NCAA Tournament Betting Trends
by Trevor Whenham - 3/23/2011
We can often learn a lot in sports betting about what is likely to happen in the future from what has happened in the past. That can especially be true with something like the NCAA Tournament where we see the same teams playing in increasingly pressure-filled games over a short time frame. Here’s a day-by-day look back at the first four days of the 2011 tournament from a betting perspective so we can see which NCAA Tournament betting trends have emerged that could be useful:
The tournament opened up reasonably true to form. Outside of Morehead State’s shocking upset of Louisville, the teams that were clearly supposed to win did, and March Madness brackets were not (yet) badly damaged.
Favorites - It was a decent day to be a public bettor as favorites opened the tournament by going 9-7 against the spread. The public likes their Cinderella teams, so they would have been happy that both Butler and Gonzaga came out on top.
Double-digit favorites - Teams that were facing a reasonably easy task -- at least according to the oddsmakers -- didn’t disappoint. There were five double-digit favorites, and four covered the spread. The only one that didn’t was Kentucky as they struggled with Princeton’s quirky schemes.
Games with spreads of two points or less - There were six games that were deemed to be basically a coin flip by the oddsmakers, and the favorites came out on top in four of them.
Totals - The ‘over’ had the edge, but not enough to make a significant profit -- eight games went ‘over’ the total, while seven went ‘under’ and one pushed.
Top four seeds - Half of the 16 top four seeds in the tournament were in action on this day. Louisville was the only one to lose, and overall the group was a respectable 5-3 ATS on the day.
Top two seeds - These teams are supposed to be the class of the tournament -- the most likely winners. On this day they certainly came through -- they were a combined 3-0 ATS.
Underdogs winning outright - There were four underdogs that would have paid out on the moneyline. Two of them wouldn’t have paid much, though -- they were only one-point underdogs.
Day 2 was pretty straight forward in terms of results as well -- no team higher than a six seed was upset. It was a more challenging day for bettors, though -- at least for public bettors.
Favorites - It was a decent day for underdogs -- at least from a betting perspective. They didn’t win a lot of games, but they covered a solid majority -- favorites were just 6-10 ATS.
Double-digit favorites - Big favorites didn’t treat bettors nearly as well as the first day. There were eight such games, and the favorites only covered in four.
Games with spreads of two points or less - The coin flip went the other way today -- three of these five games were won by the underdog.
Totals - It was a very good day to be a pessimist -- just four games went ‘over’ the total with one push. That means that 11 games were ‘unders’.
Top four seeds - The eight teams at the top of the seedings all emerged safely, but were frustratingly average against the spread -- just 4-4 ATS.
Top two seeds - The strong teams were not so strong for bettors today -- they were a dismal 2-3 ATS.
Underdogs outright winning - Like the first day there were four underdogs that won outright, but three of the favorites were favored by two points or less so they could hardly be called a shocking upset.
Second round summary - Favorites were 15-17 ATS, while the ‘over’ was 12-18-2.
Favorites - The public had a very good day on Saturday -- favorites were an impressive 7-1 ATS. The only favorite that didn’t cover was Pitt, who lost to Butler.
Double-digit favorites - There were none.
Games with spreads of two points or less - Surprisingly, there was just one game deemed this close. The favorite, BYU, won handily.
Totals - Again the public bias was well rewarded here -- six of the eight games went ‘over’ the total.
Top four seeds - Because Thursday was relatively free of shocking upsets every game but one involved a top four seed. The top teams were 6-1 ATS, with only Pitt disappointing.
Top two seed - Again, the top seeds took care of business -- they were 2-1 ATS.
Underdogs outright winning - You get the point by now -- Pitt was the only victim.
Favorites - Day 4 was almost as bad for public bettors as day three was good -- favorites were a dismal 2-6 ATS. It was a day for the underdog and, as we’ll see, for the upset.
Double-digit favorites - Big favorites weren’t great, but better than favorites overall on the day -- they were 1-1 ATS.
Games with spreads of two points or less - There were none.
Totals - The day proved nothing the ‘over’ and the ‘under’ were both winners four times.
Top four seeds - It was carnage. Every game featured a top four seed, and they were all favored, so the top four seeds were just 2-6 ATS on the day.
Top two seed - It wasn’t much better for the elite teams -- they were just 2-3 ATS, and Notre Dame was an outright loser.
Underdogs outright winning - Four underdogs had days to remember, knocking off Texas, Purdue, Syracuse, and Notre Dame.
Round three summary - Favorites were 9-7 ATS, and the ‘over’ was 10-6 on the weekend.
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