No basketball bet embodies the excitement and unpredictability of March Madness like the First to 15 prop.
Also known as “Race to” props, which can differ in point range (Race to 20, Race to 30), this unique wager is a favorite among college basketball fans due to its quick-hitting thrills and simplicity: Just pick which team will score 15 points first.
After Round 1, the lower-seeded team has won the First to 15 prop in 19 of the 31 games (with one game being canceled). The higher-seeded team made a big comeback in the Second Round, however, getting there five times in the eight games on Sunday and then in six of the eight on Monday. Detailed results can be found below.
First to 15 picks - National Championship
Gonzaga Bulldogs vs Baylor Bears
The Bulldogs have been known for their fast starts, averaging a sensational 45.7 points per game in the opening half, but they don't have the greatest track record of winning this prop bet.
The Zags lost the race to 15 against UCLA on Saturday night and are a middling 4-5 to this prop over their last nine games, getting beaten to that 15-point mark by mediocre squads like Loyola Marymont and Santa Clara.
Baylor has been much more consistent about winning the "First to 15" bet, cashing that prop in seven consecutive games. Take the plus money with the Bears here.
PREDICTION: First to 15 Baylor (+105)
First to 15 odds & results
We'll be keeping track of the First to 15 results throughout March Madness (in bold below).
National Championship game
Baylor raced out to lead in the title game and never looked back, meaning that the Bears won the First to 15 prop in every game they played in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Baylor got to 15 as a big favorite but UCLA cashed as a big underdog in the nightcap.
Much like the previous round, it was all favorites winning the First to 15 in the Elite Eight.
Sweet 16 games (Sunday)
It was all chalk on Sunday as the betting favorites won the First to 15 in all four games.
Sweet 16 games (Saturday)
Three of the four races were won by favorites by Oral Roberts did come through with a nice win for underdog bettors.
|Oregon State||+125||Loyola Chicago||-175|
Second Round games (Monday)
Another solid day for underdog bettors in the First to 15 prop as the higher seed came home in six of the eight games (though it should be noted No. 6 USC was actually favored over No. 3 Kansas).
Second Round games (Sunday)
It was a solid day for those backing the higher seed as five teams got to 15 first in the eight games, including Loyola Chicago cashing as the biggest underdog at +125.
|Oregon State||+115||Oklahoma State||-161|
First Round games (Saturday)
The lower seeds took 10 of the 15 games on Saturday but underdog bettors cashed nicely with Eastern Washington (+155) and Abilene Christian (+145).
|NC Greensboro||+155||Florida State||-222|
First Round games (Friday)
The lower-seeded got there nine times of the 16 games on Friday. All of the heavy favorites cashed as well, with the biggest underdog coming in at +135.
|Utah State||+105||Texas Tech||-145|
|Oral Roberts||+200||Ohio State||-300|
|Georgia Tech||-105||Loyola Chicago||-135|
|Syracuse||+100||San Diego State||-140|
|Morehead State||+175||West Virginia||-250|
First Four games
|Mount St. Mary's||-115||Texas Southern||-115|
|Norfolk State||+100||Appalachian State||-140|
First to 15 prop bet
The name of the bet pretty much tells you everything. Bookmakers post odds on which team will be the first to score 15 points and bettors simply select the team they think will cross that finish line first.
First to 15 popularity
The “First to 15” prop has picked up in popularity over the past decade, specifically for the NCAA Tournament.
Its back-and-forth nature has bettors sweating almost every possession, cheering for those 3-point makes and cursing out foul calls and And-1’s for the other side. That intensity rises the closer the teams get to 15 points.
These March Madness props don't take long to play out and because it takes place over a small segment of the game, there’s a greater chance for deviation and surprise results in those first 15 points.
First to 15 betting tips
Tempo and pace
Before jumping into the “Race To” odds, make sure you know the tempo and pace of the two teams. Measuring things like possessions per game can give you an idea of how quickly a team likes to get up and down the floor.
Once you figure out pace vs. pace, determine which team can impose their preferred tempo on the other.
3-point shooting & defense
What’s the quickest way to 15 points? From beyond the arc, of course. Sharp-shooting teams can hold an edge in the “First to 15” prop, especially if they come out swinging from 3-point range. Take a look at recent performances from outside and if their top 3-point threats have the hot hand.
On the flip side of this, find out how well a program defends the 3-point arc. Do they get their heels above the line and force opponents to look inside or do they sag off and allow the space for 3-point looks?
Some teams love to come out firing early and set the tone and tempo for the game while others ease into the offense, finding their footing in the second half. Recognize the approach on offense for the teams involved and dig into their recent efforts, seeing how often they’ve won the race to 15 in the past few games.
Also, be aware of any injuries to starters or key contributors that may stall or slow a team’s scoring or defensive ability.
First to 15 history
Derived from the first team to score prop, the First to 15 props started showing up at MGM sportsbooks in Las Vegas back in the mid-2010s and were originally set as a race to 20 points.
However, more often than not, the favorite was cracking the 20-point plateau first and oddsmakers adjusted to 15 points, hoping to produce more unpredictable results.
The First to 15 prop became a staple of the March Madness betting board — not just in Vegas but at online and mobile books — and has gained more and more popularity with every NCAA Tournament.
“For First to 15, you wouldn’t believe how often one team is at 13 when they go to the first TV timeout, or the game goes to a commercial,” Jeff Stoneback, director of trading for MGM sportsbooks in Nevada, told Covers. “In the back office here, you could have the TVs completely off, not know the score at all, and you can tell by the crowd reaction that one team is close to 15 points. Every missed or made basket, there’s a cheer.
“It’s an exciting bet, and you’ve almost always got a chance. It’s very rare that you get blown out on the First to 15. You’ve always got a shot.”
Scenes from Sin City: And Iona is First to 15 vs. North Carolina, sending bettors of that prop, at +400, into a frenzy at @MandalayBay sportsbook. Gotta love @MGMRaceSports’ #MarchMadness prop bet menu! @Covers pic.twitter.com/L1eUWqYijy— Patrick Everson (@Covers_Vegas) March 23, 2019
March Madness First to 15 FAQs
What are March Madness First to 15 props?
March Madness First To 15 props allow you to bet on which team will score 15 first.
Are First to 15 props popular for March Madness?
Yes, First To 15 Props and other “Race To” props are extremely popular for March Madness.