Betting on college basketball reaches a frenzy every March, primarily during the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. The men’s tournament March Maddness is really the focus of the sports betting world, at least in the United States, for primarily the last two weeks of the month.
The 2020 tournament will start with Selection Sunday on March 15, 2020. Games will begin with the First Four that Tuesday, March 17, and will be played until the Final Four on April 4 and national championship on April 6.
Sixty-eight teams are selected and then seeded accordingly by the tournament’s committee. Of those teams, 32 are automatically qualified as champions of their conference tournament, while the remaining teams are choices of the committee.
And that’s only the beginning.
In terms of betting volume and excitement in the United States, the event rivals the Super Bowl, and in some cases, exceeds that event in terms of the total handle by sportsbooks.
In addition, millions of fans participate in unregulated bracket contests and free public contests for cash and prizes, often with family and friends which heightens the fun and excitement.
But in Las Vegas and now many other sports betting venues nationwide, legal wagering on tournament games in March is one of the most-popular gambling events of the year.
Fans pack sportsbooks and sports-themed restaurants to watch tournament games on television. Millions more watch on TV at home or online on their mobile devices.
For now, the majority of the fans are following their picks in their brackets. Many sports content companies or major corporate businesses offer online bracket contests with cash or other prizes as promotional opportunities.
However, with the advent of the spreading popularity of legal sports wagering, the point–spread and other standard betting variations on basketball are becoming more and more mainstream, bringing new fans the world of betting on tournament games for profit.
Also, many hardcore college basketball fans begin their March Madness a couple of weeks earlier with the individual conferences conduct their tournaments to determine their automatic qualifier to the national tournament.
Bettors wager on point spreads, money lines and totals on those games in the run-up to the “Big Dance.”
American gamblers also find opportunities betting on teams to win those individual conference tournaments.
Betting on March Madness games in advance of the national tournament is a day-in-and-day-out opportunity to wager on and study teams in preparation for the major event.
Teams are whittled down through a variety of seeded formats until a champion is crowned. That team receives the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while the others, provided their credentials are enough to impress the committee members, hope to receive an at-large bid into the field.
If they don’t qualify for the College Basketball championship tournament, there are three other tournaments that could come calling to invite lesser-qualified teams.
These tournaments are mostly conducted on the days other than the days in which the NCAA Tournament is held. These games provide more wagering opportunities and even determine tournament champions.
The most famous of these consolation tournaments in the National Invitation Tournament.
Originally, the NIT was the marquee post-season tournament for teams, primarily from the New York metropolitan area for nearly 20 years. A few teams even played in both the NIT and NCAA Tournament in the late 1940s.
City College of New York famously won both tournaments in 1950.
The tournament still thrived in popularity despite playing second-fiddle to the NCAA Tournament but now has to share a bit of the post-season consolation tournament spotlight with events such as the College Insider Tournament and College Basketball Invitational. However, teams are mostly selected in order of strength and placed in these fields, accordingly.
While the term March Madness is a trademark term, some fans group the whole series of tournament-style events into the category, especially sports bettors.
Gamblers that choose to wager legally in the United States are often presented with a wide menu of betting options on individual games and future events, as well.
While many will focus on game-by-game or parlay wagering, some choose to play into futures markets, especially which team will win the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament championship game.
Individual game wagering usually offers point–spread and money line betting, as well as, totals wagering, including team totals.
Many of the betting options are also broken down into segments of the game, usually first- and second-half betting, although wagers can be made on which team might be the first to reach 15 points, for example.
Also, many sportsbooks offer live in-game betting, especially games that are nationally televised.
An in-game betting menu may offer a live point–spread that offers punters a chance to make an initial wager on a game, or possibly hedge against an already successful position to create a profit or try to a middling opportunity.
In-game wagering is usually offered to feature a menu of point–spread, money line or totals wagering, however, many high-profile games can feature point races to the next milestone, such as next team to reach a certain number of points, or which team will be the next to score out of a time out.
With the advance of mobile-device and internet wagering, bookmakers are able to expand their wagering menu to offer more and more diverse options for gamblers to consider, therefore offering sportsbooks more chances to earn.
In turn, however, educated or sharp gamblers may be at an advantage in some wagering opportunities when oddsmakers rely more heavily on algorithm-based line setting rather than making manual adjustments.
Many sports betting “earners” nowadays use live in-game wagering to continuously play both sides of a competitively-matched game where teams might trade one-sided offensive scoring spurts.
The most popular form of March Madness wagering continues to be bracket-style or office pool wagering.
Millions of college basketball fans participate in pools organized by friends or online services that allow entrants to try and determine the winner of each game in the NCAA Tournament.
Usually, the entry with the most number of victories is awarded all or a share of the total pot.
There are some variations of these contests, such as awarding more points for each progressive round reached, or awarding more points (or based on) a team’s lower- (worse) seeding.
Often, a pool of this type may award prizes based on the number of entrants, allowing second-, third- or lower-placed finishers to also share in the prize with a smaller win. A popular tie-breaker is to pick the number of points or the exact final score of the championship game, with the closest prediction awarded the higher prize.
Recently, the number of people participating in March Madness-style basketball contests has been around 70 million per season. The figure has continued to increase more slowly, of late, but nonetheless continues to rise.
It is expected that the advent of legal sports wagering in the United States will lead to even more publicity to all forms of sports gambling that could even lead to an increase the bracket-style contests.
There is very little chance that standard sports wagering would ever supersede the number of people filling out tournament brackets.
People entering bracket-style contests come from all walks of life, including people who normally don’t pay attention to college basketball, often picking teams by the school’s perceived basketball or athletic history, by team nickname or color, or even by the flip of a coin, which actually leads to a tremendous overlay for an average-skilled punter that simply picks higher-ranked teams.
However, usually, the winning or contending entries, especially in larger contests, usually will have include an uncanny combination that includes nearly every upset, particularly “Cinderella”-type teams that had little chance of advancing reach the later rounds.
It isn’t uncommon for the winner or top finisher to be someone that has never watched or cared about college basketball. But that is what makes March Madness office-style bracket pools so fun for the general public.
The bracket-theme has become so popular that the organization running the tournament has a post-game tradition of the winning team placing a sticker on a board with a tournament bracket signifying their advance into the next round.
The organization also uses a bracket-style logo in the background of many marketing logos and slogans.
Still, by the end of the tournament, usually, only single-digit seeds remain. In fact, often the remaining four teams that make up the championships’ Final Four will be top-four seeds, and even more frequently in the top two seeds from each region.
Although originally placed in regions geographically, the committee has moved over the past 25 years to place most of its teams in regions based on competitive balance.
The top seeds will usually head to the region most proximate to its campus, while other teams are seeded based on power ratings, dividing the teams into groups of four, such as the No. 2 seeds, the No. 3 seeds, etc.
Although the committee claims no effort is made to seek particular matchups, many skeptics point to several storylines every year where the irony of a matchup between two teams or a likely potential matchup in a later round, makes it appear as if the committee is trying to make attractive matchups for fans and media, alike.
The smaller tournaments make their selections from the remaining teams and play a tournament in a few different formats.
These tournaments often set their matchups to make more attractive games out of necessity since the major tournament hugely overshadows three remaining three tournaments.
The National Invitation Tournament still gets the marquee among the lesser three events, particularly since its final is still famously played at Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous sporting arena.
The lure of making to The Garden is still part of the attraction for teams accepting an invitation to the NIT.
Also, several of the top seeds in the NIT are motivated by being left out of the NCAA Tournament, giving them even greater motivation to advance to the next round.
Often, games will be played in front of less-than-full arenas so the extra motivation can be important since non-final four games are played at home team venues.
Another attraction for teams playing in the NIT is the exposure.
Because the NIT is played primarily on nights opposite of the NCAA Tournament, it is featured on ESPN and because of the excitement surrounding March Madness, fans will often tune to games to get excited for the upcoming tournament or to support a local team or watch because they have wagered on the contest.
There is rarely any popular bracket-style pools for these lesser tournaments. In fact, a couple of the events hand-pick the later-round games and one of the tourneys plays a best-two-of-three championship format, playing the first game at one school’s venue before moving to the other school’s site for the remainder of the series.
In fact, the lesser two of the tournaments have a much smaller reach with audiences and coverage is frequently limited to a live stream, rather than a major cable sports network.
While the NCAA Tournament is famous for its format, particularly the nearly all-day coverage during the opening rounds on Thursday and Friday, and featured second-round coverage shown over a series of television networks over a three-week period, the individual conference tournaments is where even a hardcore college basketball bettor can have their head spin.
While the NCAA Tournament has a few windows where it features live coverage of three or four games at a time, the conference tournament season can see as many as a dozen high-profile games being played at a given time, and because of the popularity of college basketball, many of these games are on major cable sports networks, or at least minor sports networks and other major streaming services that make the whirlwind of start times and late-finishes raise or lower a bankroll in just the span of a couple of hours.
It is also a time that expert bettors feel they may have an advantage of bookmakers.
Because of the rapid elimination of teams and subsequent matchups often less than 24 hours later, bookmakers may have little time to react to developments within teams that could go overlooked or under-reported by the time sportsbooks feel required to release the line on the next round of games.
Also, expert or sharp bettors also feel they frequently have an advantage in some matchups during the postseason because of the extreme high-profile of top successful “blue-blood” programs.
Major college basketball programs are expected to receive a higher-majority of support because of their championship profile, even if many of those schools are not producing championships to match their expected success.
Sharp bettors will often look to fade marquee schools such as North Carolina, Kansas, Duke and sometimes a few others because of the obvious public support.
Those teams also often have less-than-realistic odds to win the national championship because of this support.
Still, those “blue-bloods” get plenty of support in the futures’ market, which is another popular form of March Madness wagering.
Usually, sportsbooks will have a fluid offering of which team will win the next national championship game.
Bettors can usually pick from any or all of the teams as prospective odds that will return if that team wins the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Some college basketball handicappers may hold a few or several futures bets, sometimes the same team at different odds, trying to build a portfolio for a potential return that could include a hedging opportunity in order to secure a profit should that team exceed the expected value of that wager.
Oddsmakers reserve the right to take down the futures board at any time, for example during postseason tournaments, or following a key injury to an elite player, but usually, gamblers can often find the odds to win the next college basketball national title available.
Holding a futures ticket provides some bettors with the satisfaction of their confidence in a long-term prognostication of which team will win the championship. However, many expert bettors will place futures wagers in accordance with the delay in oddsmakers making proper adjustments to long-term tournament odds following an injury or permanent personnel disqualification.
The value of a live futures ticket will most-often continue to rise as the field is reduced and in most cases, unless holding a bet on a possible over-laid favorite in a championship game, will give a gambler the opportunity to profit from the wager by buying-back or hedging against the original wager in order to make a profit.
For example, a $100 wager at a team to win the championship at 10-1 would return $1100 if they win the title. Should the team reach the championship game, a wager on the opponent could generate a guaranteed return no matter which team wins the final game.
Depending on which team is favored in the final game or whichever late-round game a futures ticket holder decides to take a hedge, a middling opportunity may create an even greater advantage to the sports bettor that has already made the winning investment with the positive expected value of the successful futures’ wager.
Gamblers should be careful to consider all investments into a futures pool before considering how much of a hedge is necessary to create a profit for the event. A bettor may have already had several losing bets into the same wager that should be counted against an original investment in the wager.
That being said, a successful gambler could even consider taking a loss on a particular series of bets into a futures pool in order to avoid a greater loss if their position is extremely unbalanced heading into a championship or late-round game.
Casual bettors usually play the futures market late in the betting cycle, for example, usually before the start of the NCAA Tournament, when the odds to win the championship are extremely more settled than the offerings before the start of the new year.
Gamblers may throw down a few bets if they are infrequent visitors to a sportsbook, just to be “holding a ticket” on Final Four Weekend.
Whatever the case may be, it is arguable that betting on the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament’s March Madness is the biggest event on the sports betting calendar.
Sports gaming experts point out that the volume on the tournament combined exceeds that of the National Football League championship Super Bowl game.
In which states can I bet on March Madness online?
You can bet on March Madness (College Basketball) in Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Delaware, Mississippi and New Mexico.
NJ Betting sites for March Madness Betting?
There are dozens of betting sites in New Jersey accepting bets on March Madness and College Basketball games 24/7 via apps and online.
- Unibet NJ
- Caesars Sportsbook
- Hard Rock Sportsbook
- BetAmerica NJ
- Golden Nugget
- 888 Sportsbook
- William Hill NJ
Where can I bet on March Madness in New York?
Turning Stones Casino / Sportsbook in New York accept bets on March Madness via BetAmerica betting points.