March Madness Betting Strategy

It’s always important to enter the NCAA March Madness tournament with a betting strategy. So many sports enthusiasts, both casual and religious, will be wagering on the frenetic slate of games for the entire month, and you need to separate yourself from the pack—and certainly the below-average pack. Indeed, sportsbetting lore is littered with tales of the random gambler who played some long-shot odds and won despite arming himself or herself with minimal information. [+]

They didn’t watch the regular season unfold, nor did they pay an inordinate amount of attention to the early portion of the March Madness tournament. And yet, in the end, they still came out on top.

Those stories, make no mistake, are the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. If you don’t pay close enough attention to the college basketball season, both before and during March Madness, you are beyond unlikely to come out ahead at the sportsooks. 

For every anecdote featuring the lucky gambler, there are hundreds more about bettors who were burned by a lack of information or faulty planning.

Do not be one of those gamblers. In fact, you’re already on your way to avoiding such perils by coming here. Follow the advice we provide below and you will have a better chance at preparing yourself for a successful foray into the relative craziness that is March Madness betting.

March Madness Betting Tips

The first step toward successful March Madness betting is to keep track of the game lines. This can be a stressful task, given that the first two rounds of play specifically feature unending action that makes it difficult to synthesize all the information. [+]

But you can power through by simply taking stock of the lines here. These odds are usually accurate, and they’re listed in one convenient place.

Now, lines do vary from sportsbook to sportsbook, so don’t get caught up in the aggregated numbers you see listed elsewhere. Oddsmakers are also forced to adjust the lines after initially publishing them based on an unanticipated amount of action laid down on one team or particular bet.

These tweaks, however major, needn’t phase you. Simply double-check game odds at your preferred sportsbook before making any sweeping decisions, and try to be as quick as possible when submitting wagers. This will safeguard you against making investments using potentially outdated information.

playoff - Matchday 6
Match day
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Away Score Home Money Line
Monday 03 April
FT Gonzaga Bulldogs 65 - 71 N.C. Tar Heels +105 -123 Odds

How To Win Your March Madness Bets

Ranking as a winner during March Madness isn’t just about the bets you make. Oftentimes it’s about the bets you dont’ make. We offer you some general rules below, each of which will help put you in the best possible position to succeed when hitting up your favorite sportsbooks.

Resist Urge to Bet on Heavy Underdogs in the First Round

Yes, choosing underdogs is an important part of successful March Madness betting. But do yourself a favor and don’t get carried away.

You won’t see a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed in the first round. Ditto goes for a No. 15 seed against a No. 2 seed. The same logic can be applied to No. 3 seeds facing No. 14 seeds. And so on and so forth.

While these upsets have happened in the past, you don’t want to start the tournament off by heavily investing in the rare exceptions. If you have extensively watched a No. 15 seed throughout the regular season and know the No. 2 seed it’s matched up with isn’t anything special, then you’re free to submit a wager. And if you’re betting a negligible amount you plan on losing—that you maybe specifically set away for these long-shot moneylines—this is fine, too.

But you don’t want to use early-round underdogs as your primary options. That might change should they survive into the Sweet 16 or beyond. Right now, you’re better off sticking with what you know from the regular season, in addition to what you know about the rarity behind such drastic first-round upsets.

Likewise, Don’t Get Seduced by Betting Chalk

Rolling with the top-seeded teams in every matchup isn’t just a proclivity of uninformed bettors. Wise sports gamblers get caught up in the regular-season hype that fuels a No. 1 seed team as well.

This isn’t always detrimental. After all, seven of the last NCAA championships entered the March Madness bracket as a top-seeded squad.

But there are four top-seeded squads, so your odds of picking the right one are 25 percent—and that’s assuming a No. 1 seed is even destined to be champion.

Going chalk also implies that all four No. 1 seeds reach the Final Four. And that almost never happens, which ensures your bracket and/or betting strategy is doomed to bust.

Nothing changes when specifically looking at the National Championship tilt. You’re seldom dealing with two No. 1 seeds. It’s happened twice over the last 10 years, and only three times over the last two decades.

Rather than banking on first-place teams to get the job done, either before or during the tournament, consider researching some light underdogs that fall between fifth and ninth place inside their resepctive brackets. Investing in chalk outcomes might get you past the first round—plus the second round if you’re lucky—but you won’t survive the month if you get seduced by the cursory appeal of betting on the top-most seeds.

Favor March Madness Results

Regular-season performances matter when betting during March Madness. They’re your sole means of gambling in the first round, and they remain super valuable when placing wagers once the field is winnowed down to 32 teams.

But you have to weight what happens through those first two rounds more than anything once you get to the Sweet 16.

If Team A played Team B in the regular season, then yes, that’s a past result you can place stock in during the Sweet 16. But teams get hot when they’re tasked with winning only six straight games. Chances are most brackets will be busted by the time the Sweet 16 rolls around, and you’ll need to take surprise teams seriously, judging them not on how they fared during the regular season, but based off what they’ve done since beginning college basketball’s big dance.