Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the United States in terms of viewership and betting popularity, and the collegiate game has plenty to do with it. There is perhaps no time more exciting for sports fans and bettors than the college basketball postseason, which culminates with the infamous NCAA Tournament and is appropriately referred to as March Madness.
Thankfully, the growing reach of mobile betting in the U.S. has added an extra element of convenience and popularity to wagering on this event because March Madness betting online is far more practical and enjoyable from a location of your choice as opposed to being forced to visit a brick-and-mortar sportsbook.
There are plenty of aspects to March Madness betting, which is about far more than selecting winners on a bracket. Every single postseason game from the beginning of March all the way through to the Final Four in early April is available to be wagered on at a wide range of online betting sites in any of the states where wagering is legal.
In the below sections, we'll go through the steps to help you choose online sportsbooks to bet on the NCAA tournament with, before getting into different wager types and some March Madness betting tips to implement this year.
So what does March Madness mean, exactly? Most people associate it with the 68-team NCAA Tournament, which begins during the third week of March each year. So when someone refers to March Madness, they are usually talking about the NCAA Tournament bracket that so many fill out before it officially tips off.
It's fair to say, however, that things actually heat up at the start of the month when the 32 Division I basketball conference tournaments are ongoing. The time leading up to Selection Sunday (when the NCAA Tournament bracket is released) is filled with excitement as many programs are battling to be one of the teams included in the bracket and others are positioning for seeding.
These four or five weeks of high-stakes playoff basketball add up to be the busiest time of the year for legal gambling sites in the US as March Madness online betting remains the star of the show through the opening weekend in April.
One of the first things you need to know when learning how to bet on March Madness online is the process of choosing which site to deposit your money into. The user experience can be greatly enhanced by choosing the correct sportsbook, so this is much more important than many novice bettors think it is.
There are several factors to consider where you're going to deposit your hard-earned money, so keep the following in mind when looking for online sportsbooks to bet on the NCAA Tournament and March Madness in general:
Knowing what you're looking for is the first thing you need to do in order to get off on the correct foot. Online betting on March Madness may appear to be the same at all sites, but these operators do have specialties and characteristics that help it stand out from its peers.
The number one priority is a reliable sportsbook that is lawful and regulated in the state you live or are located in. In addition to that, are you looking for the largest welcome bonus? An easy-to-use app with a clear interface? The best promotions? A wide range of betting markets? Favorable gambling lines compared to other sites?
Chances are you're (correctly) looking for an operator site that provides all of these amenities in some way. We'd recommend ranking what is most important to you when it comes to site characteristics, then start the search for the app that matches those preferences. It sounds simple, but each person has to consider what is most important to them when it comes to placing wagers and make a decision based on that.
The internet can be your best friend when looking for the scoop on March Madness online betting sites, but you need to know where to look. This will help you see key features like bonuses, promotions, and the range of betting options, which will make your ultimate decision easier in the end.
Information directly from an operator is going to be positively tinted and won't give you a full scope of what the site offers, so affiliate sites can serve as an invaluable resource for finding out the benefits of signing up for a particular operator. We spend hours on these sites comparing bonuses, promotions, and betting markets, and it's given us a decent idea of what players are looking for.
Perhaps the most highly-recommended way to go about choosing a sportsbook would be narrowing down your choice to maybe two or three options, then singing up for more than one account.
It will require you to split your bankroll at first but it means multiple signup bonuses, multiple groups of promotions from and multiple sets of betting lines to compare and choose from. This also allows you to explore these apps and get a feel for the layout, different betting markets, and how the lines stack up.
You should use the apps back-to-back if you can and oftentimes, your preference reveals itself to you once you get an idea of what using each site is like.
If you aren't in a state with legal online sports betting, you can place legal sports wagers at FendOff Sports. Read our FendOff Sports review for more information and get the promo code below
Making March Madness betting picks is unlike handicapping the NBA or even college basketball during the regular season. Once it reaches this point in the year, every contest has high stakes and tighter betting lines that are more difficult to decipher than in November or December.
In a standard week during the NCAA basketball regular-season schedule, there could be hundreds of Division I basketball games, while the postseason causes that number to dwindle significantly. So on top of all the additional public money entering the market and swaying lines, sharp bettors and oddsmakers are pouring over each contest with a close eye, which can make odds tougher to read or just lose value entirely.
But just because things are a bit more difficult doesn't mean they're impossible. Whether you're making NCAA tournament bracket predictions or traditional betting picks using lines from sportsbooks, there are definitely some rules to follow for the best ways to handicap March Madness basketball games.
Whether it's a conference tournament or the NCAAs, there is nothing easier than looking at seeding and overall record but this is not the best way to go about handicapping March Madness games.
While this information can be relevant, it can't be the only basis for making these picks. Line movement, betting percentages, and an in-depth look at regular-season results are also important elements to making college basketball betting predictions at this late stage of the season.
It is true that teams are overmatched sometimes and the higher seed is lightyears ahead of its competitors. Still, there is no rule that says the team with the better record or seeding is automatically a good bet, especially when considering point spreads since the quality of the two teams is already built into the oddsmakers' line.
Everyone is motivated during the NCAA Tournament, so this is more applicable for larger programs in major conferences in the time leading up. Plenty of big-name teams don't need to win their conference in order to earn a bid because they already have at-large berths to the tournament locked up.
This isn't to say these teams aren't playing for the best seeding possible in the bracket, but resting key players in preparation for the big dance is likely more important for coaches than whatever happens in the conference tournament. So consider that team's status in March Madness before giving away too many points against the spread during conference tournaments.
Focus on teams that absolutely have something to play for, which is guaranteed in small conferences that are referred to as ‘one-bid leagues' because only the tournament winner usually moves on to the big dance.
In college basketball, teams tend to struggle away from home and perform better in front of their own fans. This is evident during the regular season when most teams have a better record in their own building than on the road. While teams don't get the chance to play at home during the postseason, the location of the conference tournament or NCAA Tournament regional game is still vital.
There's a chance that the setting is closer to one school's campus than the other, perhaps allowing one set of supporters to travel a bit better than the other program. See how likely it is for some schools to get their fans in the building because that could go a long way toward supplying a pseudo-homecourt advantage.
In the same vein, think about fading teams that may be playing at a neutral site but are really playing something closer to an away game due to the geographic location. This usually presents itself during conference tournaments and early rounds of the NCAAs as well.
When it comes time to make March Madness bracket predictions especially, bettors tend to blindly commit to NCAA tournament trends without having the full picture. Some March Madness trends have a track record over time, like a No. 1 seed reaching the Final Four or the championship game for example.
Take No. 12 seeds defeating No. 5 seeds, which isn't a consistently reliable trend to bet with and goes through ebbs and flows. In 2019, it's true that No. 12 seeds went 3-1 in the opening round and actually covered the spread in all four games. But the four years prior, the No. 12 seed was 3-13 in opening-round games.
How about another example? From 2015-18, the No. 11 seed went 10-6 against the No. 6 seed, but 2019 saw that flip and the sixth-seeded teams went 3-1.
Nearly all trends based on seed lines need to be taken with a grain of salt. The truth is, it's a committee of people creating these seed lines and trying to create interesting tournament matchups. A team that is a No. 5 seed could easily have been changed from a No. 4 or No. 6 if it would create a more compelling game as the committee judges, so the seed number next to the school really doesn't have some magical effect on the future results.
There may not be as many games on during March Madness as there are throughout the regular season, but there are still way too many gambling opportunities not to employ a little bit of discipline.
It's natural to want to wager more than normal on these big games or to go after your losses with even bigger bets, but that's a slippery slope all bettors need to be careful on. Each additional wager makes it more difficult to turn a profit at the end of the day since you need to win a certain percentage of those bets to come out on top.
Set spending limits for each day and the round of conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament and stick to those figures. Part of March Madness betting is just surviving through portions of the month that get difficult, and not giving in to the pressure to chase lost wagers.
Before you can hope to make any money, you need to understand the various basketball bet types. The popular March Madness online bets are the same as what we see during the regular season and in the NBA, so there isn't anything too special or different about them during March Madness. We'll use the below example from FanDuel Sportsbook to demonstrate and explore various types of wagers.
Moneyline betting is the simplest thing to understand since all you're doing is picking one side to win the game regardless of any point spread. Risks and payouts are based on what the line is, with favorites requiring bettors to risk more if gambling on favorites. If you've got a knack for selecting underdogs to win outright, betting moneylines can be profitable.
EXAMPLE: Illinois is the favorite with a -160 moneyline. This means wagering on them requires risking $160 for every $100 in winnings. Maryland is the underdog at +135, which translates to risking $100 to win $135 since the team you're selecting to win is less likely to do so, according to oddsmakers.
The most popular way to make March Madness betting picks is against the spread (ATS). But you might be wondering: what is ATS in betting? Because not all teams are exactly equal, oddsmakers create point spreads to even out the game from a betting point of view.
This means you aren't forced to risk so much if looking to take a favorite, and it also means having a better shot to win a wager with the underdog because you're being given additional points to work with. The favorite needs to win by a certain number of points, while the underdog can either win or lose by a lesser amount than the spread in order to “cover” the number.
Betting on spreads, or live betting on them during the tournament, requires a moderate risk and garners a moderate reward (both sides generally have -110 odds) and can become quite profitable during the postseason if you can locate one or several teams that are regularly covering the number late in the year.
EXAMPLE: Illinois is the favorite at -3 (-110), which means the team must win by at least four points to cover the spread and the risk would be $110 for every $100. As the underdog at +3 (-110), a wager on Maryland means they must win the game or lose by two points or less in order to successfully cover. Every $100 requires a risk of $110 in this case as well.
Totals are pretty simple whether it's the regular season or March Madness. All bettors need to do is pick whether the total amount of points in the game go over or under a predetermined number set by sportsbooks. As is the case with spreads, most totals will come with a -110 line on both the over and the under.
Gambling on moneylines and spreads can be especially difficult during March Madness when oddsmakers are paying close attention to lines, which also see increased public action. One alternative is totals since it can be easier to predict the flow and pace of a game than the result on some occasions.
EXAMPLE: The total for Maryland/Illinois is set at 130 points (-110 on both the over and under). A wager on the under means the game will finish with 129 points or less, and a pick on the over means the total reaches 131 or higher. Overtime is included in these totals.
These wagers are exactly what they sound like: bets on events that will take place in the future. When it comes to postseason college basketball, this usually means markets on conference tournaments and the big dance. The most popular March Madness futures bets are made on the following categories:
These markets are available for most of the season, as you can make Final Four predictions or wager on the winner of the NCAA Tournament at nearly any point leading up to March Madness. But once conference tournaments arrive and then again when the bracket is announced, futures wagers on college basketball grow in popularity.
Gambling on sports isn't easy and if it was, everyone would do it. College basketball is no different, and during March Madness things can be even tougher when there's fewer games and more bettors flooding the market.
Even though there is no set March Madness betting strategy guaranteed to win you money, it doesn't mean you can't take a few angles to try and give yourself a better opportunity to win. Consider the following March Madness betting strategies when conference tournaments and the big dance arrive.
March madness has many novices in the market who join just for the postseason, which means two things: there's extra public money going around it's also uninformed for the most part.
When the public decides it is going to lean heavily on one side of a game, it can drain betting value from that side and shift it to the other, less popular side. On many occasions, the public jumps on the favorite and inflates the line, creating value the other way. Concentrate on how the line moves, because this time a year that's the real indication of where the sharpest bettors are, not the percentages alone.
Plenty of March Madness upsets occur when people didn't see them coming. So don't get carried away selecting every underdog in the field, but there undoubtedly will be spots where the pros are completely fading the public and you shouldn't be afraid to take that ride throughout March.
While researching your bets, ask this question: which teams are capable of playing well away from home? So many college basketball teams are notoriously strong in their own gym while playing in front of their own fans but struggle mightily on the road throughout the season.
While the NCAA Tournament doesn't require teams to play true road games, every matchup starting with the conference tournament is on a neutral floor. It's pretty unlikely for a team to have issues winning neutral site/road games all season and magically turn it into an incredible postseason run once March arrives, so fading teams that struggled outside of their home floor can be one of the more profitable March Madness betting strategies.
There's more value fading these teams in the postseason than during the regular season because a team is dominant at home or awful on the road will be baked into the betting line by oddsmakers. At a neutral site, the line won't be able to account for one team's prowess or struggles as it would if one program had homecourt advantage.
Current form matters a ton once we reach such a late point in the year. If it's the conference tournament, ask yourself: how did this team close the season? If the NCAAs are underway, the question becomes ‘how did this team perform in the conference tournament?' before placing any wagers.
Of course, the previous few games aren't always a perfect indication of what's to come, but you'd always rather bet with programs that are at the top of their game as opposed to ones that backed into the most important time of the year.
Once embroiled into one of these
high-stakes postseason tournaments, momentum becomes more important than ever. Forget about seeding or ranking and look for teams that are playing their best basketball at the right time.
For the most part, the betting public feels comfortable wagering on programs they've heard of or see on television, which equals the biggest leagues also known as ‘power conferences' to many. On top of it, games involving brand-name schools are also the ones targeted by professional gamblers (sharps), who apply their betting systems to these games and can shift lines with huge wagers.
This leaves an opening to find value on teams that play in smaller conferences, whether it be the league tournament or the big dance in late March. It's good to know that wagering on teams in these smaller leagues does require a bit more research into their conference schedule, roster, home/away splits, and injury report among other things.
The tradeoff, however, is that that sharps and the public aren't messing with the lines on these games nearly as much, meaning its less likely value has been drained from one side or the other because lines remain more stagnant leading up to tip-off.