The last bit of confetti from Super Bowl LII hs been swept up, and the NFL has entered its winter off-season. Pitchers and catchers are about to report to spring training, but MLB is almost two months from getting underway. We’re still several months away from the NBA and NHL playoffs — all of which means that it must be time to start getting ready for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament — also known as March Madness. In 2017, people in the United States alone were expected to complete as many as 70 million brackets and wager $10.4 billion on the tournament. Most of that money was bet informally (and illegally) in office pools and other wagers, but the books still take in hundreds of millions in action each year on this tournament. Here’s our March Madness betting advice on how to get ready for one of the biggest wagering events on the athletic calendar.
Seven Rules for Betting on March Madness
Who is on the Bubble❓
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) February 9, 2018
Take advantage of your office pool
If you pony up cash to enter the pools online, you’re going to be tangling with other people who spend a lot of time doing research and picking wisely — much like you. In your office, there might be a few people who do the hard research, but a lot of people will just fill out the brackets on the basis of their favorite colleges, or on the fact that they think Duke always wins, or even on the basis of factors like uniform colors — these are your casual bettors. Enter and take advantage of people who don’t know nearly as much as you do.
Factor in upsets — because they will happen
Even in the professional leagues, upsets happen. Remember when the Nashville Predators, with the eighth seed in the Western Conference last year, went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals? There was the magical run of Kevin Ollie’s Connecticut Huskies who came out of nowhere to win the whole March Madness tournament back in 2014. And don’t forget the 1983 upset of Houston (with Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon) by North Carolina State. So think about filling out multiple brackets — and planning for upsets in each one.
Ten-and 11-seeds are often better than six- and seven-seeds
A lot of times, you will see teams at the 10- and 11-seeds who either won a mid-major conference or came in second. At the six- and seven-seed, you’ll often see a team that finished in fourth or fifth place in one of the Power Five conferences. The argument here is often that the Power Five team had a tougher schedule than the mid-major team and deserves the higher seed. However, the problem is that the mid-major is often just as good talentwise (if not better) and has motivation to knock off the Power Five team.
Watch video of the contenders down the stretch
Sure, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky are almost certain to make the tournament. Even in down years, programs like these have a good enough record to eke their way in, and their name recognition keeps them off the bubble. Even if you don’t have time to watch the conference tournaments, though, watch some portions of their play so you get a sense of how they deal with pressure down the stretch.
15-seeds are 15-seeds for a reason
Every now and then, you’ll see a 15-seed knock off a 2-seed and maybe even get to the Sweet 16 before bowing out. Why? Well, the 15-seed has nothing to lose and is raring to take down Goliath. So the 2-seed might come in thinking that they will have an easy win, only to find out that they are in for the fight of their lives. Usually, the two-seeds take care of business, though, so don’t go crazy and pick two of them to lose.
Guards are more important than forwards
Sure, rebounding is important. But if your guards can’t bring the ball up reliably without turning the ball over, you’re not going to win in the tournament. So pay attention to the turnover margins for the teams in the tournament, and when all other things are even, think about going with the team with the better ball security.
Pick your parlays wisely
If you’re going to bet on games, and if you’re certain about two of them, why not line them up in a parlay? Boost your winnings when the results come back. However, do your research into your teams — because you’re lining up more cash on the table.