Learn how to bet on March Madness with this guide to NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Discover the different types of bets and betting odds.
With March Madness on the horizon, it’s time to consider how to bet on this yearly affair. On top of learning about what this event is, we’ll discuss how to bet on it, identifying and defining betting odds for various markets, tips for betting, where you can bet and more.
What Is March Madness And How To Bet On It
March Madness is a moniker used to describe the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament, known formally as the NCAA Tournament.
Various conference tournaments lead up to this tournament to determine the champion for each. After this, Selection Sunday decides the 68 teams to participate in the tournament. However, there will be four games known as the First Four. This is like a qualifying round for a select eight teams to battle and get into the official first round of the 64-seed tournament.
Once the 64 teams are finalized, the tournament in 2023 will last from March 16 to April 3.
The tournament is a single-elimination bracket with four regions, meaning there are four No. 1 through No. 16 seeds. Below, we’ll look at how you can bet on these games with examples.
Defining Betting Odds
Moneyline wagers involve you picking which team you think will win the game, with no strings attached.
Below is an example of a pre-March Madness NCAA game:
- New Mexico: -130
- Colorado State: +110
The “-” indicates the favored squad, whereas the “+” is the underdog. The easiest way to explain these odds is by winning $100 and wagering $100 for each line above, respectively.
At -130, you’ll need to wager $130 to win $100. With a “+” line, you’d win whatever the odds are if you bet $100 and win. So, at +110, if you bet $100 and win, you’d get $110. There are loads of welcome bonuses suited to betting the moneyline.
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The point spread is a number that online sportsbooks formulate with the intent to make the teams as even as possible, accounting for the strengths and weaknesses of each team.
Like the moneyline, the “-” is for the favored team, and the “+” is for the underdog.
- Murray State: +11 (-110)
- Drake: -11 (-110)
With point spreads, the point spread number will be the same on each side, and the odds will always be at or around -110. So, to win $100, you’d need to wager $100.
However, with the point spread, you have to concern yourself with wagers.
At -11, the team needs to not only win the game outright but to cover the spread; it must be a victory beyond 11 points, such as 120-105. If the team -11 wins 120-115, they won the game, but only by five points, so they wouldn’t cover.
At +11, the team would cover if they win outright, of course, but they can also cover by losing, but by less than 11 points.
If the final score is exactly 11 points, like 120-109, this results in a “push” or a tie. As far as your wager goes, you’ll receive it back when this happens.
Totals, also known as over/under wagers, involve betting on the combined final point total of the game.
- Over 142 (-110)
- Under 142 (-110)
Like the point spread, the total line will be the same on both sides, but you’ll be wagering whether the final point total will exceed the line or fall below it.
While 120-105 is a massive college basketball score, this easily exceeds 142, so you’d win the bet if you bet “the over.”
Also, like point spread wagers, the odds will land at or around -110.
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The most popular futures wagers for the NCAA Tournament and March Madness is the tournament winner.
Here are the top five teams per odds at DraftKings Sportsbook:
As the tournament progresses, these odds will become less and less (such as going from +650 to +300 or -150) depending on which teams are shining through. The value in futures betting is betting ahead of time to get these great odds.
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As we discussed in the moneyline section, you’d win $650 if you bet $100 on Houston to win the tournament, and they were successful.
Some other futures wagers include teams making the Final Four, representing the winners from each section of the four quadrants.
Parlays are a bet type where you’ll take multiple games and wager on them together in a single betslip.
Looking at some previous examples, let’s say you want to bet on the following:
- Murray State +11 (-110)
- Colorado State Moneyline (+110)
You see the odds for each bet, but together on a parlay, the odds become +300. These odds increase because each contest on a parlay—also known as a “leg”—must win for the parlay to succeed.
So, if you only win one of the two contests, it’s a loss for parlays.
Another popular parlay is Same Game Parlays, which has this same concept but focuses on just one game. You can’t parlay together the moneyline and point spread from the same game, but you could, for example, parlay together the moneyline and totals wagers.
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Prop bets are events that happen within a game that you can bet on. There are three categories of props—game, team, and player.
Let’s look at some examples of each:
- Game: Race to 10 Points
- Team: Individual point total
- Player: Total points, rebounds, or assists
Player props are the most popular for this bet type, allowing you to wager on a single player’s statistical performance.
These are wagered on through an “over/under” lens.
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Live betting allows you to wager on a game as it progresses.
Yes—long gone are the days of only being able to wager on the game before it begins.
With live betting, the odds will change as the game unfolds, including each point scored, rebound obtained, or foul produced.
You’ll need to think on your feet and make a quick decision, or perhaps do so during a timeout to have 30 seconds to decide what to bet.
Micro betting is wagering on an event that will resolve quickly. For example, the result of the next basket, which team will score next, or the result of the opening tip-off. You can bet on these with live betting.
How to Bet: March Madness Betting Tips
There are many tips and strategies you can deploy for March Madness betting, but we have five to offer up below.
Betting On Teams To Make Elite Eight
As the tournament gets closer and more futures become available, you can bet on which teams to make the Elite Eight, which is the third-to-last round in the tournament.
One tip we’d recommend is betting on any of the No. 1 seeds to make it to this point in the tournament.
Since 1985, there’s been at least one No. 1 seed to make the Elite Eight. So, the most challenging part of betting this isn’t whether or not a No. 1 seed will make it but picking the correct one.
Monitor Injury Reports
Basketball may be a team sport, but with five players on each team on the court simultaneously, one player’s absence or activation can play a massive role in the game’s trajectory.
Be sure to monitor these, which become available daily. The information on these reports can influence what to or what not to bet on.
Create a Bankroll Plan
March Madness, as we pointed out, lasts over multiple weeks. Thus, sustaining your bankroll over the long term is important, so you’re not done betting or using your budget over just one or two rounds.
Depending on your budget, we’d recommend wagering no more than 10% of your bankroll on an individual bet.
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Odds shopping is a term for comparing odds from multiple online sportsbooks. This only works if you’re in a state that has multiple platforms to choose from.
The concept for this is deciding what you want to bet on and comparing the odds and lines from site to site.
So, let’s say you want to bet on Murray State +11 with odds of -110. Well, you can then look around and perhaps find that they’re +11.5 elsewhere, providing more of a point spread cushion for you.
Live Betting Hedging
We discussed live betting above, but you can use it to offset your pregame wager.
For example, if you bet on Murray State +11 with odds of -110, but they’re down by 20 at halftime, you can bet on the other team to limit your losses.
Alternatively, if your bet is going well, you can double down on your wager to win even more money.
March Madness Betting Terms To Know
- Hedge: A betting strategy to reduce your risk of losses or guarantee a profit.
- Cover: Win a game by a specific margin on a point spread wager.
- Leg: A term used to describe one of the team’s on a parlay.
- Hook: The “0.5” added to a prop, point spread, or totals line.
- Push: When the game ends, and the point gap is the exact amount of the point spread, or the combined points are exact for totals wagers.
- Juice/Vig: This can be viewed as a commission that online sportsbooks charge. The best way to think of this is the -10 in the -110 line.