requiring ER||1 in 200,000|
|Dating a Supermodel||1 in 88,000|
|Dating a millionaire||1 in 216|
NCAA Div I Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four Teams
|Year||Winning Team||Runner Up||Final Four||Final Four|
|2021||Baylor #1||Gonzaga #1||Houston #2||UCLA #11|
|2019||Virginia #1||Texas Tech #3||Michigan State #2||Auburn #5|
|2018||Villanova #1||Michigan #3||Kansas #1||Loyola-Chicago #11|
|2017||North Carolina #1||Gonzaga #1||Oregon #3||South Carolina #7|
|2016||Villanova #2||North Carolina #1||Oklahoma #2||Syracuse #10|
|2015||Duke #1||Wisconsin #1||Kentucky #1||Michigan State #7|
|2014||Connecticut #7||Kentucky #8||Florida #1||Wisconsin #2|
|2013||Louisville #1||Michigan #4||Wichita State #9||Syracuse #4|
|2012||Kentucky #1||Kansas #2||Louisville #4||Ohio State #2|
|2011||Connecticut #3||Butler #8||Kentucky #4||VCU #11|
|2010||Duke #1||Butler #5||West Virginia #2||Michigan State #5|
|2009||North Carolina #1||Michigan State #2||Villanova #3||Connecticut #1|
|2008||Kansas #1||Memphis #1||North Carolina #1||UCLA #1|
|2007||Florida #1||Ohio State #1||UCLA #2||Georgetown #2|
|2006||Florida #3||UCLA #2||George Mason #11||LSU #4|
|2005||North Carolina #1||Illinois #1||Michigan State #5||Louisville #4|
|2004||Connecticut #2||Georgia Tech #3||Duke #1||Oklahoma State #2|
|2003||Syracuse #3||Kansas #2||Texas #1||Marquette #3|
|2002||Maryland #1||Indiana #5||Kansas #1||Oklahoma #2|
|2001||Duke #1||Arizona #2||Maryland #3||Michigan State #1|
|2000||Michigan State #1||Florida #5||Wisconsin #8||North Carolina #8|
|1999||Connecticut #1||Duke #1||Ohio State #4||Michigan State #1|
|1998||Kentucky #2||Utah #3||Stanford #3||North Carolina #1|
|1997||Arizona #4||Kentucky #1||North Carolina #1||Minnesota #1|
|1996||Kentucky #1||Syracuse #4||Massachusetts #1||Mississippi State #5|
|1995||UCLA #1||Arkansas #2||Oklahoma State #4||North Carolina #2|
|1994||Arkansas #1||Duke #2||Arizona #2||Florida #3|
|1993||North Carolina #1||Michigan #1||Kansas #2||Kentucky #1|
|1992||Duke #1||Michigan #6||Indiana #2||Cincinnati #4|
|1991||Duke #1||Kansas #3||UNLV #1||North Carolina #2|
|1990||UNLV #1||Duke #3||Georgia Tech #4||Arkansas #4|
|1989||Michigan #3||Seton Hall #3||Illinois #1||Duke #2|
|1988||Kansas #6||Oklahoma #1||Duke #2||Arizona #1|
|1987||Indiana #1||Syracuse #2||UNLV #1||Providence #6|
|1986||Louisville #2||Duke #1||LSU #11||Kansas #1|
|1985||Villanova #8||Georgetown #1||Memphis #2||St. John's #1|
|1984||Georgetown #1||Houston #2||Kentucky #1||Virginia #7|
|1983||NC State #6||Houston #1||Louisville #1||Georgia #4|
|1982||North Carolina #1||Georgetown #1||Houston #6||Louisville #3|
|1981||Indiana #3||North Carolina #2||Virginia #1||LSU #1|
|1980||Louisville #2||UCLA #8||Purdue #6||Iowa #5|
|1979||Michigan State #2||Indiana State #1||DePaul #2||Pennsylvania #9|
|1972||UCLA||Florida State||North Carolina||Louisville|
|1970||UCLA||Jacksonville||New Mexico State||St. Bonaventure|
|1968||UCLA||North Carolina||Ohio State||Houston|
|1962||Cincinnati||Ohio State||Wake Forest||UCLA|
|1961||Cincinnati||Ohio State||Saint Joseph's||Utah|
|1957||North Carolina||Kansas||San Francisco||Michigan State|
|1952||Kansas||St. John's||Illinois||Santa Clara|
|1951||Kentucky||Kansas State||Illinois||Oklahoma State|
|1949||Kentucky||Oklahoma State||Illinois||Oregon State|
|1948||Kentucky||Baylor||Holy Cross||Kansas State|
|1946||Oklahoma State||North Carolina||Ohio State||California|
|1945||Oklahoma State||NYU||Arkansas||Ohio State|
|1944||Utah||Dartmouth||Iowa State||Ohio State|
NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Seed Performance
NCAA D1 Basketball Final Fours by Team
|New Mexico State||1|
NCAA D1 Basketball Championships by Team
College Basketball Reading
|Final Four Betting|
|How to Bet on College Basketball – College Basketball Betting Sites|
|Early Season College Basketball Betting Tips|