February is drawing to a close, which means it’s almost time for the NCAA Tournament. While the NBA is king in terms of popularity in the US, millions of Americans will suddenly transform into college basketball experts at some point over the next few weeks. Filling out a bracket is essentially a rite of passage for Americans nowadays.
The NCAA Tournament is also one of the more popular events for betting on the American sports calendar. Americans reportedly wagered more than $8 billion on the 2019 NCAA Tournament, which was a new record. One would imagine March Madness will continue to set records in that regard moving forward, especially with the way sports betting is expanding in popularity and legality throughout the United States. About 47 million Americans bet on March Madness last year, which comes out to one of every five adults in the country.
If you’re going to find yourself in Las Vegas for the event, we’ve listed the best sportsbooks in Las Vegas that offer March Madness betting. Now, this leads us to the next thing that all bettors should take into account:
Everyone has their own strategy when it comes to filling out their brackets. Some take a deep dive into the numbers in an attempt to become as educated as possible about every team in the tournament. Others take a more simplified approach, like choosing which mascot they prefer or picking a team based on how cool the uniforms look.
That said, there are steps you can take in order to give yourself an edge. If you’re new to betting on the NCAA Tournament, be sure to take heed of the following 5 tips that can help you become a profitable college basketball bettor in March.
1 – Seeding Matters in March Madness Betting
68 teams qualify for the tournament on a yearly basis, but all teams are not created equal. In an attempt to keep things interesting, the NCAA convenes a committee of experts in order to seed all 68 teams based on perceived quality. The best teams in the country get higher seeds, while lesser teams get lower seeds.
A well-known program like Duke, North Carolina or UCLA is generally going to be better than the Austin Peay States, UTEPs and Florida Atlantics of the world. This obviously isn’t the case every year, but high seeds generally make for smart bets when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. In fact, no team seeded No. 1 in a region lost their first-round game until Virginia fell at the hands of UMBC in 2018. Before that upset, No. 16 seeds were 0-132 all-time against top seeds in first-round matchups. As of now, the record for 16s is 1-139 against teams seeded No. 1.
In the history of the Final Four, the higher seed has covered the spread a whopping 75 percent of the time. Upsets happen every year, but the smart money is still behind the favorites.
2 – Take Note of Defense
The college game is generally less fluid than the one we see at the professional level. College games are only 40 minutes long as opposed to 48-minute NBA games, and scoring is at a premium. Teams that coast through the regular season thanks to a high-scoring offense usually come to find that breaking down a top-tier defense is more complicated once you get to the tournament.
So, betting on teams that excel on defense is a wise move. Teams that rely too heavily on offense while ignoring the other end of the floor are prone to falling flat in the tournament. One poor shooting performance can lead to an early exit. The defense is all about the hustle. A team that plays with a defense-first approach is more able to grind out a result despite a rough shooting performance than a team that doesn’t give as much effort on that side of the court.
If you’re betting on a quality defensive team, it’s also smart to bet the under in those same games.
3 – Take Personal Bias Out of the Equation
This tip applies to betting on all sports, not just college basketball. In most cases, people like to back their favorite teams to win. If you went to college in Oregon, for example, you’re going to have a hard time not betting on the Ducks to win every game they play. That’s just the nature of being a fan.
However, betting with your heart is an easy way to lose money in a hurry. Fans generally think their own favorite team is better than it really is, which can lead to some disastrous betting decisions. The smartest thing you can do as a bettor is to either avoid betting on games involving your favorite team or take an honest approach to it.
Frankly, the games involving your favorite team will be more fun to watch if you aren’t also having to sweat a point spread along the way. Personal biases also apply to fill out your bracket. Don’t bet on a team to win a game just because you previously picked them to advance to the next round in your office pool.
4 – Don’t Bet on Every March Madness Game
With 68 teams in the field, there are plenty of betting options when it comes to March Madness. The fact that it’s a single-elimination tournament makes the stakes incredibly high. There are also enough games to where you can take a more disciplined approach to the action you want to get.
It can be easy to get caught up in the spectacle of the NCAA Tournament. If you do a basic level of research, you’ll probably start to feel as though you’re an expert. However, part of the charm when it comes to March Madness is the uncertainty. Needless to say, nobody saw UMBC beating Virginia in 2018 before it actually happened. Upsets are the hallmark of the NCAA’s signature event.
While betting on every game might seem fun at first, it won’t take long for you to realize that it was a mistake. Not every game is going to have great value from a betting perspective, which is why you have to be diligent about picking the right bets. Avoiding doubling down and chasing your losses is also a smart way to manage your bankroll.
5 – Location Matters
The NCAA Tournament takes place at a variety of sites all over the United States, and often times the locations are chosen strategically to help higher seeds.
Home court advantage matters during the regular season, and it’s even more meaningful at “neutral site” tournament games. Fans are more likely to travel in support of their favorite team if the tournament games happen to be located conveniently close to campus. Oddsmakers are on top of things, but any little edge can help you as a bettor.
There are no tried-and-true methods to ensuring that you’ll be profitable in your March Madness betting endeavors. However, following these easy tips will at least give you a head start if you’re dipping your toes into the NCAA Tournament betting pond for the first time.