2019 March Madness Betting Tips: How to Bet and What to Look For
Ladies and gentlemen, it's that time of year. You know, the time of year where everyone and their dog has a hot take on who is going to win the upcoming NCAA Tournament. It happens every year, and every single year you're likely to be stuck watching the game with someone who swears on their recently passed away goldfish's life that they correctly predicted half the bracket would be filled by lower seeds or teams that start with the letter D and wear blue shirts as their home jerseys. It really is a frustrating time of year to be a fan of college hoops, but that's why March Madness is one of the greatest tournaments of all time. Because anyone can get in on the action, and it's considered the norm for a month.
Heading into this year's edition of the NCAA Tournament, there are a few teams that are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. You have Gonzaga, who dominated the West Coast Conference despite a Championship Game loss. You have Virginia, Duke, and UNC dominating the ACC conference and essentially every team that stands in their way. And you have Kentucky and Tennessee dominating the SEC. Those five teams are sure to be in the mix when the tournament reaches its climax and the Final Four teams are left standing. Your job, just like my job, is to figure out a way to profit off of these teams, whether that be by betting on them or betting against them to not cover the spread. The choice is ours, and we must make the right one.
If you are relatively new to betting on the NCAA Tournament, welcome. You will be given a quick run-down of what to do and what not to do come tournament time with the goal being to help you win a little bit of money along the way.
For starters, let's take a look at the outright NCAA Tournament odds. These odds represent how likely or unlikely a team is to be the last team standing when the final buzzer goes off on April 8 in Minnesota.
Odds to Win National Championship (Odds Courtesy of Bovada )
Duke +240, Gonzaga +600, Virginia +800, Kentucky +1100, Tennessee +1100, North Carolina +1200, Michigan +1600, Michigan State +1600, Purdue +3300, Texas Tech +3500 and Nevada +3500. The list goes on and on with the highest odds going to teams like Murray State +50,000.
As you can see, Duke is essentially the runaway favorites to win the National Title. They have been lights out all season long and are all but guaranteed a No.1 seed on the bracket and an easier path (supposedly) to the Final Four. If you want to bet Duke to win the tournament, you would profit $240 for every $100 you bet. If you like the looks of Tennessee, you would profit $1100 for every $100 bet, etc.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good Futures bet just as much as the next guy, but the allure of this specific tournament is filling out your bracket and trying to correctly pick as many games right as possible. Filling out a bracket is much trickier than betting on individual games, as each correct selection on the bracket just has to win outright and not cover the spread.
What to Look for in a Bracket
The very first thing you need to do before putting together a bracket is to look at the trends and percentages. We know that only one time in the history of the NCAA tournament a No.1 seed has lost its opening game. That happened last year when No.1 Virginia lost to No.16 UMBC. That will likely not happen again for a very long time, and as such, it's safe to pencil in all four No.1 seeds to the next round. I like the idea of starting the bracket off with a .993 percentage trend on my side.
Furthermore, as I mentioned, you don't have to worry about a No.1 seed covering the huge 20-point spread, as filling out a bracket is simply picking which team you believe is going to win the game and advance to the next round.
Another thing to keep an eye open for when filling out your bracket is lower-seeded teams who are favored over higher-seeded teams. Going back to the keeping up with the trends idea, you should understand that No.10 seeds have beaten No.7 seeds 52 times compared to 84 losses. While that may not seem like a great record, there have been several occasions in the past where the lower seed (No.10) is favored over the No.7 seed. The same can be said for the No.8 vs No.9 game and to some extent the No.5 versus the No.12 seed. Make sure you understand the point spread associated with each game and make your selections accordingly.
This topic has some people on the fence about if it actually matters, but I say it does. College teams are one of the most Jekyll-and-Hyde group of teams in all of sports. Remember, these are kids, and when kids are away from home/playing in hostile environments, they can freeze up and not perform as we expect them too. If a low-seeded West Coast team gets put in the East Region, you have to account for the travel, the time change, and the lack of fan support in that game. That could affect the team in a negative way, and as such you won't want to back them. Top teams who are playing extremely close to home get the benefits of home cooked meals and extremely larger supporting crowds.
How To Make the Best Possible Bracket
With all the information above in the front of your mind, it's time to focus on the end of the tournament. As you can see by the odds, Duke is the clear-cut choice to win the tournament, but the reality of the matter is that the odds-on favorites very rarely win the tournament outright. So, what's the key? Well it's to get as many Final Four teams right as possible. This will allow you to chalk up as many points as possible along the way and then have the opportunity to have your two teams battle it out for the title.
When I choose my Final Four teams, I look for teams who are great at protecting the ball (limiting turnovers), great three-point shooting teams and teams who can knock down their free throws in crunch time. These three factors are crucial to success for any team in the tournament. If you can find a team(s) who check all those boxes, you could potentially have your Final Four team's all but selected.
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