Betting Takeaways from the Early Madness

If you watched all 48 hours of basketball from the start of NCAA Tournament on Thursday through the last game on Sunday night, congratulations.

Actually, congrats if you did so and made money.

After you go for a run (the air is still fresh outside), take a shower, and change out of your candystripe Hoosiers pants, it’s time to evaluate what took place, analyze what trends worked and failed, and figure out what it means going forward.


During the first round, underdogs went 18-14 ATS with ten of the dogs winning straight up. In the second round, favorites and dogs split against the spread (8-8) but half of the dogs still won outright. In other words, when you’re not sure, err on the side of taking points, and if you have any conviction at all, play a few bucks on the moneyline.


Through four days of play, ACC is a remarkable 12-1 SU while the Pac-12 is 3-6. The “Conference of Champions” was equally bad against the spread (3-6 ATS). As for the ACC, its 8-5 ATS record is nothing to laugh at, but not nearly as exciting as their straight up mark.

Top Seeds

It is always popular to bet on top seeds. They are the most visible squads with the most marketable players and coaches. This year, number one seeds are 8-0 overall and 5-3 against the spread. Both the no. 2 and 3 seeds went 3-4 ATS and Michigan State, Xavier, Utah, and West Virginia were all sent packing. There is no sure fire formula for betting on or against the biggest chalk in the field, but tread softly this year with the likes of Tom Izzo and Bob Huggins getting bounced early as massive favorite.

The Takeaway

Where does this leave us? The craziness of Thursday and Friday confirmed what we already knew: this is a year without a dominant team, and there’s not much separating a two-seed from a twelve.

Saturday and Sunday went against that trend a bit, but sportsbooks clearly see what is going on.

None of the Sweet 16 games have a spread bigger than seven. Seven of the eight games might be at five or fewer by tipoff. The margin for error is very small.

If you believe in teams that defend, or veteran coaches, or great guards, keep riding that theory. With no dominant team, be strong in your opinions, and if your side is a dog, play the moneyline, too.

(Photo credit: Chad Cooper (flickr) []. Photo has been cropped.)

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