March Madness Odds
San Diego State
As the winter season dwindles, basketball fever spreads across the country. The squeak of sneakers, the thump of a basketball, and the roar of the crowd are clear signals that basketball season is here.
Basketball season is made extra special with March Madness, celebrated by basketball fans every year, usually in mid-March through the beginning of April. It’s a time when the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) men's and women's college basketball tournaments are held.
How does it differ from other bracket contests? How do you bet on its odds? Is betting on such a tournament worth your time?
In this article, we talk about the origin of March Madness and the odds when betting on this contest. We also discuss the betting strategies, tips on reading futures odds, and the legality of placing a bet.
At MaximBet.com, we are dedicated to assisting bettors in analyzing the odds to increase their chances of winning. We are a licensed sportsbook, so you can be sure that you’re legally betting on college basketball.
March Madness Odds
Many star players from last season have already graduated to the professional ranks. Though such a circumstance may have impacted most teams’ standings, it also gave participating schools a fresh start.
With both returning players and new talents on board, March Madness betting couldn’t get any better.
To give you a clue of how March Madness betting odds work, you first need to understand the yearly championship game played for NCAA college basketball.
Every year in March, a total of 68 NCAA men’s basketball teams qualify for a winner-take-all tournament. The field is down to 64 after four play-in games from the first round, leaving four regions of 16 teams.
A voting committee seeds the teams from one through 16 based on their regular season and conference tournament results.
The top seeds face the low-seeded teams. Regardless of its ranking, if a team loses in a matchup, it’s automatically eliminated from the tournament.
However, if, for example, Michigan State advances to the next round, its goal will be to win six straight games to secure the NCAA championship.
Oddsmakers determine the March Madness odds by implying a particular probability of a team winning the entire tournament.
In this type of survive-and-advance scenario, it isn’t easy to win six consecutive games. For this reason, oddsmakers consider many factors regarding the NCAA basketball odds for a particular college team to secure the national title.
In addition, keep in mind that as the pool of teams becomes smaller, the March Madness and the NCAA tournament odds will continue to fluctuate. Considering the line movements, you have to keep yourself updated constantly.
Let’s look at how the championship odds changed as the 2021 March Madness Final Four unfolded.
The early first four favorites in the 2021 March Madness National Championship had been the Gonzaga Bulldogs at +200 (bet $100, win $200), the Baylor Bears at +500 (bet $100, win $500), the Michigan Wolverines at +600 (bet $100, win $600), and the Illinois Fighting Illini at +700 (bet $100, win $700).
Michigan and Illinois had been eliminated, while Gonzaga and Baylor joined the Houston Cougars and the UCLA Bruins in the Final Four.
Since both the Zags and Baylor advanced to the Final Four, bettors who backed these teams had won $200 and $500, respectively.
Understanding March Madness Futures Odds
Futures Bet for College Basketball
A school’s odds to win March Madness is an example of futures bets. You can make bets weeks or even months ahead of the big event.
Generally, oddsmakers set the odds shortly after the conclusion of a season. They look at a team’s past performance, coaching and roster moves, and injuries to determine each school’s probability of winning the championship.
The betting market often gets a rise in popularity around May or June, as some of the star players decide to let go of their college basketball careers to enter the NBA draft.
Once a particular player decides to play in the pro league, he cannot return to the NCAA and continue his amateur status.
Sharp bettors are often good at forecasting who’s leaving and returning which team. This is a skill that newbie bettors need to develop if they are to create a massive betting advantage.
In addition, knowing a team’s stats and analyzing them can give you an edge in the NCAA futures market. If you see odds you like, take them right away to avoid missing out on potential earnings.
Betting Strategies for March Madness Tournament
Records show that underdogs in the 1985 NCAA tournaments covered the spread 44% of the time. The dogs also won outright 29% of the time.
About 70% of matchups have gone under the total, and the favorites have covered seven out of ten games since 2010.
Also, since 2010, three teams have won more than one NCAA title (Duke, UConn, and Villanova). However, none of them have won back-to-back championships.
The past against the spread (ATS) data for each college basketball team in the tournament is one of the numerous data points that can constitute March Madness betting research.
Other factors to look for include:
- Late-season performances
- A team’s defensive proficiency
- “Fading the public” (a contrarian strategy of sports betting when a bettor bets against the gambling public)
- Examining different tournament-specific trends
- The performance of each seed in every round versus the spread
Schools to Root for in the 2021 NCAA Tournament
Basketball games are unpredictable, and upsets are common in the NCAA. If you want to bet on a particular college team, below are some of the schools worth considering:
- Gonzaga University
- Baylor University
- University of Houston
- University of Alabama
- Ohio State
- Florida State
- Oklahoma State
- Creighton University
- Texas Tech
- University of Arkansas
- University of Kansas
- Purdue University
- Villanova University
- University of Southern California (USC)
- Brigham Young University (BYU)
- Louisiana State University (LSU)
- Clemson University
- Georgia Tech
- Rutgers University
- Syracuse University
- Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)
- Georgetown University
- Michigan State
- The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
- Oregon State
- Colgate University
- University of North Texas
- Oral Roberts University
- Drexel University
- University of Hartford
- Duke University
Moneylines, Over/Under Totals, Point Spreads, and Brackets
Moneylines are betting odds on a particular team to win straight-up. These bets are expressed in a number relative to $100.
Let’s say UCLA carries -300 odds. For every $300 bet on the Bruins, the house will pay $100 if the team wins.
On the contrary, the +400 odds are equivalent to a $400 payout on a hundred-dollar bet on the underdog. At the same time, a +2000 odds represent a $2,000 cash out on the same risk.
A top seed’s first-round point spread will have a minus (-) symbol next to a whole number, whereas an underdog’s point spread will have a plus (+) sign.
For a winning bet on the underdog, the team must win or lose by any margin smaller than the point spread.
If the point total or the point spread hits the exact number in which bettors bet, all bets will be refunded in an outcome known as “push.”
On the other hand, over/under are bets on the total number of cumulative points scored by both teams during the game.
Some bettors also participate in March Madness pools or brackets. Brackets are printed or online forms where participants share their predictions and compare them against others in the pool.
Other popular bets in the NCAA tournaments are parlays (two or more bets combined into one) and prop bets (novelty bets for entertainment purposes).
The History of March Madness Betting
A Tradition Is Born
March Madness started in Illinois when the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) sponsored the annual tournament of male high school basketball teams.
From a small invitation affair in 1908, March Madness grew to become a statewide institution with over 900 schools competing by the late 1930s.
The basketball matchups routinely drew sellout crowds to the University of Illinois’ Huff Gymnasium. In a time before television, basketball fever had already reached epidemic proportions in the Land of Lincoln.
The term “madness” captures the excitement that swirls around the sports world as hundreds of college basketball teams from all over the U.S. compete to earn a spot in the tournament.
Sportsbooks released the first betting lines for the NCAA tournament in 1985.
The underdogs have gone 17-17 ATS. Bettors have also seen the ‘under’ go 19-15 since 1985 and has been 7-3 the past ten years.
Historical data is helpful when filling out brackets, but make sure to study matchup stats when choosing individual players.
Giving It a Name
Henry V. Porter, the assistant executive secretary of IHSA, was so impressed by the phenomenon that he wrote an article to commemorate it. He named his essay “March Madness,” first published in the Illinois Interscholastic in 1939.
March Madness became all the more popular between the 1940s and 1950s, the “Golden Era” when Illinois' most legendary teams emerged.
Today’s March Madness
In today’s March Madness, the 68 teams in the tournament are announced during Selection Sunday. Each one receives a seed (1-6) that determines its place in regionals. The NCAA is split into four divisions: South, West, East, and Midwest.
The qualifiers will then move to the third round of the tournament, called Sweet 16. The winning teams in this round will advance to the Elite Eight.
The Elite Eight includes the last eight teams representing the national quarterfinals or the regional finals in the NCAA tournament. The winners of the matchups will then advance to the Final Four.
The Final Four is the fifth round in the March Madness tournament in which only four teams remain. The winners from these matchups will meet in the finals.
The Legality of Placing a Bet
A Supreme Court ruling in May 2018 placed sports betting legalization into the hands of individual states in the U.S.
Today, Nevada isn’t the only state that allows different kinds of legal sports betting, despite the 2020 pandemic. In March 2021, Las Vegas sportsbooks welcomed back the NCAA Tournament after a year-long hiatus due to COVID-19.
Before you place a bet on March Madness, ensure that your current location allows legal sports betting. If you’re physically located within the states listed below, you’ll be able to bet legally on the tournament.
- West Virginia
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
In March 2021, Las Vegas sportsbooks welcomed back the NCAA Tournament after a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
States Where Sports Betting Is Still Illegal
The Supreme Court ruling in May 2018 overturned the 26-year federal ban on sports gambling in all political units. Still, a few states like Wisconsin are adamant about it.
The destiny of legal sports betting in the Badger State remains bleak, as any form of legalization requires an amendment to the state’s constitution.
Similarly, Kentucky rejected House Bill 241, which sought to legalize sports betting in the Bluegrass State.
Meanwhile, although some lawmakers in Missouri have presented sports betting bills on the table, there have been no legal betting options available in the state as of May 2021.
What is the most heartbreaking March Madness first-round upset?
A number 16 seed had not beaten a number one seed in March Madness for 33 years. However, in 2018, the UMBC Retrievers stunned top seed Virginia, 74-54. It was one of the biggest upsets ever in March Madness tournaments.
Who decides which schools host the first two weekends?
The NCAA tournament has a selection committee that builds the brackets and decides which teams will host each weekend.
Is there a women’s tournament in March Madness?
Yes, but it didn’t start until 1982. The women’s tournament features 64 teams with an almost identical selection process as with men’s.
Sports betting is fun, especially if you’re winning. Contact us today at MaximBet.com for more information on March Madness. We also offer bets on other major sporting events, such as the MLB, NBA, NFL, and even the Olympics.