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How to Bet On March Madness

 

What is March Madness?

A popular annual NCAA men's basketball tournament, the event takes place over a three-week period and the betting action on the tournament brings in record handles for sportsbooks in the United States.

The tournament is a single-elimination format that consists of 68 teams and those schools are announced on “Selection Sunday” – which is an event in itself. The 2020 selection show takes place on Sunday March 15, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. ET and is televised nationally in the United States on CBS, one of the largest broadcast companies.

Pundits often try to predict the full bracket before the event and the term “Bracketology” is used in many sports betting circles. The brackets are divided into four regions, split up geographically in the United States. All of the March Madness games are played on neutral courts and the regional final takes place at a large venue.

Sweet Sixteen

With over 350 NCAA men's teams eligible to compete and earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament, securing a spot in the Sweet Sixteen is a major accomplishment. When betting on March Madness futures or competing in a Bracket Contest, predicting the Sweet Sixteen is essential for all of your wagers. In order to reach the Sweet Sixteen, teams will have to win their first two games and sometimes three if schools had to qualify from the "First Four" matchups in Dayton. Eight schools compete in the "First Four" games on Tuesday Mar. 17 and Wednesday Mar. 18. The four schools that advance make it to the field of 64.

The March Madness the field of 64 is cut in half to 32 and eventually 16 after the first and second rounds are completed. Even though there are 16 teams still standing, it's quite common to see mismatches on paper as far as the seedings go. A double-digit seeded school have made plenty of appearances in this round and they're often listed as healthy underdogs by the oddsmakers.

This year's 2020 Sweet Sixteen matchups will take place at the following venues for each of the four regions. These games are also known as the Regional Semifinals.

Midwest Regional Semifinal (S16)

March 26, 2020 - Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, IN)

West Regional Semifinal (S16)

March 26, 2020 - Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

South Regional Semifinal (S16)

March 27, 2020 - Toyota Center (Houston, TX)

East Regional Semifinal (S16)

March 27, 2020 - Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)

Elite 8

Even bigger than the Sweet Sixteen is the Elite 8 and schools playing in this round know how high the stakes are. The winners will advance to the Final Four while the losers are sent packing after winning three or possibly four NCAA Tournament games in a row. The point-spreads are usually much tighter in this round since the top contenders are left standing and the oddsmakers have a better understanding of the remaining clubs. It's not uncommon to see higher seeds last this long in the NCAA Tournament and plenty of those long shots or underdogs receive plenty of attention from bettors looking for upsets and major payouts.

Similar to the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite 8 matchups will take place at the same venues with one day of rest between the games. These games are also known as the Regional Finals.

Midwest Regional Final (E8)

March 28, 2020 - Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, IN)

West Regional Final (E8)

March 28, 2020 - Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

South Regional Final (E8)

March 29, 2020 - Toyota Center (Houston, TX)

East Regional Final (E8)

March 29, 2020 - Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)

Final Four

The Final Four is put simply, the final four teams left in the NCAA Tournament and those squads will meet in a pair of semifinal matchups. The winners will advance to the March Madness championship while the losers join many other schools who just missed out on a trip to the title game. The Final 4 always takes place on the first Saturday in April, this year's event taking place on April 4, 2020 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

Expecting at least one No. 1 seed to be playing in the Final 4 is very likely. Since the tournament expanded in 1985 to 64 teams, there have only been two years where the Final Four didn’t have a No. 1 seed which occurred in 2011 and 2006. Keep in mind that expecting all top seeds to advance is also rare. There has only been one instance where all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four, which took place in 2008 when Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA earned regional bids.

Since the expansion of the NCAA Tournament occurred in 1985, Duke leads all schools with 12 all-time appearances in the Final Four while Kansas is next up with 18.

2019 Final Four Schools (Seeds)

Virginia (1) Michigan State (2) Texas Tech (3) Auburn (5)

Final Four Betting History

Lucky No. 11

The lowest seed to make the Final 4 was the No. 11. This happened four times since 1985 and most recently with Loyola-Chicago in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Other teams included were Virginia Commonwealth (2011), George Mason (2006) and LSU (1986).

Along with that quartet, the only other double-digit seeds to make the Final 4 was Syracuse, who earned a trip in 2016 as a No. 10 seed.

UConn remains the lowest modern-day seeded team to win the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies of Connecticut accomplished the feat in the 2007 tournament as the No. 7 seed. Villanova, an eighth seed, captured the 1984-85 tournament over Georgetown.

March Madness Bracket Explained

Betting on March Madness is one of the most popular sports betting events and it's format caters to the masses of not just sports bettors but for individuals who like to compete in a contests against friends, employees and strangers. The Bracket is a single-elimination contest where individuals must pick the winner of head-to-head matchups and forecast ahead before future matchups are determined.

Predicting a perfect March Madness Bracket is quite difficult and some experts have stated that you have a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance. So if you see many websites and operators offering a guaranteed $1 Million Dollars for a perfect bracket, you can see that the odds are against you and the reward should be much higher. For those wondering, there has never

Nonetheless, the tournament has everybody glued to their Brackets especially for the first round since that's where many upsets take place. Going 32-0 isn't impossible and it's been done many times before but seeing your March Madness Bracket go unscathed through the opening weekend is rare and that would require you to post 16 more winners and improve to 48-0.

The Sweet Sixteen and Elite 8 weekend follows and participants will be following 12 games before the Final Four and Championship, which is a total of 63 games to predict. While the point-spread isn't used in the March Madness Bracket, predicting straight up winners isn't as easy as it looks -- especially when you don't know the matchups beforehand.

The VegasInsider.com Live Brackets is a great feature to follow your selections and our Printable Brackets will allow you to write-in your selections as you see fit.

March Madness Dates

The NCAA Tournament and March Madness Betting research begins on "Selection Sunday" as the field of 68 teams are announced. After the brackets are filled in, the March Madness format is followed with all games being played at neutral sites.

  • First Four - Tue/Wed, March 17-18, 2020
  • First Round - Thu/Fri, March 19-20, 2020
  • Second Round - Sat/Sun, March 21-22, 2020
  • Sweet Sixteen - Thu/Fri, March 26-27, 2020
  • Elite Eight - Sat/Sun, March 28-29, 2020
  • Final Four - Saturday, April 4, 2020
  • NCAA Championship Game - Monday, April 6, 2020

Types of NCAA Tournament Bets

Bracket Pool

The March Madness Bracket Pool is a great contest that continues to rise in popularity among bettors and non-bettors. There is no barrier to entry and it's easy to participate, whether it be online or offline. All you need to do is find a group of colleagues and be on your way to predicting the outcome of the entire NCAA Tournament. The individual with the best prediction skills will be the overall winner of the Bracket Pool. Most pools start with an entry fee, decided by the pool leader, and all of the entries must be completed by the first matchup. That initial game usually takes place at 12:00 p.m. ET on the first Thursday after Selection Sunday. For the 2020 March Madness event, your deadline to submit picks will be on Thursday, Mar. 19, 2020.

Game Lines

The key to betting on March Madness is understanding the lines or betting odds. After "Selection Sunday" takes place and the field of 68 is announced, the oddsmakers start to post opening lines on all of the matchups. Our Las Vegas Odds and Global Odds will begin to populate opening numbers for all of the matchups in the NCAA Tournament.

March Madness bettors can toggle between three different sections.

  • Spread
  • Money Line
  • 1st Half

The game lines for the Spread show the point-spread odds, which are the most popular. Bettors playing totals or 'over/under' wagers are also listed on this page. The Money-Line odds cater to bettors looking to place wagers on the straight up outcome of a matchup, meaning the point-spread doesn't come into play. The 1st Half is catered to savvy bettors who like to get their juices going early. These bets are focused on the first 20 minutes of each March Madness matchup.

Point-Spread Bet

The point-spread was developed to provide a balance for both teams involved in a contest to entice bettors to potentially back the weaker team and receive points. The two squads in a game are listed with a title, either a favorite or an underdog. The favorite is usually the perceived better team in the game, as backing them means giving up several points.

Example - Point-Spread

Duke -10
Kansas +10

In the above example, if you wanted to back Duke as a 10-point favorite then you would need them to beat Kansas by 11 or more points to win your wager. If you wagered on Kansas, then you would need them to win the game outright or lose by less than 10 points.

Any victory by Duke by nine points or less would result in a loss, even though they won the game straight-up.

Assuming the final margin falls on 10 in this case, a ‘push’ occurs, which is a tie, meaning all tickets are refunded.

Money-Line Bet

In basketball, the standard betting practice is to lay (bet) $110 to win $100. When we learn about betting baseball and hockey, the money-line is the main form of wagering, meaning no point-spread. There is money-line betting in basketball in case you don’t want to worry about the points. However, the odds are adjusted accordingly for both the favorite and underdog.

Example - Money-Line

Duke -550
Kansas +400

In the above example, a straight-up wager on Duke would require you to invest more to win more since its been listed as a large favorite. Since Duke is -550, you would wager $550 to win $100. If you only had $100 to wager, then your return would be $18.18 (100/550). On the flip side, if you have enough faith in Kansas to beat Duke outright as a heavy underdog, then you can place $100 to return $400. You would receive $500, which includes your initial stake.

Over/Under Bet

Another popular betting option for March Madness games is the 'over/under' or what many may refer to as the total. This wager is a cooperative effort between the two teams to either go ‘Over’ or ‘Under’ the posted total. In March Madness, if Duke and Kansas have a game total of 150 ½, a winning 'Over' bet would mean the two clubs would combine for 151 points or more. On the flip side, a winning ‘Under’ ticket is 150 points or fewer between the two teams.

Parlay/Teaser

A Parlay is a single bet that links together two or more individual wagers for a high payout. Parlay wagers can include point-spread, money-line and over-under wagers.

In order for the parlay bet to win, every one of the wagers must win or push (tie). If any of the selections lose, your wager loses, regardless of the outcome or cancellation of the other games. Depending on the sportsbook, a parlay could still be alive if one or more of the selections ends in a tie, postponed game or canceled event. If that happens, the parlay is knocked down a straight wager or a lower parlay.

The VegasInsider.com Parlay Calculator is a useful betting resource for March Madness and it provides bettors with a chance to calculate winnings based on the fixed payouts.

Similar to a parlay wager, a Teaser is a type of bet that allows you to combine your bets on two or more different games. The return isn't as high as parlays but bettors will gain an advantage with these bets by adding or subtracting points to either a point-spread or a total (over/under). The majority of sportsbooks will offer 4, 4.5 and 5 point teaser wagers for March Madness.

Example - Original Line

Duke -10
Over 150 ½

Example - Teaser Bet (4 Points)

Duke -6
Over 146 ½

A bettor taking Duke (-10) and the Over (150 ½) in a two-team Teaser for 4 points would lower the point-spread on Duke to -6 and also drop the Over down to 146 ½. For the Teaser to cash, Duke must win by 7 or more points and the combined points in the game must exceed 147.

Futures Bet

You can bet on a NCAA tournament championship pick throughout the season and during the year but the College Basketball Futures market always heats up in March. Betting and winning on the Men’s Division winner are obviously two different things but VegasInsider.com has all the resources to help guide you the right way. Figuring out how to make the bet is simple. All sportsbooks offer Future Odds and after selecting College Basketball Men’s Division winner, you’ll see the school and then the corresponding odds.

When you place a Future Odds wager, you’re locking up your money on an event that takes place at later time. The winner is crowned in April and bettors will winning wagers will be paid based on fixed odds when the bet was placed. To figure out your Win Amount, take the odds and multiply by the amount wagered.

Example
Duke 10/1 odds to win NCAA Tournament (Bet $100 to win $1,000)

Past NCAA Basketball Champions

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament determines winner of the national championship of the major college basketball teams in Division 1. The VegasInsider.com History page provides a comprehensive list of the past NCAA Basketball Champions and the betting results for the title game, which includes the outcome for the favorite-underdog and over-under.

Listed below are the last 10 NCAA Basketball Champions and their seeds.

  • 2019 - Virginia (1)
  • 2018 - Villanova (1)
  • 2017 - North Carolina (1)
  • 2016 - Villanova (2)
  • 2015 - Duke (1)
  • 2014 - Connecticut (7)
  • 2013 - Louisville (1)
  • 2012 - Kentucky (1)
  • 2011- Connecticut (3)
  • 2010 - Duke (1)
  • More...