The NCAA Tournament is one of the most anticipated and exciting sporting events of the year, which is why every spring you have many new sports bettors wondering how to bet on March Madness.
With 68 of the top college basketball teams in the country competing for the National Championship, the road to the Final Four is paved with fantastic finishes, unbelievable upsets, and the most fun you’ll ever have betting on basketball.
How does March Madness betting work
March Madness betting works just like most basketball games. However, when you mix in the high-stakes tournament format and the top programs in the NCAA, March Madness betting takes on a completely different intensity.
Once the field of 68 teams is released on Selection Sunday, oddsmakers get to work setting point spreads, Over/Under totals, and additional March Madness odds for each tournament matchup in the First Four as well as the Round of 64.
As teams win and advance throughout the bracket, bookmakers quickly release betting lines for the next slate of games all the way through to the National Championship game, adjusting their odds to current form and matchup edges found in these unique tournament contests.
Understanding March Madness betting odds
The point spread, Over/Under and moneyline may be the most common ways to bet on March Madness but there’s nothing basic about those betting odds when you add a dash of Big Dance drama.
The point spread is the estimated gap between the two teams on the scoreboard, set by oddsmakers to balance the level of competition before each NCAA tournament game. The point spread favorite must win by more than the designated spread to cover (and win the bet) while the underdog must win outright or lose by less than the spread to cover.
The opening rounds of March Madness betting can see some larger point spreads on the board when higher-ranked teams play lower-ranked opponents, such as No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchups. As the tournament goes on, the spreads will shrink as the level of competition gets tighter.
The Over/Under is the projected total number of points scored by both teams in their NCAA Tournament game. Bettors can wager on whether the final score will go Over or Under this total.
Oddsmakers admit that college basketball totals are one of their toughest markets to book and get even tougher during March Madness with foreign foes, contrasting styles, and quick turnarounds in each round of the tournament.
The moneyline is the most straightforward method for betting on March Madness: simply pick which team will win. Each team is assigned a moneyline value based on its implied probability of winning the game outright.
Earlier rounds of the NCAA Tournament will see larger moneyline odds when a higher seed takes on a lower seed. Moneyline underdogs are a popular March Madness bet due to the unpredictable upsets that highlight the bracket each year.
Five other popular bet types for March Madness
The popularity of March Madness betting has sparked additional ways to wager on the NCAA Tournament, from long-running bets to quick and thrilling gambling options.
Futures are bets that take a longer period of time to play out, including betting on which team will win the National Championship or make the Final Four by winning its respective region.
Futures bets can be placed throughout the course of March Madness and the odds are always adjusting to outcomes, injuries and betting action during the Big Dance.
Props (or proposition bets) are alternative wagers set for games outside of the standard markets. March Madness props can focus on individual team or player performances or be based around events and stats, such as the total number of 3-pointers made or fouls committed.
There are longer-running prop bets available, such as betting on the number of teams from a conference to advance to the Sweet 16 or how many teams with the nickname “Wildcats” will advance to the Round of 32.
First to 15
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more exciting way to bet on March Madness than First to 15 props. The game is in the name: bet on which team will score 15 points first.
Bookmakers will set odds for either side in this race to 15 based on their matchup, and bettors get to enjoy a thrilling back-and-forth bet that usually pays out in the first 10 minutes of the game. “First To” bets can range in point values, such as a race to 20, 30, 40 and upwards, depending on where you choose to bet.
Wagering on which player will win tournament MVP – also known as the Final Four Most Outstanding Player – is a form of futures betting.
These odds go up at the start of the tournament, featuring the best players from the tournament favorites at the top. The MVP odds adjust to outcomes, results, and betting action throughout March Madness.
Tips to make the best March Madness bets
The NCAA Tournament is one of the most unpredictable events in sports but there are some tried and true tips to help make the smartest March Madness bets.
Using schedule & momentum
Strength of schedule from the regular season plays a big part in shaping the teams given an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and it’s also a good measuring stick when betting March Madness matchups. Look at a team’s quality of opponents and notable wins from the regular season.
Perhaps the only thing that can trump a proven track record is current form and momentum. Every year we see surprise success from teams peaking at the right time in the postseason. Dissect those hot – and cold - streaks and see if they’ll continue in March.
Experience & coaching
Tournament experience as well as a stable core of upperclassmen to lean on can be key to a team’s NCAA success when postseason pressures rise.
There’s a reason why you always see the same coaches advancing past the first weekend of the tournament. Knowing how to manage lineups and adjust game to game is worth its weight in gold.
Telltale signs of a Cinderella
Finding a certified Cinderella team is the fast track to profits when betting March Madness. These can be small-conference schools with tricky tempos or sharpshooters who took down top-tier competition during non-conference play.
A Cinderella can also be a lower seed coming out of a power conference that’s been playing at a competitive level all season and finding its form at the right time during the tournament.
The wild swings in momentum during March Madness seem tailormade for live betting. In-play odds are always an exciting way to jump into the action and that intensity is ramped up during March Madness.
Live betting the NCAA Tournament is also a great way to hedge and middle pregame wagers.
The 2021 NCAA Tournament will be unlike any other due to the precautions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. All March Madness ll tournament games are being held in the state of Indiana – from the First Four to the Final Four - rather than having multiple sites and travel. There will be limited fans in attendance for these events.
This year’s field of 68 will have 32 at-large bids instead of 31 since the Ivy League canceled its season.
Instant Replay: How do you bet on March Madness
There’s a lot to cover before betting on the Big Dance. Here’s a recap of the most important steps to remember when wagering on March Madness.
- Spreads, Over/Under totals, and moneylines are the most popular NCAA Tournament bets but more and more alternative odds and props hit the board every March.
- Consider the strength of schedule, momentum, and experience before making your bets.
- The madness of March is made for live betting. Use in-play odds to your advantage.
- Make sure you place your bets at a trusted betting site.
How to bet on March Madness FAQs
How do you bet on March Madness?
The most popular ways to bet on March Madness is wagering on point spreads, Over/Under totals, and moneylines for individual NCAA Tournament games.
Where can you bet on March Madness?
Every online, mobile and retail casino sportsbook takes bets on March Madness games.