NCAA Tournament Handicapping: Hedging Your Bets in the Sweet 16
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 3/21/2012
If you still have a dog in the race that is March Madness, consider yourself lucky. Whether it is a bracket in a big-money pool still capable of winning or a future prop bet still standing, surviving the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament not only gives you something to look forward to during the Sweet 16 on Thursday and Friday, but it also gives you plenty of chances to hedge to ensure you are rewarded for making it this far unscathed.
Hedging a bet once you are one win away from a payday is a no brainer. If the team you chose to win before the tournament began is in the Championship Game, simply wager on the other team to win straight up on the moneyline to ensure a big payday. Hedging when you are more than one win away is a little trickier.
The longer the longshot the shorter amount of time it takes before you can hedge, but it is likely too early to start hedging as teams are still four games away from a championship. However, it is important to be aware of opportunities out there, especially on quick notice as Sweet 16 winners on Thursday play in the Elite Eight on Saturday and winners on Friday play on Sunday.
If you picked a team like Louisville, Baylor or Marquette at 35-to-1 to win the National Championship before the NCAA Tournament began, you're still at least one game away and likely two away from a decent hedge opportunity. If by chance you are an Ohio University alum and took the Bobcats to win the NCAA Tournament at 300-to-1 before the tournament began you probably still need another Ohio win because they are +500 long shots just to win their next game.
There are a few opportunities for immediate hedges even though it might seem like there are a lot more. Mapping ahead is crucial when hedging early. For example, if you were to wager on Xavier to win the South Region at 60-to-1, now might seem like a time to hedge with the Musketeers just two wins away from cashing in at 60-to-1. Looking at the Sweet 16 matchup, No. 10 Xavier is facing No. 3 seed Baylor, who is listed at –270 on 5Dimes. There is always some forecasting necessary when hedging more than a game out, but if they were to win they would likely face No. 1 seed Kentucky in the Elite Eight and the Wildcats could be as high as a –650 moneyline favorite.
Hedging your Xavier bet would require laying –270 and then laying around –650, and unless it is a massive initial wager on Xavier, you're better off sitting tight and hoping Xavier can hold on for one more game against Baylor, before hedging against Kentucky.
NCAA Tournament futures bets fluctuate considerably based on matchups, potential future matchups with the way brackets can get rattled after upsets and injuries (for example look at the chart below with opening odds and current odds). There is a short turnaround between Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games. If you have a 30-to-1 longshot or higher like a Louisville or Baylor or Wisconsin or Marquette, you're likely one Sweet 16 win away from a decent hedge opportunity in the Elite Eight and a guaranteed pay day.
For the savvy hedger who also happens to be in a big-money March Madness bracket pool, with the help of an online scenario generator that determines what outcomes in games will do the pool standings, you can also ensure that one or two upsets at the end do not derail your chance to take down the pool.
NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Odds
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