NCAA Tournament Betting Trends 2019
The NCAA Tournament is the best event in sports every year, and the first two days are, unlike any other event, when it peaks. So many games at one time, two whole days of excitement, and so much drama. It's just chaos - of the best kind. To help us prepare for those two glorious days on Thursday and Friday, I want to look back at the first 32 games of the tournament last year from a few different angles to see what we can learn:
Favorites: It was a profitable venture last year betting on the favorites across the board last year in the first round, but it wasn't as strong in the end as it looked like it might be. The favorites got off to a very solid 10-5-1 ATS start on Thursday but then faltered on Friday and wound up just 7-8 ATS. There was a pick 'em game on Friday that obviously didn't have a favorite. Overall, then, the favorites went a profitable 17-13-1 ATS over the two days. That is far better than it has been the last few years - the favorites went 14-15-1 ATS two years ago, 15-16 ATS in 2016, and an ugly 13-19 ATS in 2015. Included in that 2015 run was a gross Thursday session in which the favorites went just 4-12 ATS.
Underdog outright winners: I love it when underdogs win outright because I love betting them on the moneyline. And last year was a pretty fun couple of days for that. The highlight, of course, was UMBC, the No. 16 seed that not only covered a giant 20.5-point spread but rocked the world by becoming the first No. 16 to win outright. It's a game we'll never forget. We also saw two No. 13 seeds win - Buffalo over Arizona as a nine-point dog on Thursday, and Marshall as a 13.5-point dog over Wichita State. Overall, we saw three underdogs win outright on Thursday and four more on Friday. That probably wasn't enough to be profitable across the board, but if you were selective there were profits to be had. It was an improvement over 2017 when only four underdogs won outright. The year 2016 featured six outright dog winners out of the 16 games played on Thursday for a day that dog bettors will not soon forget.
Lower seeds: Last year there were only two lower seed that were favored. Both Butler and Florida State won very handily. In 2016 there were four lower-seeded favorites, and they went 2-2 ATS, so last year was more profitable despite the fewer games. In 2015, we saw a remarkable eight lower-seed favorites, and they went a stellar 6-2 ATS.
Close to home: There is a theory held by many bettors that teams that play close to home have a big advantage in the first round. Travel isn't as much of a scramble, and they are likely to have better fan support. To test this theory, we are going to do a simple test. This isn't perfect, but I don't want to spend all night staring at Google Maps. What we will look at are teams that got to play in their home state, and how they fared. This year six teams had that privilege, but two - played each other - Stephen F, Austin and Texas Tech met in Dallas. On the Thursday, Villanova covered in Pittsburgh, and Kansas covered in Wichita. But the momentum didn't carry to the next day when Michigan State in Detroit and North Carolina in Charlotte both failed to cover. Six teams in their home state was a serious drop-off from 2016 when 22 teams fit our criteria. After removing the head-to-head games, the squads went a strong 11-6-1 ATS. In 2016 they went 6-3 ATS, and 6-4 ATS the year before, so profits seem to come along with home cooking.
Play-in game winners: Play-in games are ridiculous, and nothing is going to change my mind about that. And they aren't much use for bettors, either. The winners of the play-in games last year went 2-2 ATS. Texas Southern covered by half a point, Syracuse won outright, and St, Bonaventure and Radford didn't cover. If 2-2 ATS sounds familiar, it's because it's the same mark that the teams went the three prior years as well.
Double digit spreads: There were 15 games in the first round last year that featured double-digit favorites. Those teams went a pretty useless 8-7 ATS. In 2017, double-digit favored teams went 6-7-1 ATS to essentially break even again. In 2016, the favorites went 9-4 ATS, though, and the year before they were 2-8 ATS. No trends to spot over these last four years.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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