It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas—although you can look forward to the NBA’s Christmas matchups. No, the most wonderful time of year is actually marked by singing birds, sprouting flowers, and the nail-biting, sweat-dripping, expletive-inducing matchups of Division I men’s college basketball.
That’s right, it’s time for the NCAA March Madness Tournament!
And that means it’s time to start figuring out your March Madness betting strategy for this year’s NCAA tournament. In this guide, we’ll go beyond how to bet on March Madness and dig into how you can position yourself for NCAA March Madness glory.
Where Can I Bet on the NCAA Tournament?
Before diving into the bets themselves, it would be helpful to know how to bet in the first place. Thankfully, you don’t have to make a trip to Las Vegas to place bets on the NCAA basketball tournament. There are plenty of reputable online sportsbooks that you can sign up for to bet on the tournament (our favorite online sportsbook, unsurprisingly, is Tipico).
Just keep in mind that laws around gambling on sports vary from state to state, so there may be restrictions where you are (for instance, some states allow gambling but only on games played out-of-state). Check into your state’s laws so you aren’t surprised when you go to sign up.
Betting on the Tournament
Okay, now that we’ve covered the how, let’s go over the different types of bets you can make on the tournament. A good sports betting strategy for a bettor is to spread out your wagers among many bets (like diversifying a stock portfolio) so no matter how crazy the tournament gets, you’ll be covered.
Filling Out a Bracket
Your March Madness betting lines should go beyond a March Madness bracket, but filling out a bracket is still a great way to start. There are many free sites with cash prizes as well as paid sites that will let you fill out a March Madness bracket, and this is a fun way to stay engaged with every game of the tournament.
To fill out your March Madness game bracket, you will pick the winner of every game before the tournament starts. Betting lines don’t matter here, it’s just whoever picks the most correct games wins. A few things to keep in mind when filling out your national championship game bracket:
- Remember nobody’s perfect – It’s good to strive for perfection, but the reality is you’re not going to pick every March Madness game correctly. Or, to bring some math in, you have about a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of filling out a perfect march madness betting bracket, so don’t beat yourself up when your bracket is busted.
- Let the story guide you – Some of the fun of March Madness is how many upsets there are every year. Try to find your underdog team and ride them through the early rounds. Try to envision how you see the March Madness tournament unfolding and stick to your story.
- Be realistic – That said, don’t fall too in love with your underdog. Most NCAA basketball tournament winners are one seeds (followed by two seeds, three seeds, etc.). The cream tends to rise to the top by the end.
Another good option for online sports betting on the tournament before it starts is by making some futures bets. That is, pick a few teams that you feel good about and bet on them.
With this form of betting, you can often find good March Madness odds since you’re betting before the tournament begins. It also allows you to spread some cash around a few NCAA Division teams that you know will make it far.
If luck is on your side, you may pick the winner. But you can also bet on teams advancing through to different rounds. The tournament starts with 68 teams before being whittled down to:
- Round of 32
- Sweet sixteen
- Elite eight
- Final four
- Championship game
You can make futures bets on teams to reach any level of the tournament. The farther ahead you bet, the better March Madness betting odds you’re likely to get.
Betting on Individual Games
There are more than just whole tournament bets when it comes to March Madness. You can also find great value by betting on the games themselves. This type of legal sports betting will require an understanding of how the March Madness odds work. It will also require you to pay attention, as the tournament moves fast and you don’t want to miss out on a good opportunity.
The most straightforward individual game bet is the moneyline bet. In these bets, you bet on who you think will win the game. If you’re right, you win. Simple. However, the odds on the game will affect your payout. Let’s look at a hypothetical example:
- Duke -360
- Syracuse +280
In this line, Duke is a heavy favorite to win the game. You can always tell the favorites because their number is preceded by a “-” whereas the underdog gets a “+”. The numbers reflect how much you can win by betting on the game.
In this instance, you would have to bet $360 on Duke to win $100. Or, you can bet $100 on Syracuse and win $280. As you can see, betting on the underdog, since it’s less likely to be a winner, comes with a bigger payday.
So, when is a moneyline bet a good option?
- Low point spreads – Games with low point spreads where you think the favorite will win may be better to bet the moneyline. A lot of tournament games come down to last-minute shots.
- Underdog upsets – If you genuinely believe the underdog will win, go for the moneyline. Point spreads even the odds, meaning you’ll get a better payout from an upset by betting the moneyline.
Bet the Spread
You may be familiar with point spreads on football games, but did you know they exist for basketball (and other sports) too?
The point spread is used by oddsmakers to even the odds of a game. Let’s look at the hypothetical again:
- Duke -10.5 (-110)
- Syracuse +10.5 (-120)
In this example, the moneyline payouts are in the parentheses and are quite similar. That’s because of the first number, which is the spread. If you were to bet on Duke, Duke would have to win the game by 11 or more points for you to win the bet. If you bet Syracuse, you can win even if they lose the game, so long as they lose by 10 or fewer points.
There’s also a way to bet on the game even if you have no idea who’s going to win. With an over/under bet, you’re not betting on the winner, but rather the final score.
Let’s say the over/under (O/U) line on that Duke/Syracuse game was 160. If the two teams’ scores combine to be more than 160, that means the over hit. If they combine for less, the under wins. A quick tip on over/under bets:
- It’s more fun to bet an over. After all, rooting for baskets is more fun than rooting for a 42-50 final score. However, oddsmakers know this, so you may be able to find a slightly better value on under bets.
Changing the Odds
Now that you see how the March Madness betting odds work for the individual games, you may find yourself wanting to change them. Well, while you can’t call up the oddsmakers and petition them to change a line into your favor, there are some tools available to you to move the lines:
- Parlays – Your first option is a parlay. This is when you combine multiple bets to change the odds and create a better payout. So, in our earlier example, you could pick Duke but combine that bet with a bet on another game to give you a better payout. Just be careful, if any of your tied-together bets lose, your bet loses regardless if your other picks were winners.
- Teasers – Teasers are very similar to parlays, but instead of trying to shift the payouts, you’re shifting the line. So, in this case, you think Duke will win and want to bet the spread, but 10.5 points make you nervous. By grouping this bet with others, you can lower the line so Duke doesn’t have to win by as much. Again though, if any part of your bet loses, the whole bet is a loss.
Especially with the heavy favorites in early rounds, you may be tempted to use these options to increase your winnings. Just remember, in March Madness,\ there are no sure things, and the more bets you group together, the more likely you are to see a buzzer-beater negatively affect your wallet.
Start the Madness with Tipico
March is a great month for sports fans. It can also be a great month for smart, legal sports betters. Once you have your strategy ready to go, be sure to head to Tipico for all your March Madness betting odds needs. We’ve got you covered from the play-in games to the championship. Let the madness begin!