March Madness Betting Guide
One of the most anticipated sporting events on the American calendar is right around the bend, and it will be coming into focus very soon. College basketball’s single-elimination extravaganza known as the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament creates a wave of excitement which is impossible to easily replicate. 68 teams battle for the right to be the NCAA Tournament champion. Every March of every year, there are a number of eye-popping plot twists, jarring shifts in the landscape, and gut-punching surprises along the way.
If you’re not a seasoned sports bettor and can reasonably view yourself as a novice in wagering on the NCAA Tournament, this article is dedicated to the task of guiding you on how to get a good framework and necessary points of reference you can use to become an informed bettor. We’ll talk about how to study and engage in this process. We will let you know which sportsbooks and apps are the best for March Madness betting, and examine some tips and trends on how to make money betting on high-stakes, single-elimination college basketball games played under enormous pressure by 19- and 20-year-old athletes. Let’s begin:
Why Bet on March Madness Online
March Madness is always and unfailingly one of the most electric times of the year for sports bettors. You might have read stories or seen viral videos on Twitter of fans at casinos or sportsbooks in Las Vegas erupting when a first-round NCAA Tournament game with a one-point closing spread was won at the buzzer on a made 3-point shot which completely flipped the betting winners.
The tournament of 68 teams provides a jolt of intensity which is hard to match. Only NFL playoff games might exceed the betting energy connected to the NCAA Tournament. People go crazy when the brackets are busted and upsets are sealed, especially the classic 12-over-5 upset which annually seems to happen in the first round. What makes this tournament so much fun is that there are seemingly constant waves of games on first-round Thursday and first-round Friday, and if you know what you’re doing, you can turn a big profit.
- More Convenient To Bet Online
The best way to bet on March Madness odds is to go online. Do you really want to drive to a casino every time you want to place a sports bet? Sure, a trip to a land-based casino is a fun one-time event, but when it comes to sports betting – and more precisely, betting on March Madness – the online realm carries certain advantages. Just log on, look at the odds to win NCAA Tournament and bet from wherever you are.
- No Printed Ticket Needed
When you bet online, you place the bet from your phone or computer, and then if you win, the money is credited to your account. At a land-based casino, the system is archaic. First, you have to stand in line to place your bet, then they give you a printed ticket and if you win the bet, you have to walk all the way back to the casino to cash your ticket. And all the way, you have to carry a bunch of cash to place your bets or if you’ve cashed your bets. That’s out-of-date.
- The Lines Are Always Available Online
During March Madness betting online is the easier and more beneficial method to use when betting on March Madness. For one thing, the lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. You can easily access game lines, futures or props at any point. Whereas in Vegas you have to go to the sportsbook in person during the tournament to see the lines and bet the games.
- Shopping Around For The Best Line
You can have accounts at numerous sportsbooks, which is a highly recommended practice. Having an account at multiple sportsbooks enables you to get the most favorable line, because you can choose from several books. Most importantly, it’s free to do.If you think Team A will beat Team B, and five sportsbooks have Team A favored by 2.5 points but a sixth sportsbook has Team A favored by 1.5 or 2 points, you can then go to that sixth sportsbook to place your bet and decrease your chances of losing. If you’re placing a bet the old-fashioned way, it means you’re literally walking from casino to casino, which is a much harder way to find the betting line you want for the team you think will win.
- Bet From Wherever You Are
The supremely attractive feature of online betting is that you can do it wherever you are, as long as you have internet access. Whether you’re at home, at the sports bar or at the game itself, you’re good to go as long as you have internet access.
- Live Betting
This is another important piece to this process, and it’s a fun one: live betting. Online sportsbooks will have a running betting line as the game is taking place. That in-game line allows you to bet whenever you like but keep in mind the odds change after each play. You can’t really get into the action like that at a land-based casino just because of the gap in technology.
How Can I Bet on March Madness?
Filling out a March Madness bracket is one way to get into the action but betting on the games is a much more realistic way for you to cash in. You can sift through the games, see where there is an edge and bet the games that way. If you’re new to it, here are some of the different types of March Madness bet types:
Moneyline – this is betting on who’ll win the game outright.
Point Spread – this is betting on a margin of victory. The oddsmakers will set a line and you have to determine who will beat the spread.
Totals – You bet on whether the combined final score of the two teams playing will go over or under the set number. Some teams such as Virginia regularly play low-scoring games, so you will see low totals for Virginia games, such as 110 or 113 points. Teams such as Auburn play high-scoring games, so you will see totals at or above 140 in a lot of Auburn games.
Team Futures – these are longer-term bets. As an example, betting on who will win the NCAA Tournament before it starts is a bet made over 3 weeks before the result is finally determined. Betting on a team to make the Final Four is a bet which doesn’t focus on one game, but on a series of results. These bets are obviously riskier; you need more outcomes to go your way to be right, but as you can probably appreciate, these bets often come with much bigger payouts when you bet correctly.
Player Futures – Long-term bets based on player performances. For example, which player will win the Most Outstanding Player Award at the Final Four, or who’ll have the highest points-per-game average in March Madness?
Game Props – These are side bets like “Will A Player Get Ejected?” or “Will The Game Go To Overtime”?
Bracket Pools – You fill out a bracket – either free or pay to enter. Usually, the free pools force you to be perfect or close to perfect to win. Paid ones usually pay out to whoever has the most right answers. Sportsbooks will often offer free bracket contests, which are the best to join. They’re free and offer huge prizes for whoever comes closest to being accurate.
March Madness Brackets
March Madness free bracket contest prizes? Usually in the millions. Chance of hitting a perfect March Madness bracket? 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (that's 9.2 quintillion). As you can see, the odds are not exactly in your favor. At the same time, it’s still a complete blast to try.
Everyone wants to be that first person who gets everything right. Filling out a bracket is one of the simple, accessible, and most treasured American sports fan traditions. Everyone in the country, for a few days in mid-March, talks with his or her friends and coworkers about the bracket and which upsets to pick, and which team mascots are the best, and more.
Here is the format for the NCAA Tournament:
- A total of 68 teams compete in a single-elimination tournament. Everyone fills out a bracket before any of the games begin.
- As teams advance or are eliminated, you just need to look at your picks from your bracket, round by round and advance winners and cross-out losers.
- There is no re-seeding after rounds. This means the team that wins simply moves on in its part of the bracket.
- The bracket paths for every team are established; the actual opponents are the only variables.
With a large number of upsets every year, it’s very hard to create a perfect bracket. The good news is there are a ton of other contests to join in which you can get rewarded even if you’re not perfect, such as the paid contests we referred to a little earlier.
Regular Bracket – You’ll find there are plenty of both free and paid contests for you to play. The free ones will offer huge prizes while the paid ones are usually just smaller ones (think like office pools, etc).
Second-Chance Bracket Contests – Since there are usually so many upsets in this tournament (the reason why no one has ever produced a perfect bracket of picks), there are some contests in which you can either buy-in again (make a second new bracket at the Sweet 16, after the first weekend of the tournament) or the online betting site will simply run a second contest for only the Sweet 16 and beyond. That way, if your bracket is busted after the first weekend, you can still have fun for the remaining rounds over the remaining two weekends of this three-weekend tournament.
Making Good March Madness Bets For Your Bracket
- No. 1 Seeds Are No. 1 For A Reason
On average, No. 1 seeds go the deepest in the tournament, so don’t pick many upsets of them early in the tournament. Each year, they’ll win 3.4 games on average. Winning three games in the NCAA Tournament means a berth in the Elite Eight, one stop short of the Final Four. This generally means, however, that one of the top seeds loses in the Sweet 16 and two of them make the Final Four. If you study the history of the tournament since straight numerical seeding was introduced to the tournament in 1979, you will notice that top seeds have represented 62% of all national championship game participants over the past 40 years. (From 1939 through 1977, the tournament was unseeded. In 1978, a non-traditional hybrid seeding system was used; this was not the straight seeding system which debuted in 1979.) Overall, the No. 1 seeds are 494-117 in the tournament since 1985 against all other seeds, for a winning percentage of 80.8%. If you’re betting futures or building a bracket, keep the No. 1 seeds at the top of your list. They have the best chances to win March Madness. It is true that not all No. 1 seeds make the Final Four – this happened exactly once, in 2008. However, two top seeds frequently make the Final Four. You don’t want to pick all four top seeds to make the Final Four, but you also don’t want to pick a Final Four without any top seeds. At least one almost always makes it, and that top seed often wins, as Virginia did last year.
- National Champions Are Usually No Lower Than No. 5
Flowing from the last point, you don’t want to go too low (in terms of seed) when picking a national champion. Your lowest threshold should be a No. 5 seed. A total of 15 of the last 17 national champions were seeded No. 1 through No. 5. Since 1996, 92% of tournament champions have come from the top three seeds, with the No. 1 seed winning 15 times out of 24.Whether you’re betting NCAA basketball odds to win championship or picking a winner for your bracket, keep this in mind.
- First Four Teams Are Pesky In Round Of 64
The First Four teams are the ones that have to play on the Tuesday and Wednesday just to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. However, history shows that these teams are a good bet to push for an upset once they do reach the Round of 64.In every year except 2019, a First Four team has then won a game in the Round of 64. That means the First Four team won two NCAA Tournament games two days apart. Skip the No. 16 seeds – only one has ever defeated a top seed — but look at the No. 11 seeds instead. Last year, the lone year when a First Four team didn’t advance, No. 11 Belmont came just three points short of beating No. 6 Maryland in a 79-77 loss.
March Madness Betting
Live betting on March Madness is a smart strategy. It gives you the opportunity to watch some of the game and then make a decision. This removes a lot of the mystery from the game. You get a sense of how the teams react to each other. Then you can make your bet.
As the game continues, the betting lines change very fluidly. If a team is favored by 10 points before tip-off but falls behind by 10 points in the first several minutes, that team might be favored by only two or three points in-game. Everything about the game changes. You need to choose whether the favored team will right the ship or remain ineffective. It’s a separate challenge from picking a game before it starts.
The other key here: With live betting, you can hedge your bet. If you did bet on the 10-point favorite to win before the game started, you can make an in-game live bet on the underdog to cover. You basically bet on the other side to wipe away your loss.
March Madness Props
Props are a type of side bet that allow you to bet on various happenings in the game. It doesn’t necessarily focus on the winner or lose of the game. A lot of fantasy sports players like these types of bets because they usually hone in on the performance of a player or team. Here are some examples of props:
Zion Williams Total Points
Duke Blue Devils Total Rebounds
Given the opponent, the matchup or various other factors, you might have a good read on props in the game.
NCAA Tournament Spreads
The point spread is probably the most common type of college basketball bet. This is a margin of victory or a handicap. The greater the disparity in perceived quality between the teams playing a game, the greater the point spread. This is what a college basketball point spread might look like:
Gonzaga -2.5 -110
Baylor +2.5 -110
In this specific game, Gonzaga is the home team and is listed at -2.5 on the point spread. This means the Bulldogs would need to win by three points or more to cover the point spread. Baylor is listed at +2.5 on the road, which means if it wins outright or loses by two points or fewer, Baylor would cover.
March Madness Money Line
The money line bet isn’t as popular in college basketball as it is in other sports. There are 353 college basketball teams, only 30 NBA teams. This offers a large number of situations in which the talent gap between two college hoop teams is much greater in college basketball than in the NBA. If a team is favored by a whopping 20 points, the moneyline won’t offer a big return on a bet. This is what a college basketball money line might look like:
UCLA Bruins +340
Kansas Jayhawks -400
Kansas is the favorite at home at -400 odds. This means you would need to risk $400 to win $100 by betting the Jayhawks to win on the money line. Meanwhile, UCLA is listed at +340 odds, which means you could bet $100 to win $340 by taking the Bruins.
Here’s an easier way to see the different payouts on each side:
$100 bet on UCLA pays $340.
$100 bet on Kansas pays $25.
This shows you just how different the payouts will be because Kansas is expected to win this game and UCLA is not. Since there is more risk betting UCLA, there is a greater payout.
If you want to bet on a game but don’t want to bet on a team to either win outright or cover the spread, you could place a wager on the total. Betting the total means betting on the combined number of points the two teams in any given matchup will combine to score. This is what the total might look like for a college basketball game.
Clemson Tigers at Princeton Tigers
Over 129.5 (-110)
Under 129.5 (-110)
A final score of 70-60, 80-56, 110-101 all would constitute and over. Scores like 63-60, 59-41 and 70-58 would all result in unders.
March Madness Frequently Asked Questions
Simply open an account at a sportsbook like BetOnline, Bovada or MyBookie (it’s free and takes just a couple of minutes). Then make a deposit. Once you have some money into your account, you can bet all of the March Madness lines.
It is perfectly legal to bet on March Madness.