THE best of college basketball.
The Big Dance.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association flagship basketball event – the National Championships – pits 68 college teams in against each other sudden death elimination matches that is eventually whittled down to just one winner.
It’s called March Madness for a reason. Each college has a rampant fan base, whether that be the massive universities like Duke or North Carolina or the tiny little small town ones.
The crowds love the three weeks of March Madness, they dress up, they follow their teams, they literally go mad.
And so do punters!
But how do teams make it to the big dance?
Because there are so many colleges, teams from across the country are sectioned off in divisions. There are 32 conferences in Division one. Each college plays up to 35 games, with about half of those against conference opponents, which decide where they will be seeded against each other in the conference championships.
The winner of each conference championship automatically qualifies for March Madness.
There are then 36 other spots up for grabs in the National Championships.
These are decided by a selection committee, who look at the teams’ records and then decide where they should be ranked – it’s called an ‘at large bid’.
One of the big early events in March Madness is Selection Sunday, which is usually in mid March, a day or two before the tournament starts. This is the day when the tournament teams and seedings are announced.
This is followed by the ‘First Four’, whittling down to the ‘Sweet 16’ ‘Elite Eight’ ‘Final Four’ and then the championship game.
Apart from the office brackets – deemed illegal by authorities and a challenge to the competition’s integrity by the NCAA – punting on March Madness actually exceeds the NFL Super Bowl.
Here’s a look at some of the ways you can lay your hard earned on March Madness futures markets and match markets and a couple of tips to turning it into dollars.
Pick a winner in March Madness games
You’d call this a futures bet and all you have to do is pick which team will stand alone as victorious at the end of the tournament.
You can obviously choose any division one college that the bookie is offering odds for, until the teams are announced on Selection Sunday. Then you’ll obviously only be able to choose from the 68 teams that make it.
As teams are eliminated and the field is reduced, the odds will change markedly and can give you more chances to choose teams or get better (or leaner) odds on the team you backed before the tournament started.
To win, all you have to do is bet on the team that wins.
Some bookies will offer things like tournament brackets, but this is just a little bit of fun. You need to select the teams that will make it through each round, right up to the winner.
The actual odds of picking the correct bracket is near on impossible – actually, the chances of doing it are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to one. Yep, you read it right, 9.2 quintillion to 1. I didn’t even know numbers went that high.
Money line, head-to-head and match bets on March Madness
Money line bets, some times known as head to head or match bets are as easy as it gets when it comes to NCAA March Madness betting.
All you have to do is pick the winner of a two team match!
It’s usually easy early on in the tournament, where the higher seeds play against the outsiders, but, as the numbers reduce, the competition gets tighter and it really can become a toss of a coin.
You’ll find that the odds will often be tied to just how good the college’s basketball program is. The bigger, better colleges will always be shorter than the small town ones or ones without a history of success.
Here is a sample of a college basketball head to head bet:
East Carolina ($9.50) @ Connecticut ($1.07)
This is easy for the bookies. Connecticut has a rich history. East Carolina, not so much.
And their programs are a long way apart. So the Huskies are a heavy favourite to win this one at home. Stranger things have happened in the college game, but the Pirates really are rank outsiders and offer a big price for your stake. You’d need to load plenty to make the $1.07 worth your while.
How do you place a point spread bet?
Here is where you can make a little more money on the college game.
With the point spread, also known as handicap or line, bookies use a points advantage or disadvantage to rate the side, and then offer odds.
The favoured team cops a points disadvantage, using a – value, while the other team will get a + points allocation.
It means the favourite must win by a certain amount for you to collect your winnings, while the outsider can lose, and you will still win, provided the loss is by less than the allocated handicap.
Here’s an example:
East Carolina (+14) ($1.92) @ Connecticut (-14) ($1.92)
Here, Connecticut must win by more than 14 points for you to collect you winnings. If you back them and they win by 13, you lose. They must win by 15 or above. On the other hand, East Carolina gets a nice big buffer of 14 points. It’s almost like a head start. If you lay a bet on them and they lose by, say, nine points, you still win. If they lose by 15 or more, you’ve done your dough.
Bookmakers offer alternate lines on most games, they might come in to -5 or +5 or go out as far as -25 or +25. The odds will be adjusted to suit the generosity of the handicap.
Placing margin bets on NCAA basketball
Will the team you picked to win do it by less than 10.5 or more than 10.5?
Margin bets get presented as over – under 10.5 or 1-10 – 11+.
So you have to get two things right. The winner of the game and which bracket the margin fits into.
Here’s a sample of a market:
East Carolina 1-10 ($8.10) or 11+ ($26)
Connecticut 1-10 ($3.66) or 11+ ($1.48)
So the Huskies are favoured to hammer the Pirates by more than 10 points. All other options offer pretty good numbers, but are obviously higher risk.
Similar to alternate lines, there will be some other margins on offer here, usually in a 10, 5, 2 and 1 point bracket (eg: 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31+)
Total match points over/under betting
Decide how many points the two teams will score between them for the match.
Simple, right? Just add them together and there it is.
Well, it’s not that easy.
These odds will be presented in over under format and you have to decide where it sits.
East Carolina @ Connecticut
Over 124.5 ($1.92)
Under 124.5 ($1.92)
So the two teams’ totals are added together. If you back the unders, the sum must equal 124 or less. Go the overs and it has to be 125 or more. As with the previous markets we’ve mentioned, you will find there are other alternates.
Parlay, accumulator or multi bets on NCAA March Madness
Sick of punting on $1.07 chances that are all but guaranteed to win, but return very little bang for your buck?
Parlay bets are your solution.
This is where you place your bet on a series of two or more individual selections, with the odds multiplying by each other to produce a bigger return.
Each one is referred to as a leg and you must get them all correct to get a return.
If you have a five leg parlay and four of them win and one of them loses, you’ve done your dough.
Multis can be really fun and you can include just about any leg in them, provided there is not more than one leg from the same game (competitor dependency)
Have a go at a three leg accumulator here:
Temple is $1.33 to defeat South Florida ($3.48) and that is just about guaranteed. But seriously, how much do you need to put on that to make it worth your while?
Let’s find something that gives us a chance of making decent money.
Now Northern Illinois at $2.05 is a sneaky chance of knocking off Miami Ohio ($1.81) on the road, let’s whack them in there, and then add Mississippi at $1.41 to take the chocolates against Texas A & M ($3.04).
$1.33 X $2.05 X $1.41 = $3.85
That’s more like it!
Obviously the result hinges on three games instead of one. But now you don’t need a monstrous stake for a decent collect.
You can put more and more legs in it to increase the odds even further, but obviously, as you do that, the chances of winning decrease.
It doesn’t just have to be using head to head games either. We just did that to keep it simple. Throw in a margin leg, a points leg, a handicap leg, pretty much anything.
Match – total double betting on NCAA March Madness games
Combine your head to head bet with the over under points here to get better odds.
Here you must pick the winner of the game and how many points the two teams will score between them.
In a game between Georgia Tech and Duke:
Georgia Tech – over 138.5 ($20)
Georgia Tech – under 138.5 ($18)
Duke – over 138.5 ($2.11)
Duke – under 119 ($1.89)
If an upset is on the cards, this is seriously juicy. But, Duke, being Duke, they’ll probably crush Georgia Tech and rattle up a huge total.
NCAA March Madness tri bets
More margin betting, but with the added bonus of being able to select both teams as one of the options.
You get three choices:
Georgia Tech -7.5 ($28)
Either team wins by 7 or less ($5.10)
Duke -7.5 ($1.16)
With the second option, you get both teams, but you have to hope they win by seven or less, or you’ve done your dough. Duke is the heavy favourite in the match, so naturally their odds to cover the line will be shorter.
First half and second half basketball wagers
Markets here are based on the halves, rather than the match.
Similar options will be provided to match betting, but you have to select the winner just for half the game.
If you think a side will come out strong, but run out of puff, these are the best for you.
Bet on the half handicaps, totals, margins, head to heads, etc.
You’ll also get half time full time double options, where you need to select how the score will look at the break and full time.
Something like this:
Georgia Tech – Georgia Tech ($19.75)
Georgia Tech – Duke ($9.60)
Duke – Duke ($1.14)
Duke – Georgia Tech ($23)
Tie – Georgia Tech ($176)
Tie – Duke ($36)
NCAA props and player props bets
Forget about how the match is going to end up, how many points is your favourite player going to score?
Which half will be the highest scoring one?
These focus in on things that don’t necessarily impact the result of the match.
Obviously if your guy comes out and scores 40, then it’s going to go a long way toward winning the game, but it still doesn’t guarantee it.
Some of these bets will also take two players and put them up against each other in a scoring match. So player A might get a -2.5 point handicap and
Player B +2.5. This works exactly the same as line betting, except your player has to either outscore, or stay within the point spread in the match.
Live betting on NCAA Basketball
Georgia Tech is up by 20 at half time against Duke? You must be joking!
Rank outsiders at $9.50 to start the game, Tech has jumped out of the blocks and Duke ($1.07 at the start) is reeling.
But the sleeping giant is sure to awaken at half time.
The Blue Devils have gone out to $1.85 and represent some serious value, considering they rarely lose early in the tournament. Load up at half time and watch them make a come back against the yellow jackets.
Tips to making money on NCAA March Madness bets
As with every sport, there’s always risk involved when putting down your hard earned on a result you have no control over.
But here are a few tips to getting the most bang for your buck.
The number one thing is to always remember to gamble within your means. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Make sure the bills are paid, the kids are fed and your obligations are fulfilled. Then you can have a little fun.
Open betting accounts with all the big bookies so you can compare odds, take advantage of the specials and bonuses on offer and make sure you don’t get duped out of dough because one bookie is offering better value than another on a particular result.
Keep an eye out for the mythical Cinderella Squad. The team that looks like it can come from the clouds and knock off the big seeds. Legend has it that there’s one every year that offers great value. Can you pick it out.
Be wary of the top seed. Those lines can be huge and they’re simply not guaranteed to cover. Remember, it’s early in the tourney, the outsiders have almost no chance and theses top seeds know it. They’re in cruise control, saving themselves for the late rounds.
Do your research. Learn about the school’s basketball program and its history. There’s 68 teams in this tournament. Each will have its own history, some better than others. Back the teams that win regularly and have done so for many years. See what they’ve done against each other in the past. If they haven’t played each other, look at season records, injury lists, how good the conference is that they come from, etc.
If they’re in double figures, it’s worth a look. It’s always a big risk, but teams who are rank outsiders can and do get the job done against the top seeds on the odd occasion. Keep an eye on them for both win bets and at the line.
The top seeds almost always win in the Sweet 16. This is usually seeds up against seeds, but the higher ranked side usually does the job, and often covers the line, because they are smaller, considering the competition is meant to be tighter. Look for the seed in single digits against those ranked outside the top 10.
Mike Krzyzewski? Tom Izzo? The top coaches always win in March Madness. It’s just a fact. Watch those coaches and teams who have a rich history in the game and back them to get over the top nine times out of 10.
Make sure you watch the games. Too many people punt without actually watching the games. Watching gives you a feel of how good a team is, whether they’ve been winning their games easily or doing it tough, giving you a greater chance to get line and margin bets home. Don’t look at the lines before you have an idea in your head of who you like to win. Decide who you like, then take a look and see if it matches up.
Did you know?
Here are a few fun facts about March Madness you may or may not be aware of.
Amazingly, up to $2.5 billion is bet illegally on March Madness each year.
It’s a bit of a conundrum this.
The office March Madness bracket is actually illegal.
Can you believe that, a bit of fun with mates?
That’s the way things are.
Loose figures show that for every 10 people in the USA, one of them is involved in a bracket. That’s a whole lot of crime.
Of course, not all of it is for money, but you’d be spewing if you picked the bracket and did not have a little dough on it.
It is the biggest betting event in the country, ahead of the Super Bowl.
Holding court – did you know the college that wins the National Title is actually given the court to take home?
The court is ripped up and sent to a new home. Some universities choose to rip up their home floor and repaint the one they won the title on, for a bit of luck.
Others use it as a money spinner, selling pieces of it off as memorabilia for fans.
March Madness makes billions of dollars from telecasts, which benefits the schools and conferences, as the NCAA is a not for profit organisation.
List of NCAA Championship winners since 1990
2014 Connecticut 60-54 Kentucky
2013 Louisville 82-76 Michigan
2012 Kentucky 67-59 Kansas
2011 Connecticut 53-41 Butler
2010 Duke 61-59 Butler
2009 North Carolina 89-72 Michigan State
2008 Kansas 75-68 (OT) Memphis
2007 Florida 84-75 Ohio State
2006 Florida 73-57 UCLA
2005 North Carolina 75-70 Illinois
2004 Connecticut 82-73 Georgia Tech
2003 Syracuse 81-78 Kansas
2002 Maryland 64-52 Indiana
2001 Duke 82-72 Arizona
2000 Michigan State 89-76 Florida
1999 Connecticut 77-74 Duke
1998 Kentucky 78-69 Utah
1997 Arizona 84-79 (OT) Kentucky
1996 Kentucky Rick Pitino 76-67 Syracuse
1995 UCLA 89-78 Arkansas
1994 Arkansas 76-72 Duke
1993 North Carolina 77-71 Michigan
1992 Duke 71-51 Michigan
1991 Duke 72-65 Kansas Indianapolis, Ind.
1990 UNLV 103-73 Duke
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