One of the most exciting sports events every year is March Madness. Every year, tens of millions of people watch the NCAA Tournament, and many of those people bet in some way on college basketball games.
You don’t have to be an expert at March Madness betting to win some cash. Because of how unpredictable it is, the NCAA Tournament is called “March Madness.”
It’s not hard to bet on March Madness. Most people who bet on the games don’t know a lot about them. You can bet on the NCAA Tournament even if you haven’t watched a single second of college basketball this season.
Since 1985, when the tournament got bigger, bracket pools have been a big part of it. As more and more states make sports betting legal, more and more people can use sportsbooks to bet on the biggest college basketball games of the year.
How bet on March Madness tournament? What are the best ways to bet on March Madness? Here’s what you need to know about the NCAA Tournament if you want to bet on it.
What is March Madness?
March Madness is the tournament where the NCAA Division-1 college basketball champion is chosen. It is a single-game elimination tournament. Less than 20% of the more than 350 Division-1 teams are chosen for the NCAA Tournament. The winner of March Madness is the team that wins six straight games from the first round to the national championship game.
When do the Brackets for March Madness come out?
The March Madness bracket is always revealed the Sunday before the NCAA Tournament starts. The March Madness bracket for 2023 will be released on March 12. The Selection Show airs on CBS at 6 p.m. ET, and it shows all 68 teams.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee chooses which teams will play in March Madness and where each team will be placed in the bracket. Teams that win their conference tournaments get an automatic bid to the tournament. The 36 at-large bids will be given to teams based on their regular season and conference play records.
When Does March Madness Start?
Every year, March Madness starts at a different time, but the NCAA Tournament always starts around the same time. The First Four play-in games for March Madness 2023 start on Tuesday, March 14. The college basketball national championship game on April 3, 2023, marks the end of March Madness.
March Madness officially begins before the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Eight teams play in the “First Four” games two days after Selection Sunday, when 68 teams are picked to be in the NCAA Tournament bracket. These games are held at neutral sites on Tuesday and Wednesday. Now that there are only 64 teams left in the tournament, the first round takes place on Thursday and Friday. On each day of the first round, there are 16 games to watch. Teams that lose are out of the tournament, and teams that win move on to the next round.
All of the March Madness games are set to take place at “neutral sites.”
How March Madness Betting Works
You can bet on March Madness in many different ways. You can bet on single games or on which teams will make it to the Final Four or win the national championship. The most popular way to bet on March Madness is through NCAA Tournament bracket pools.
March Madness Brackets
Most people who want to bet on the NCAA Tournament join a March Madness bracket pool. It’s a simple way to get excited about every game.
The brackets for March Madness are split into four parts, or regions. At the start of the first round, each section of the bracket will have 16 teams. The Final Four will be made up of the last two teams in each region after four rounds.
In each section of the bracket, the teams are ranked from No. 1 to No. 16 based on their seeds. The team with the top seed in each region is thought to be the best. People think the No. 16 seed has the least chance of winning its region and making it to the Final Four.
To join a March Madness pool, you must pick a winner for each matchup in the bracket. It includes picks in the first round, the second round, the third round (the Sweet Sixteen), and the final eight (the Elite Eight) (fourth round). Once you’ve chosen your Final Four, you have to choose the two teams that will play in the championship game and the team that will win the whole tournament. Most pools require you to guess the final score of the championship game, which could be used to break a tie.
Typically, you are awarded points for each winner that you correctly pick in your bracket, and the points go up as the tournament goes along. For instance, picking the winner of a first-round game could be worth one point, but picking the winner of a second-round game correctly could be worth two points. At the end of March Madness, the person whose bracket has the most total points wins the pool.
March Madness Bet Types
Here are the most popular bet types for March Madness:
Bets against the spread
The most common way to bet on a single game through a sportsbook is to bet against the spread. There is a point spread for each game, which makes one team the favorite and the other team the underdog. If you bet on the favorite against the spread, that team must win by more than the spread number of points for the bet to pay off.
For example, Kansas was favored by 4.5 points over North Carolina in the point spread for the 2022 national championship game. Kansas beat North Carolina 72-69, but they only won by 4.5 points or less, so they didn’t cover the spread. Even though the Tar Heels lost the game, a bet on North Carolina against the spread would have been a winner.
Every once in a while, a game is a pick’em (PK). There is no point spread in those situations, and the winning team will always cover the spread.
Straight-up (or moneyline) bets
Picking the winner is all there is to a straight up bet. It doesn’t matter how close the winner was. If the team you bet on wins, you get the money from your bet. That doesn’t mean you should always pick the team with the higher seed in a March Madness game.
Moneyline odds are given by legal sportsbooks for both the favorite and the underdog. When you bet on the favorite, you lose more money than you would win if you were right. For the underdog, it’s the other way around. The favorite has minus (-) odds, which show how much money a gambler must risk to win $100 if he or she bets on the favorite and wins. The underdog has odds of plus (+).
As the favorite against North Carolina in the championship game, Kansas had odds of -200. That means a straight-up bet of $200 on Kansas to win would have made a $100 profit. If you bet $100, you would have won $50. If North Carolina beat Kansas, a $100 bet on the Tar Heels to win would have won $165 because North Carolina was the underdog and had odds of +165.
If the odds for a team are even, the most you can win is the same amount of money you bet.
Futures bets are a way for gamblers to bet on how far a team will go in March Madness. Most March Madness futures bets are on who will win the national championship, but you can also bet on which teams will make it to the Final Four at some sportsbooks.
Futures odds are given to each team based on how likely it is that they will do a certain thing. For example, Kansas has a 1 in 1,300 chance of winning March Madness 2023 and becoming national champions again. If you bet $10 on Kansas and they win their second straight championship, you’ll win the bet and make a profit of $130. Any other outcome, including Kansas losing the national championship game, is a losing bet.
The number next to the plus sign shows how much money you could make. These bets, on the other hand, are harder to win.
Best March Madness Betting Tips
Now we have a list of the most popular betting tips for March Madness:
Tip 1: Stick With Number 1 Seeds
It can be fun to pick upsets early on in your bracket, but the best way to win a March Madness pool is to pick the right Final Four and national champion. These are the picks that are worth the most points and can make up for a bad start. Choose the top seed as your national winner. To get to the Final Four, you need at least two No. 1 seeds. Use the No. 2 or No. 3 seeds to fill out the rest of your Final Four.
Since 1985, when the tournament grew to include 64 teams, 23 of the 36 national champions have been the top seed. The last five winners have all been No. 1 seeds. In 12 of the last 15 March Madness tournaments, the winner was the No. 1 seed. Only one of the last 14 teams to reach the national championship game was seeded lower than No. 3. Ten of the 14 teams were No. 1 seeds.
More than 60% of the teams that win their side of the March Madness bracket and make it to the Final Four are seeded No. 1 or No. 2. March Madness has been won by five No. 2 seeds and only four No. 3 seeds. No. 4, No. 6, No. 7, or No. 8 seeds have ever won March Madness. No team has ever won the NCAA Tournament with a seed of 9 or lower.
Tip 2: Pick Upsets Strategically
You have to have some upsets in your March Madness bracket. It’s part of the fun, and there are always a few Cinderella teams that make a surprising run in March Madness. How do you know which upsets to pick and how many to pick in each round?
Your March Madness bracket should have most of the upsets in the first round. To get to the second round, you’ll need to beat at least one No. 10 seed, if not two. Nearly 40% of No. 10 seeds have won their first-round games against No. 7 seeds. More than a third of the first-round games have gone to the No. 11 or No. 12 seeds, so you might also want to bet on a couple of teams with those seeds.
It’s a risk to bet on a team seeded lower than No. 13 to win a game. Give a No. 13 or No. 14 seed a chance, but don’t put them in the Sweet Sixteen. Don’t waste your time betting on a No. 16 seed to win. It has only ever happened once in the history of March Madness.
Tip 3: Go With Experience
If you don’t follow college basketball, you might want to do some research before filling out your bracket to find out which of the top-seeded teams have experienced players. Most of the time, the national champion is led by players who have played college basketball for a few years and have been to March Madness before.
College basketball’s biggest stars are often first- and second-year players, but they don’t usually lead their teams to championships. Just look at the teams that have won March Madness in the past few years. There were no first-year players on the 2022 Kansas team. Four of their starters had been in college for at least three years, and the best player on their team was a senior. All of the starters for the 2021 champion Baylor Bears were juniors or seniors. Four of the starters on the 2019 champion Virginia team had at least three years of college under their belts.
Head coaches also need to have a lot of experience. Most of the time, one of the best college basketball coaches is in charge of the team that wins March Madness. Every coach who won a championship between 1999 and 2018 except one is already in the Basketball Hall of Fame or is well on their way to getting there. Tony Bennett has been one of the best coaches in the sport for ten years. Scott Drew has been the head coach of the Bears for 20 years.
Now that Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, Roy Williams of North Carolina, and Jay Wright of Villanova have all retired, Bill Self of Kansas might be the best coach in college basketball.
Which NCAA team had the worst ranking before winning March Madness?
In 1985, when there were 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament, the No. 8 seed Villanova became the lowest-ranked team to win. In one of the biggest upsets of all time, the Wildcats beat No. 1 Georgetown and star center Patrick Ewing, who was a big favorite. The second half of Villanova’s 66-64 win was almost perfect, as they made nine of their ten field goal attempts.
Thirty years later, No. 8 seed Kentucky came close to doing what Villanova did. Instead, the 2014 national championship went to No. 7 Connecticut, which beat Kentucky. The Huskies were the second-lowest-ranked team to win March Madness. Since 1998, Connecticut is the only NCAA champion who was seeded lower than third on their side of the bracket.
Only Villanova and Connecticut have won the NCAA Tournament as the No. 8 and No. 7 seeds. In 1988, Kansas was the first and only team to win the national championship as the No. 6 seed. No. 5 seed teams have never won the NCAA Tournament.
March Madness FAQs
How Many Teams Are In March Madness?
There are 68 teams in March Madness all together. For the first round, there are only 64 teams left in the tournament.
How Many Games Are In March Madness?
From the “play-in” games for the First Four to the national championship, March Madness has 67 games. Three weeks pass while the tournament is going on.
Has A #16 Seed Ever Beat A #1 Seed?
In the first round of March Madness 2018, No. 16 UMBC beat No. 1 Virginia 74-54. It was the only time in NCAA Tournament history that a No. 16 seed won a game. The year after that, Virginia won the national title and March Madness.