For college basketball fans who also enjoy wagering on the games, March Madness is perhaps the best part of the sports calendar. Most associate this time of year with filling out NCAA Tournament brackets but in actuality, March Madness betting goes so much much deeper.
For starters, March Madness futures odds are offered year-round with the two biggest markets based on the following:
- Outright NCAA Tournament Champion
- Which Teams Will Reach The Final Four
After the bracket is filled, even more options are added and bettors can predict which programs will reach the Sweeet 16 and Elite Eight, along with other markets that might be specified by region and seeding.
At the start of the March, there are tournaments for all 32 conferences in Division I basketball with each individual game available for betting as well as the entire tournament. Once Selection Sunday passes and the big dance gets underway, there are 67 more games in the three weeks from the First Four until the Final Four.
With so many options and so much importance placed on each contest, sportsbooks introduce even more betting markets than are normally offered during the regular season, such as individual game props. In reality, it's not as complicated as it seems but trying to make money during this part of the sports calendar isn't done without employing the proper March Madness betting strategies.
March Madness Betting Strategy: NCAA Tournament Betting Tips To Remember
Here are our nine March Madness betting tips to keep in mind if you're planning to put some money down on 2020 NCAA Tournament games, or even conference tournaments ahead of time:
- Don't Bet Based On Seed/Record Alone
- Location, Location, Location
- Not All Trends Are Worth Following
- Sharps Move Lines, Not The Public
- Value Lies With Small Conference Teams
- Who's Hot Right Now?
- Motivation Matters
- Props Are Your Friend
- Betting Limits
Whether you're using futures odds or making traditional game-by-game betting picks, each of these tips can be employed to help you make decisions throughout March Madness. Below we will delve deeper into each of these March Madness betting tips, some of which you may find yourself contemplating as part of your NCAA Tournament betting strategy when the time comes.
March Madness Betting Tip #1 - Don't Bet Based On Seed/Record Alone
There's no lazier analysis than handicapping March Madness games by regular-season record or seeding, whether it's a conference tournament or the big dance. This information is extremely relevant and should be taken into consideration but it can't be the only basis for making these picks.
Once the NCAA Tournament arrives, many games feature opponents from different conferences where strength-of-schedule varies wildly and not all regular-season slates can be judged the same way.
One team's conference or NCAA Tournament seeding can't be bindy relied upon either, especially if wagering against the spread. Oddsmakers have the quality of the two teams cooked into the line, and a higher seed or 'better' team from a larger conference isn't automatically going to cover the number when the spread levels the playing field.
Line movement and betting percentages along with an in-depth look at those regular-season results are far more important elements to making college basketball betting predictions at this late stage of the season.
March Madness Betting Tip #2 - Location, Location, Location
In college basketball, location matters. Teams tend to struggle away from home and perform better in front of their own fans and this is evident during the regular season when most teams have a better record in their own building.
Being aware of which teams struggle on neutral floors or away from home is invaluable information that may help you decide which teams to wager on or leave alone. Having fans in the building could also go a long way toward supplying a pseudo-homecourt advantage, so knowing the situation is important.
While some 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. Smaller leagues play true home and away games during conference tournaments but the larger leagues play at neutral sites, which is also the case with all NCAA Tournament games. 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.
At the same time, 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. These opportunities usually present themselves in the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
March Madness Betting Tip #3 - Not All Trends Are Worth Following
When it's time to make March Madness bracket predictions, bettors tend to blindly commit to NCAA tournament trends without having the full picture. Some trends have a track record (like a No. 1 seed reaching the Final Four or even the championship game) but others can fluctuate over recent history and can't be trusted.
Take No. 12 seeds defeating No. 5 seeds, which isn't a consistently reliable trend to bet with and goes through ebbs and flows, although it's one the public seems to live by. It's true that No. 12 seeds went 3-1 in the opening round in 2019 and actually covered the spread in all four games, but the four years prior saw the No. 12 seed go 3-13 in opening-round games. One of these upsets usually takes place each year, but No. 5 seeds are still 89-47 against No. 12 seeds since the field expanded in 1985.
Nearly all trends based on seed lines need to be taken with a grain of salt. The truth is, these seed lines are built by a committee of people 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 impact on the future results.
March Madness Betting Tip #4 - Sharps Move Lines, Not The Public
March Madness betting is unlike handicapping during the regular season because 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.
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. This is why it's important to know how line movement correlates with betting percentages. The key to making good choices is recognizing which side sharps (professional bettors) are on and not falling victim to siding with the uninformed public.
Keep in mind that the wagers from sharp bettors are far more important than the ones from the average joe. The public can drain or supply value to a given line by being all over one side, but oddsmakers are unlikely to make a significant odds adjustment without a large amount of action from the pro bettors on one side or the other.
One of the good things about all the extra attention paid to March Madness games is that betting percentages combined with line movement may tell you all you need to know if you read the data correctly. So look closely at the line and see whether the public betting percentage matches the way the line has moved. If the odds are moving opposite of the majority, there's a chance you should fade the public and ride with the sharps.
March Madness Betting Tip #5 - Value Lies With Small Conference Teams
In the regular season, betting value can lie with teams from smaller conferences more than those schools and leagues you hear about all year long. The public stays away from most games between teams they haven't heard of, and sharp bettors mostly focus on the biggest contests on the slate.
During the regular season, the reasoning changes a bit but the strategy remains the same: stick with teams from these small conferences. Every March Madness game will get a long look from oddsmakers and sharp bettors because that's just how it goes, but the public will actually help make your decisions for you in most cases.
The NCAA Tournament will feature plenty of games between one bigger conference school and a lesser-known program. Because bettors love to take big-name teams they watch on national television all season long, lines can be inflated for these teams (which are almost always favorites, too) and value finds its way to the other side quite often.
March Madness Betting Tip #6 - Who's Hot Right Now?
Timing is everything, and since it's extremely highly unlikely a team backing into the postseason will turn it on once the moments become biggest, current form is extremely important to consider and riding the hot hand is a recommended NCAA Tournament betting strategy.
It could be a power conference school finding its stride with a few resume-building wins to close the regular season, or perhaps its a program from a one-bid league catching fire in the conferernce tournament to punch a ticket to the big dance.
Whatever the case, be sure the teams you're putting your money on at the end of the season are playing close to, if not its best basketball of the year at the right time.
March Madness Betting Tip #7 - Motivation Matters
Everyone is motivated during the NCAA Tournament and teams in one-bid leagues need to always stay motivated in the postseason, 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 big dance. 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 deep playoff run is more important for coaches than whatever happens in the conference tournament.
So consider each team's status in March Madness before giving away too many points against the spread or even betting on certain programs 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.
March Madness Betting Tip #8 - Props Are Your Friend
We normally don't associate props with college basketball the way we do with the NFL or the NBA because oddsmakers offer plenty of prop betting markets for professional sports, but not so much for collegiate sports. When it comes to the College Football Playoff or the biggest March Madness games, however, sportsbooks expand the catalog.
With everybody fixated on moneylines, spread, and total,s there will absolutely be value on these little-known markets. Since operators aren't accustomed to providing college basketball prop betting lines, oddsmakers are playing the same guessing game you are, which is an advantage for the bettor.
March Madness Betting Tip #9 - Betting Limits
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 for yourself.
With all the hype and excitement surrounding these games, the allure of betting more money or making more wagers can be pretty strong. Keep in mind that this can be a pretty slippery slope all bettors need to be careful on and 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.
For more useful information, visit our March Madness page and get set for the most action-packed time of the sports year with a betting primer dedicated to preparing you for the 2020 NCAA Tournament!
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