March Madness 2020

Non-Basketball Fan’s Guide to Betting on March Madness

Non-Basketball Fan’s Guide to Betting on March Madness

When we are children, team sports like football, basketball, and baseball are ways to get every child in class or the neighborhood involved in a game. They are ways in which children get to know each other, make friends, and have fun. 

Sports are all about inclusion, comradery, and fun… when you’re young. 

But as we grow older, the purpose of sports changes. Only the strong, fast, and athletically gifted get to play, leaving the rest of us to watch and marvel at their exploits. But not everyone likes to watch. So, for a time, the purpose of sports changes from one of fun, friendship, and inclusion to one of entertainment. 

That is, if you like to watch. 

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The Gloriousness of Betting on March Madness

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Sports, like college basketball, can be about friendship, fun, and inclusion once again. All it takes is finding common ground, something that people who don’t like to watch sports can enjoy while the game is on. 

You know, like winning money. Gambling on a game can make even the dullest of endeavors more entertaining. But if you aren’t a fan and don’t know the sport, how can you honestly expect to win during something like March Madness?   

Diehard college basketball fans will spend countless hours watching every game they can and reading up on those they can’t and still have no clue who is going to win come Tournament time. How can the non-fan win? 

For things like the Super Bowl, the NBA playoffs, and the MLB postseason (unless you banked on the Houston Astros back in 2017), it is kind of hard to do more than make a wild guess.  

But for March Madness, that is not the case. 

The Best Bets for March Madness

Over the years some patterns have developed that make it possible for non-fans to make some semi-educated guesses when they bet on the NCAA Tournament: 

  • You can bank on your 1-seeds wining in the first round. Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams back in 1985, 1-seeds are 139-1 against 16-seeds. The odds favor them making it through the second round as well (120-19; 55-13 vs. 8-seeds and 65-6 vs. 9-). 
  • Odds will favor the 1-seed until the Elite Eight. In the Sweet Sixteen, they are 97-23. But in the Elite Eight, they are 57-40. 
  • Since 1979, the title game has featured two 1-seeds just seven times. It has featured at least one in every game but three. 
  • All four 1-seeds have made the Final Four only once. 
  • Don’t bank on the No. 1 team in the poll heading into the tournament winning it all. That has only happened seven times.    
  • Of the top-8 seeds, a 5-seed is the only one not to win it all; 8-seed is the lowest. 

You will need to do more than just focus on the 1-seeds, though. 

  • In the first round, you are likely safe picking the 2-seeds (132-8), 3-seeds (119-21), and 4-seeds (111-29) to win.    
  • While history favors 5-seeds over 12-seeds (90-50), recent years have been good to 12-seeds with at least one pulling off the upset more often than not. Since 1985, all four 5-seeds survived the first round only five times (last being in 2018). 
  • 6-seeds are good upset candidates as well with just a .629 win percentage in the first round; odds are not heavily in favor of 7-seeds either (.607). 
  • When it comes to the 8-seeds your guess is as good as anyone’s; they are 68-72 against 9-seeds in the first round 

Of course, the real fun begins once the first round is over: 

  • Odds plummet for 2-seeds in the second round from .943 to .674 (89-43). 
  • 4-seeds also struggle in the second round (66-45). 
  • 9-seeds have only made it past the second round seven times. 
  • If you are looking for a good upset candidate, 10-seeds are 23-32 in the second round, 11-seeds are 22-30, and 12-seeds are 21-29. 

When the Sweet Sixteen rolls around, your diehard college basketball fans may start taking things too seriously. That just makes winning that much more fun, of course: 

  • 8-seeds tend to do well if they make it that far (8-5); so do 9-seeds (4-3). 
  • Do not stay on the 12-seed bandwagon; they are 1-20 in the Sweet 16. 
  • 3-seeds are a crapshoot (36-38). 
  • If an 11-seed vs. 7-seed matchup takes place, take the 11-seed (4-0). 

Once it gets to the Elite Eight, it becomes a lot harder to pick a winner without knowing the teams. But if you want to roll the dice and try to make the diehards in your circle of friends angry, go with the 1, 4, and 5-seeds that are still alive and pass on the 2 and 3-seeds. 

If your friends haven’t killed you by the time the Final Four and National Title game roll around, take the money you won off them and buy beer and pizza for everyone.  That way, you’ll still be friends when April rolls around, and the Madness has ended.