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Betting on March Madness

The beginning of March signals the end of the college basketball regular season. Before the start of the NCAA Basketball Final Four tournament, the selection committee will be busy coming up with the top 68 teams in the country. In order to accomplish this monumental task, 32 of the nation’s top conferences will hold its own tournaments to determine which schools will get an automatic bid. From there, the selection committee will select 36 “at-large” participates, seed all 68 teams into four brackets and release the information to the public. That’s where sports gamblers start getting that warm, fuzzy feeling in their tummies. It’s all a build up to March Madness.


Contrary to popular belief, the selection committee does use science to pick the 68 best teams. Much of the committee’s focus is placed on overall rankings, power rankings and strength of schedule. The final seedings are an indication of which teams the committee and computer believe are the best in college basketball, 1 through 68. They are not trying to predict winners. That task is left to fans and gamblers.

Betting March Madness Games

Betting on March Madness games is not an easy task. For the most part, the initial matchups in round one will feature teams that not only have not played each other in recent history, but they may not have any common opponents. It makes it very difficult for handicappers to size up the competition. It also makes it difficult for bookmakers to come up with solid betting lines. The best way to make money during March Madness is to find the matchups where the bookmakers might have missed the mark.

Round one of the tournament is quite unique. The matchups always include some rather outlandish point spreads, especially on games that feature number 1 seeds versus number 16 seeds. It’s not uncommon to see point spreads in excess of 25 points posted on these games. As the seeds get closer in ranking, the point spreads get narrower, as one would expect.

NCAA March Madness 2016: Sweet 16 Odds

As the tournament moves through each round, again, the point spreads start to narrow as the competition becomes more comparable. Of course, there’s usually one “Cinderalla” team that’s causing havoc for bookmakers and handicappers alike. A Cinderella team is best described as a team that has been underestimated by the powers to be.

In recent years, there always seems to be a 12th seed that upsets a 5th seed in the first round. 12th seeds tend to be conference champions with good records from smaller conferences. They create handicapping issues because they are superior to the other teams in their conference but have no point of reference for comparison to teams from major conferences. Handicappers need to look closely at these types of teams. One might remember when Larry Bird took a very small Indiana State to the finals against Magic Johnson and the mighty Michigan State Spartans.

March Madness Handicapping Advice

With a mish-mash of teams playing on neutral courts, handicapping March Madness games is like trying to find the caramel crème in a box of chocolates. Unfortunately, the handicapper doesn’t get the chance to put down one selection and try another.

In round one of the tournament, it’s far easier to handicap over/under lines. Each team has a personality they carry with them into the tournament. It might be difficult to bet on Duke laying 29 points to Idaho State, but it could be easier to determine the flow of the game. If both teams shoot 3s well and play an up-tempo game, the over might be a far-better betting option. The same would be true if both teams play good defense.

NCAA Bracket Top NCAA Predictions

Another good handicapping angle is favoring teams that have been playing particularly well heading into the tournament. Conference tournament champs deserve extra consideration in part because they are already battle tested. Also, be on the lookout for teams that might have cruised through the middle of the regular season, only to start kicking it into high-gear as the tournament season approaches. It’s difficult for a team to maintain focus over an entire season. Each team is bound to have a lull at some point, hopefully not during tournament play.

When betting points spreads during March Madness, it can be helpful to identify the team with the best player on the court. The stars always come out at night. Also, handicappers need to read injury reports and be wary of very good teams that might not need to put forth maximum effort to clear early round matches. A 15-point spread can be very daunting if the better team calls off the dogs in the second half.

Above all, enjoy betting on game from the most exciting tournament in the world. Using the tips provided above, plus your normal handicapping methods, there’s no reason to think you can’t make a profit.

Need a free printable March Madness bracket? Click here

George Newman
George Newman
Covers NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL for George is also an avid sports bettor and daily fantasy sports fan.

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