Cash in Quickly With First to 15 Odds & Picks

March Madness First to 15 prop bets can be extremely entertaining, and profitable for bettors who like to back underdogs.

Last Updated: Apr 4, 2021 11:17 AM ET
Jared Butler Baylor Bears NCAA March Madness
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

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.

Team Odds Team Odds
Baylor +105 Gonzaga -140

Final Four

Baylor got to 15 as a big favorite but UCLA cashed as a big underdog in the nightcap. 

Team Odds Team Odds
Houston +110 Baylor -140
UCLA +190 Gonzaga -280

Elite Eight

Much like the previous round, it was all favorites winning the First to 15 in the Elite Eight.

Team Odds Team Odds
Oregon State +140 Houston -200
Arkansas +130 Baylor -185
USC +140 Gonzaga -200
UCLA +130 Michigan -185

Sweet 16 games (Sunday)

It was all chalk on Sunday as the betting favorites won the First to 15 in all four games.

Team Odds Team Odds
Creighton +170 Gonzaga -250
Florida State -105 Michigan -135
UCLA +115 Alabama -160
Oregon -115 USC -120

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.

Team Odds Team Odds
Oral Roberts +155 Arkansas -225
Syracuse +120 Houston -165
Villanova +120 Baylor -165
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). 

Team Odds Team Odds
Colorado -110 Florida State -125
LSU +110 Michigan -145
USC -125 Kansas -110
Ohio +115 Creighton -161
Oregon +110 Iowa -155
Oklahoma +175 Gonzaga -250
Abilene Christian +105 UCLA -145
Maryland +120 Alabama -165

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.

Team Odds Team Odds
Loyola Chicago +125 Illinois -175
Wisconsin +120 Baylor -165
Syracuse +100 West Virginia -140
Texas Tech -120 Arkansas -115
Rutgers +140 Houston -200
Oral Roberts +135 Florida -190
North Texas +115 Villanova -161
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). 

Team Odds Team Odds
Georgetown +115 Colorado -160
NC Greensboro  +155 Florida State -222
E. Washington +155 Kansas -225
St. Bonaventure  -110 LSU -125
Texas Southern +340 Michigan -588
UCSB +130 Creighton -185
Iona +220 Alabama -350
Drake +120 USC -166
Grand Canyon +190 Iowa -277
Maryland -105 UConn -135
Ohio +135 Virginia -190
Missouri -105 Oklahoma -135
Norfolk +500 Gonzaga -1,000
UCLA +100 BYU -138
Abilene Christian +145 Texas -200
VCU Void Oregon Void

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.

Team Odds Team Odds
Virginia Tech -115 Florida -115
Colgate  +130 Arkansas -185
Drexel +300 Illinois -500
Utah State  +105 Texas Tech -145
Oral Roberts +200 Ohio State -300
Hartford +375 Baylor -650
Georgia Tech -105 Loyola Chicago -135
Oregon State +135 Tennessee -190
Liberty +130 Oklahoma State  -185
Wisconsin -110 North Carolina -125
Cleveland State +280 Houston -450
North Texas +135 Purdue -190
Syracuse +100 San Diego State -140
Rutgers OTB Clemson OTB
Morehead State +175 West Virginia -250
Winthrop +120 Villanova -165

First Four games

Team Odds Team Odds
Mount St. Mary's -115 Texas Southern -115
Drake  -120 Wichita State -115
Norfolk State +100 Appalachian State -140
UCLA  -105 Michigan State -135

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

Basketball 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. 

Basketball Net 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? 

Matchups Starts/Current Form

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.”

March Madness First to 15 FAQs

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