SportsBook 101: March Madness Betting

Las Vegas Hilton SportsBook When it comes to sports wagering, the first three months of the year see the highest volume of sports betting than any other time of year. NFL playoffs along with college bowl games see an uptick in wagering all the way to the Granddaddy of sports wagering days, Super Bowl. But not to be outdone, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, commonly called March Madness, sees a tremendous amount of wagering as well. This installment of SportsBook 101 is here to help you not only do well on your office pool bracket but to also do some damage on the individual games as well.

When it comes to dropping a few bucks on March Madness games, we could all use a little help with a few NCAA tournament predictions. Because the make up of a college basketball team can change drastically from year to year based on playing experience, new players coming in, old players graduating or star players leaving early to join the NBA, spotting trends to place a wager can be difficult. That is why because of the seeding process the NCAA selection committee comes up with, bettors and bracket pool players might be in a good position to spot a winner.

Based on the way the brackets are set up, the top seeded team in each region plays the weakest team in that bracket. Normally the No. 1 seed goes to one of the major teams in the country from one of the major power conferences. The 16 seed typically goes to the smaller school that squeaked by virtue of an automatic bid by winning their conference championship. In the history of the NCAA tournament, a No. 16 has never beaten a No. 1 seed. Please keep in mind that although No. 1 seeds are perfect straight up, they are only slightly above .500 compared to the betting line. When compared to how well they cover the spread, No. 1 seeds are only 20-18-2 which is 52.6% against the spread. This phenomenon is probably due to the spread is typically double digits in those games and by the time the game is well in hand, the No. 1 seeds will empty their bench and invariably allow the underdog to cover. Coaches of major college basketball teams don’t care about gamblers and could care less if they cover some arbitrary number put out there by bookmakers.

The No. 2 vs. No. 15 seeded games tend to favor the underdogs the past 10 years. In those contests, the No. 2 seeds are just 18-22 against the spread which equates to 45% win percentage. Interestingly enough, the “under” has been a strong play for the past ten years with the games averaging 134 total points.

Looking at the No. 3 seeds traditionally, they have gone 21-18-1 against the spread. Playing the under is a strong consideration with No. 3 seeds with point total going less than expected 25 out of 39 times. Only once in the last ten years did a No. 3 vs. No. 14 game hit the over/under point prediction on the nose.

If you are a money line player and like the value of an upset straight up winner, you’ll want to target the games involving the No. 4 vs. 13 seeds and the No. 5 vs. No. 12 seeds. Based on being a higher seed and a perceived better team, the fours and fives typically are the favorites in sports books. That translates into money line value for those teams poised for the upset. In the past 10 years, No. 4 seeds have advanced to the second round 75% of the time. For those 10 games when the No. 4 seed was upset, you can guarantee the money line was quite lucrative. Also, the No. 4 seeds are not that great of a play when giving points because they have only covered the number just a hair over 50% of the time in the past 10 years. Those bettors that like total points bets, the over is quite attractive with No. 4 vs. No. 13 seeded games. Teams have gone over the number 61.5% of the time in the past 10 years with an average score of 142.5 points.

For the longest time the No. 5 vs. No. 12 upset was a well kept secret. But recently since more and more 12 seeds have embarrassed the five seeds, now everyone knows to look closely at those games for the potential upset. This is for good reason. No. 5 seeds have only gone 23-17 straight up over the last 10 years and they are below .500 against the spread winning 19 times and losing 21 times against the number in the past 10 years. If you are squeamish about trying to pick off the upsets, try playing the over in these match ups. These games have gone over the number 22 out of 40 games in the past 10 years racking up an average total of 140.6 points.

With so many games played on the first few days of the NCAA Tournament, we could go on and on with analysis of all the seeds and how they have traditionally fared. But with the options of underdogs, favorites and your choice of the over/under, hitting the top five seeds should give you plenty of trends and statistics to make your sports betting a little more interesting.