March Madness: 30 Betting Tips to win you money (10-15 min read)
March Madness is just around the corner and is one of the most popular times of the year to bet as a sports fan. $4.6 billion will be wagered this March Madness tournament, and a majority of these over 30 million people betting on the tournament will lose money. Betting is always more fun when you win money, so I give you my top 30 betting tips/angles I have for the tournament. There is a lot of info here, so you may want to read a few times and save for when you are targeting games/placing bets. With these tips, don’t just bet on a team because one of the tips meets the criteria. Try to find spots where several of these tips match up. Here we go-
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Tip #1- Head Coaching Experience
You want to look at teams to target who have traditionally performed better with a head coach with experience and a good ATS record. Give this just as much weight as you do a team’s ATS trends this season. The tournament is different, from travel, to back to back games. etc. Also, look at teams whose head coaches have played in the tournament as a player or an assistant coach in the tournament, as this experience is invaluable. Here are a few coaches and their notable ATS records in the first two rounds. The first two rounds are where we will really focus our time and some of the numbers initially. Don’t solely bet on a team this tournament based off of head coaching alone but just make sure to consider it as you handicap this tournament.
- Bill Self (Kansas)– 7-3 ATS in last 10 games in first 2 rounds
- Rick Barnes (Tennessee)– 1-8 ATS in the dance since 2009 (1-1 with Tennessee)
- Matt Painter (Purdue)– is 13-5 ATS (72%) in the first two rounds, including 8-2 ATS in the first round. 6-2 ATS in the early rounds of the tournament when his team is a top-4 seed.
- Mark Few (Gonzaga)– hasn’t covered the spread in the tournament against an opponent outside the power conferences since the Bulldogs’ first-round win over Valparaiso in the 2004 Big Dance. 0-12 since 2014 against these teams, and not covering to UNCO Greensboro last year-
- Tony Bennett (Virginia)– 3-5 ATS in the first round, 7-11 ATS overall.
There are a few articles that highlight all head coaching records in the tournament. Here are a is one article but the data is from 2017. I will update when I find something specific to 2019.
Tip #2- 12/5 match-up don’t force it!
12 vs 5 is one of the most popular upsets over the years in the NCAA tournament, but what do the numbers and the ATS trends really say? Over the last 11 years, No. 12 seeds are an impressive 26-17-1 against the spread while also going 19-25 straight up. They are 13-10-1 ATS combined over the past six alone. Last year no 12 seeds advanced to the next round, and only 1 covered the spread.
I love NMSU +7 to win as a 5 seed over Auburn. The 12 vs 5 match-up is pretty obvious to the public at this point, and you’ll most likely see one of the 12 seeds get a lot of the bets and them being public heavy. This is the type of the game you want to fade or look on bet against that team. As soon as you try to just pick two 12 seeds to cover just to check it off your list, you might end up going 0-2. Be selective and don’t force this bet unless you feel confident and if they meet some of the other criteria throughout that I mention through this article.
Tip #3- Pace of Play (1st half unders)
Pace of play or (Possessions Per Game) is something to really target at when taking a look at totals (over/unders) in the NCAA tournament. 71.5 possessions per game is essentially the average this year in the NCAA, but during the first two rounds of the tournament (and especially the first round), you can expect this to drop a bit. This is due to a few factors, mainly nerves, and a lack of comfort level playing in a different environment. Offensive performance always seems to take more of shots in the first 2 rounds of the tournament than the defensive performance will. The only issue with this angle is that the market and lines will already be adjusted for this, so there is less of an edge.
The best strategy is to target first half unders. Another angle as well is to target unders with very good offensive teams/high possession rates. Sometimes there will be an over-adjustment for these high scoring teams, and you can find an edge here. The only thing you want to be aware of is teams in the NCAA tournament typically will play down to the very last second. For example, if a team is down 11 points headed into the last min, you can expect them to stretch out the game until the very end, which will lead to a lot of free throw shooting (which we will cover on day 13) and additional points down the stretch. Teams favored 17 and up shouldn’t have this issue too much, but then you have to consider benchwarmer seniors trying to get their last crack at points near the end. This is why the best angle is unders in the first half, and also look to live bet the over at half time or even in the first 5-10 mins of the game.
Teams that will be in the big dance with some of the lowest pace of play are Virginia, Virginia Tech, Kansas State, Wisconsin & Michigan. Make sure to key your eyes on these teams and this are great teams to target for unders, especially if they play sounds defense, which most of these teams listed do. There is definitely a correlation here. Teams with high possession rates include Buffalo, Duke, NC State, Arizona State (bubble team) and St. Johns. Do note, that when a team is up big, their POP will decrease. So the best angle here speaking to pace of play, is to bet unders or first half unders of teams who have a low possession rate vs high possession rates and overs.
Tip #4- The go-to scorer/underdog teams
Time and time again, I have seen teams in the dance (mainly underdogs), who can not for the life of them make a bucket. When this happens, you typically look for the go-to scorer to try to get a bucket and typically a drive to the bucket, with either a lay-up or foul. If you targeting an underdog (especially against a good defensive team), take a look at that team has a bonafide scorer. Nothing worse is having an underdog who is around a plus +7 to +12 and can not buy a bucket. Teams to consider who will fit this criterion would be teams such as Murray State (Ja Morant), Wofford (Fletcher McGee), and Anthony Lamb (Vermont). These guys can create shots, get to the paint and knock down free throws. All three of these teams should also be underdogs as well. Personally, nothing is worse than betting on an underdog without someone who can get a bucket at any time. Look to target these teams and keep this tip in mind when handicapping this tournament.
Tip #5- Rebounding (ORB)
Look for teams that have good rebounding numbers, but let’s look at offensive rebounding percentages vs total rebounds or rebounds a game, and here’s why. Total rebounds per game is misleading because this includes all rebounds, and this could include teams facing opponents that shoot more or have a higher pace of play, which leads to more rebounds. Most bettors look at the number of rebounds and rebounding margin. However, these two statistics are very misleading.
Offensive rebound percentage is a key metric and a more critical number. For one, it is a %, so it is more adjusted of a statistic. Two, offensive rebounds lead to a second possession, which usually is a second shot, which ultimately leads to additional points. Also, a lot of offensive rebounds happen inside the paint, so those are easy second-chance points.
The top teams this year have a percentage of around 35-38%, the average is about 26-27%, and the low end is 13% to 20%. Some of the teams that will be in the tournament who have a very high offensive rebounding percentage include Baylor, LSU, New Mexico State, Kentucky, and Cincinnati. Look closer at these teams and no surprise, the bottom 50 ranked in offensive rebounding are very bad teams. There are only 1-2 teams in the bottom 70 that will be in the tournament.
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Tip #6- Depth
Look to target teams that have depth in their rotation. Fouling is more prevalent in the NCAA tournament than the regular season, and this is due to refs calling the games tighter. Players will pick up 2 fouls within the first 10 minutes and coaches will have to look to their bench. Teams with a scorer off the bench will be beneficial to a team covering, so you can quickly take a look at bench players for each team and their PPG. A few teams that stand out who have a lot of depth are New Mexico State and Gonzaga. Foul trouble always seems to be more prevalent in the NCAA tournament than the regular season
Tip #7- Travel
Teams that have a short travel time and are closer to home will have an advantage in the first two rounds vs teams that have to travel cross country. Not only will the travel time be limited, but there usually will be more of a home crowd advantage, especially in the other team is far away from the first/second round location. A bad spot for travel is Wisconsin having to play in San Jose, and Oregon faces them, which is a short flight from Eugene. Also, if Tennessee & Cinncinati advances to the next round, they would face each other in Columbus, which is a bad draw for the number 2 seeded Vols.
Tip #8- Non conference tournament/tournament
A lot of betting sites/handicapping sites will look at ATS records from the season, and if you handicap based off of this, you will not win any money. The tournament is a different animal for many reasons- you have neutral courts, win or go home, multiple games in a few days, etc etc. Instead of looking at ATS numbers for the whole season, look at the ATS numbers in the non-conference tournaments, neutral site games, and postseason conference tournament. This record of these three games will give you a better representation of how a team will fare in the March Madness Tournament.
Tip #9- How is the team performing as of late (but beware of recency bias)
Is a team slumming at a bad time? Did they just have a big injury to a starter? These are questions to consider when handicapping in the tournament. It goes both ways though. Did a team have a great offensive performance last game of the conference tournament to inflate their spread for the first round tournament game?
A term you need to learn is regress to the mean. Teams will have outlier types performances here and there, but over time they will end up playing like the team they actually are. The hard part is trying to predict when a team will do this and this is a conversation for another day.
A take away from this will be- look to target teams that have been consistent (for the most part) all season and had a fluke outing in their conference tournament. This would be a team that shoots 41% from the field, but shot 25% in the conference tournament, missing a lot of wide open shots. What will happen is this team will maybe be favored only by 4 instead of 5. Not only that, but the public will look at the last game they played, and form their bet off of that.
Also, take a look at a team’s ATS record in the second half of the season vs the first have as a whole. This will give you a better idea of how the team is performing since January. If you see a discrepancy between the two, try to identify why this is.
Tip #10- Favorites
Kyle Hunter of Kyle Hunter Sports Picks helped me with this section. Kyle is one of the best handicappers in CBB and one of the only handicappers I have seen do better than me (humble brag LOL). He is 115-79 and up +28.92 units this year, IMPRESSIVE!! From Kyle, Betting on the favorites in the first round last year was just short of being a break-even proposition – the favorites had a 14-15-1 ATS record on the two days, going 7-8-1 ATS on Thursday and then improving slightly to 7-7 ATS on Friday with two games that lacked favorites because they were pick’em lines . That’s not great, but it is very much in line with what we have seen in recent years. In 2016 the favorites went 15-16 ATS, while in 2015 favorites were an ugly 13-19 ATS. Particularly rough that year was the Thursday session when underdogs went on a crazy 12-4 ATS tear.
My take away from this, is don’t just go betting favorites. The best time to bet a favorite would be as soon as the lines open on Sunday night, as most of the lines will jump up. If anything, take a look at targeting more underdogs but blindly betting one or the other is never a good tip.
Tip #11- Expectations/Pressure
As I mentioned in my first tip, Mark Few (Gonzaga), hasn’t covered the spread in the tournament against an opponent outside the power conferences since the Bulldogs’ first-round win over Valparaiso in the 2004 Big Dance. 0-12 since 2014 against these teams, and not covering to UNCO Greensboro last year. Gonzaga is a team that will make it out of the first round, and typically first two years almost every year, but covering has been a problem.
Other teams with high pressure going into the dance may not have as much trouble as Gonzaga has had covering over the years, but it just goes to show that it can be troublesome. Teams with high expectations (1 to 2 seeds) will be 18-28 point favorites in the first round. If a 15/16 is riding some momentum into the tournament and has some shooters, it can be an easy cover for the underdog. This tip is hard to quantify, but just keep it top of mind while handicapping the tournament.
Tip #12- Level of competition-
How did teams perform against better competition? Were they challenge in the conference and/or out of conference. How did they play on the road against the top teams in the conference?
Look at those ATS numbers as well answering those 3 questions. The top team in a conference will get an underdog’s best shot, especially at home. Take a look at the ATS record for a team who is in a smaller conference, and how they performed ATS against teams on the road, specifically the upper half of a conference on the road.
Tip #13- First Tournament?
There are a lot of nerves for a team making their first tournament appearance and a team will come out slow. Gardner-Webb & Abilene Christain are making their first tournament appearance this year. Abilene Christian plays Kentucky Thursday and are 21.5 point underdogs. Gardner-Webb plays Virginia Friday and are 24.5 point underdogs. Might want to look more into these two match-ups and going against these teams.
Tip #14- Playing a team for the second time or third?
Take a look at the lines from these prior match-ups. Also, determine why a team won/loss in those games. If a team on the season shoots 33% from three on the year, but in the first match-up they won ATS from shooting 48%, this could be an indication that they won’t shoot like that again. It is hard to beat a team two times in a row, and three times at that, so consider that as you handicap. There will be a few match-ups potentially in the second round of teams playing each other for the 2nd or 3rd time.
Tip #15- Don’t bet on your favorite team!
Don’t bet with your heart! There is a term I have heard a few times called the happiness hedge- where you bet against your team, and that way you win regardless. Betting on your favorite team is an easy way to lose money. You can actually read more about this here.
Tip #16- Don’t blind bet because everyone else is betting on a team or says it is a good play. Do your research
The experts on ESPN will start giving you teams that they think will advance. Experts analysts are typically not the best sports bettors, and they usually talk about teams to win, not to cover. Keep this in mind in the few days leading up to the first games.
Tip #17- Take regular season ATS record with a grain of salt, important but not as much.
ATS numbers from the regular season are decent to use when handicapping if used the correct way. I like to take a look at a teams ATS record in their neutral court games, conference tournament games and away games as well. This will give you the best representation of how a team will perform in the tournament since tournament games are played on neutral floors and away from home and also multiple games in a few days. How a team played and covered games at home really isn’t as significant.
Tip #18-Live Betting
This is why the best angle are the unders in the first half, and also look to live bet the over at half time or even in the first 5-10 mins of the game. More specifically, look to live bet the over if there was a high total to start the game. For example, if the total is 150, and the game starts with missed shots and turnovers and the score is 6-2 with 4 mins in, the live line will probably be around 144-146. That is when you want to jump on it and you basically received 4 points for free.
Tip #19- Bet on the smaller tournaments
Did you know there are three other postseason tournaments besides the NCAA Tournament? There is the CIT, CBI, and NIT, and these are great tournaments to bet on. This is because the lines aren’t as sharp and there is always good value to be found in these tournaments. Yes, these games aren’t as fun to bet on as the main tournament, but definitely look to make several bets in these other tournaments. I have won so much money over the years in these tournaments, definitely more than I have in the NCAA Tournament.
Tip #20- Free Throw Shooting. THIS IS HUGE!
How many games have you won/loss due to free throw shooting down the stretch this year? Well, it is even more likely in the tournament because teams will stretch out games even more than they do in the regular season because it is the last game of the year. Teams will even play the foul game down 13-15 points vs 9-11 points in the last few minutes. I’ve seen it time and time every year.
It is still vital regardless of the spread but just something to keep in mind. The average free throw percentage this year in CBB is 72%. The top teams shoot 75-79% and the bottom teams shoot 60-66%. Some top teams in the tournament at free throw shooting are Tennessee, Gonzaga, Ole Miss, and Louisville (all around 77%) Duke shoots 69% believe it or not, but free throw shooting really comes into play when the spread is around 4-15 points (this is when the game is going to be extended) Free throw shooting is still vital regardless of the spread but just something to keep in mind.
Tip #21- Young team with a lack of tournament experience? Depends on coaching!
Young teams like Duke and Kentucky don’t worry me because of their head coaching. Teams with a younger head coach, and a lack of senior leadership are teams to fade. Also look to see what teams played in the tournament the last 1-3 years, assuming they have returning players on those teams for this tournament. Again, teams with one and dones or with solid head coaches won’t apply to this!
Tip #22- Know the trends with seeds-
- 1 seeds have covered 8 out of the last 12 match-ups against 16 seeds
- 2 seeds have covered 8 out of the last 12 match-ups 15 seeds, Backing the lower seed has been the way to go in the No. 2 vs No. 15 matchup as the No. 15 seed has gone 51-40-1 ATS (56 percent) since 1996. Since 2008, however, spread betting in this matchup has been a virtual coin flip with No. 15 having a minuscule 23-20-1 ATS edge.
- 3 seeds vs 14 going 16-16 against the spread vs the No. 14 in 32 games.
- Over the last 11 years, No. 12 seeds are an impressive 26-17-1 against the spread while also going 20-24 straight up
- No. 11 seeds are 13-11 SU and 15-9 ATS in the last six years against 6 seeds
- No. 7 seeds are 12-7-1 ATS in the last six years against 10 seeds
- Since 2000, No. 8 seeds have also gone 18-10-1 ATS as dogs, so keep that in mind when the brackets are released and after oddsmakers set the opening lines for these matchups this year.
Tip #23- Don’t bet just to bet
If you are a leisure bettor and only bet a few times a year, then I am not going to stop you. If you are someone who bets daily/weekly, this tip is for you. It takes a lot of discipline to not fall in this trap and this is how Vegas makes all their money, and it is blind betting and action betting. I still am guilty of this, but not nearly as often as I use to. Have some self-control and don’t just bet on a game because it is coming up and go into it blindly. Do research all week leading up to the first round games and have a list of games you want to target and make notes of these games.
Tip #23- Fade the public
This goes for all sports but even more so in March Madness. You can read more about this here. Long story short, betting against the public is more times than not the best angle.
Tip #25- Bankroll management, don’t chase losses!
Have a plan of attack going into the tournament. Know how much you are going to be betting a game (unit size) and if you have a few losses in a row, don’t start doubling up and trying to get out of a hole. This is the worse way to bet, especially during March Madness. Be disciplined on how much you bet, and even how many games you bet.
Tip #26- Unders in stadium arenas, depth perception. Target unders
You will see this in the Final Four being played in a football stadium, but keep in mind the venues that teams will be playing in. Unders are the best angles in these situations, especially teams that shoot a lot of threes.
Tip #27- Altitude!
Salt Lake City has an elevation of 4,300 ft, which is one of the first round locations. You can watch this video on altitude and how it affects athletes. As far as over/unders go, look to target unders in this location. Also, NMSU plays Auburn in the first round in Salt Lake City. Las Cruces has an elevation of 4,000 , and Auburn has an elevation of 900 ft. This is an angle that you should take advantage of!
Tip #28- Betting on March Madness and filling out a bracket are two different things THIS IS SO SO SO important!
Filling out a bracket and betting on games should be two separate things. A rookie move is filling out a bracket and then just betting all those same teams to cover the spread. Don’t do this as it is an easy way to lose money!
Tip #29- Sharp money
You can learn about sharp money here. To sum this up, look to bet against teams that are getting the majority of the bets, but not a majority of the money. An example would be a favorite of -8 points could be getting 70% of the bets, but only 50% of the money. This is showing that the professional bettors or “sharps” are betting on the other team. You more times than not want to be on the sharp side vs the public side.
Tip #30- Have fun!
This sounds cliche and cheesy but enjoy the ride. Even if you have a bad March Madness betting wise, still have fun as betting gives you free entertainment (well minus the bets that lose). There will be Cinderellas, upsets, buzzer beaters and crazy runs. Mixing in some betting on top of this should make everything else that much more exciting. I hoped you enjoyed these March Madness Betting Tips and using this will help win you money. Tips on filling out a bracket this March Madness can be found below!
March Madness Betting Tips
March Madness Betting Tips