Updated: October 2019

How to Bet on March Madness

3 June 2019

Every March, US College Basketball takes centre stage as the NCAA Division 1 champions are crowned after an action-packed nineteen-day tournament in which sixty-seven matches take place. Hence the name March Madness.

With more global television coverage, and a rise in popularity of the tournament, it has become another tournament that bettors all over the world chance their arm on to try and make a tidy profit.

March Madness – A Brief Overview

Branded as NCAA March Madness, the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 Men’s Basketball tournament features sixty-four college teams from the top level of the NCAA competing to be crowned national champions.

The tournament starts with thirty-two conference champions earning automatic qualification, and another thirty-six teams selected by a committee. This takes place on Selection Sunday, where seeds and brackets are also announced.

Split into four regions, the teams are seeded one to sixteen and this determines the matches which will take place and the bracket each team will be placed in.

The tournament starts with a first four tournament, in which the lowest ranked four selected teams take on the four lowest ranked automatic qualifiers. This whittles the field down to the sixty four teams who advance to round one.

On the first weekend of the tournament, the first and second rounds take place. The first round sees the number one seed take on the number sixteen seed in each region, two plays fifteen, three plays fourteen and so on.

After the first four days of action, the field is down to what is known as the sweet sixteen. These are the sixteen teams, four in each region, who will compete in the regional semi-finals. The sweet sixteen round takes place on the Thursday and Friday of the following week, with the Elite Eight (Regional Finals) taking place on the Saturday and Sunday.

The four regional champions then move on to the Final Four tournament, where the national semi-finals take place on the Saturday and the regional final taking place on the Monday.

Throughout the final rounds, teams are not re-seeded and the draw for the Final Four is based on the overall rankings of the four number one seeds from each region.

How to Bet on March Madness

As you can expect, with any sporting competition which features a lot of games, betting activity has increased over the years. Here are a few tips to help you have a better chance of making a profit on March Madness, especially for those who are new to the sport.


As always, and with any sporting event, research is an important part of any betting strategy. It gives you an insight into things such as recent form, it helps you find value in your bets, and helps you to decide which bets are worth having and which should be ignored.
We recommend you study late season conference form for each team, make notes of any injuries to key players, how good a teams defence is, and historical information about the tournament itself.

Bet on the Twelfth Seeds in Early Rounds

There is a common theme when it comes to the first two days of action that the number twelve seeds are the most likely lower ranked teams to cause a shock.

Statistics show that more than a third of number twelve seeds have been victorious in the first round over the years, with at least one twelfth seed beating a fifth seed outright every year.

So, it is recommended to bet on the twelfth seeds on the first two days. Obviously, not all four will win but it may pay to look at them in the points spread market. With the low value of twelfth seeds in the first round, the points spread should be quite wide and gives bettors the chance of making a profit even if the fifth seed does end up winning.

The Top Seeds (Usually) Always Win in Round One

Historically, every number one seed makes it through the first round unscathed. That was until Virginia became the first number one seed to lose to a number sixteen seed in 2018.

However, one number seed losing to a sixteenth seed in all these years isn’t enough to make anyone think that a new trend is about to begin.

We are not saying you should bet on every number one seed, because not only is there a small chance of them losing but there probably isn’t any value in backing them in the first round or two. What we are saying is to not bet on the sixteenth seed. It will probably, most definitely, leave you out of pocket.

There are Always Upsets in Round One

We have mentioned the benefit of betting on the twelfth seed during the first two days of action, but it may also pay to look at other lower seeded teams who may produce a shock of their own.

March Madness is an extremely unpredictable tournament, with no real historical trends to base your betting strategy on in early rounds. Upset victories in round one are just part of how unpredictable the tournament can be.

Except for generally ignoring the sixteenth seeds, we recommend extra research into the lower seeds to see which teams are most likely to cause a shock and give you a winning bet.

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