How to Bet on March Madness: What Kind of Bets Can You Make?

March Madness is like Christmas for sports bettors. You have your bracket in one hand and your bet slips in the other while sitting in front of as many screens as possible soaking in all the action. With as many opportunities to bet as there are during the tournament it’s important to know a few key tips, tricks, and trends for March Madness before placing your bets.

63% of March Madness Winners Have Been No. 1 Seeds

If you’re going to place a bet on a team to win it all, you should probably stay away from the lower seeded teams. Since expanding the tournament to 64 teams in 1985, 22 of the 35 winners have been a No. 1 seed which is a win rate of 63%. This is followed by No. 2 seeds which have won 14% of the time, No. 3 seeds which have won 11% of the time, and then just a single win each for No. 4, No. 6, No. 7, and No. 8 seeded teams. A No. 5 seeded team has interestingly enough never won the March Madness tournament.

If you want to bet on a long shot, it might be smarter to look at some individual game upsets instead.

All Four No. 1 Seeds to make the Final Four has only Happened ONCE

Now before you take the advice from the section above and go to bet on all four No. 1 seeds to make the Final Four, you should know that all four No. 1 seeds advancing to the Semi-Finals has only happened once in the history of the tournament.

The only time this occurred was in 2008 when Kansas, Memphis, UNC, and UCLA all made the Final Four as No. 1 seeds. With a couple of the No. 1 seeds this season faltering down the stretch of the regular season, like Michigan and Baylor, don’t count on this year being the second occurrence of this phenomenon.

With that being said, there has been at least one No. 1 seed in the Championship game in 14 of the last 19 years so don’t completely fill your Final Four with low-seeded dark horses.

If You’re Looking for a First Round Moneyline Underdog Pick, Bet on a No. 12 Seed

One of the most fascinating trends in the history of the March Madness tournament is the insanely high win-rate that No. 12 seeds have against No. 5 seeds. Since 1985 when they expanded to 64 teams, there has only been five years that all four No. 5 seeds have managed to defeat the No. 12 seeds without a single upset. That’s it, only five years.

In fact, No. 12 seeds actually have an overall record of 50-90 against No. 5 seeds in the first round of March Madness for a win percentage of 35.7% which is much higher than you’d imagine given the difference in seed.

What sticks out the most of these four matchups is Georgetown and Oregon State enter the tournament on a hot streak, winning their respective Power 6 conference tournaments despite entering them as a low seed. Winthrop and UCSB also earned their bid via winning their conference tournament but of course they hail from much smaller, mid-major conferences.

How do March Madness Teams Rank Against the Spread?

As you can imagine when you put together a tournament consisting of 68 teams, there are a handful of squads that have won bettors plenty of money in the regular season. If you want to back those teams to continue to cover the spread in the tournament, take a look at which schools have been fantastic bets in 2021.

Top 5 March Madness Teams ATS

  1. Drake 21-6 (77.78%)
  2. Grand Canyon 15-5 (75%)
  3. Drexel 12-4 (75%)
  4. UConn 16-6 (72.73%)
  5. Abilene Christian 16-6 (72.73%)

The Drake Bulldogs were a sports betting darling this season as they dominated the spread going 21-6 including a 13-0 run to start their season. They’re set as a slight underdog to Wichita State in a First Four play in game on Thursday. Grand Canyon and Drexel find themselves as sizable underdogs as they face No. 2 Iowa and No. 1 Illinois respectively in the opening round. UConn is the only team on the list that is favored in their first-round matchup as the No. 7 seed Huskies are 2-point favorites to No. 10 seed Maryland.

Now what about the worst teams against the spread? Just as profitable as betting on teams who cover the spread at a high rate is betting against teams who’ve struggled to cover the spread.

Worst 5 March Madness Teams ATS

  1. Michigan State 9-18 (33.33%)
  2. Texas Tech 10-17 (37.04%)
  3. Maryland 12-16 (42.86%)
  4. Florida 10-13 (43.38%)
  5. UCLA 12-14 (46.15%)

Interestingly enough, two of these teams will be playing in a First Four play-in game as Michigan State will be taking on UCLA as a 2-point favorite for the right to play BYU in the first round of the tournament. Another key thing to keep in mind is Maryland will be facing aforementioned UConn in the first round who enters the tournament with the fourth best record against the spread.

How do March Madness Teams do When it Comes to the Total?

Betting on the point spread obviously isn’t the only way you can wager on March Madness games, so how about the total? Let’s start off by taking a look at the top five teams who’ve managed to smash the point total throughout the season.

Top 5 March Madness OVER teams

  1. Oral Roberts 16-7 (69.57%)
  2. Florida State 14-7-1 (66.67%)
  3. West Virginia 18-9 (66.67%)
  4. Oklahoma State 17-9-2 (65.38%)
  5. Oregon 17-9 (65.38%)

What’s unfortunate is that we probably won’t see a matchup between any of these five teams in the tournament, which is a shame because who doesn’t love seeing an offensive shootout? One matchup that is a realistic possibility is an Elite Eight showdown in the Midwest Region between West Virginia and Oklahoma State. While it’s unlikely that they’ll meet as neither team is a top two seed, expect a ton of points if we are fortunate enough to witness it.

That leaves us with teams who have done a good job staying below the point total. While a defensive battle may not be the most exciting type of game to watch, a winning bet is a winning bet.

Top 5 March Madness UNDER teams

  1. St. Bonaventure 14-6 (70%)
  2. Grand Canyon 14-6 (70%)
  3. Morehead St 18-10 (64.29%)
  4. Mt St Marys 14-8 (63.64%)
  5. Michigan St 17-10 (62.96%)

Much like the teams who ranked near the top of the spread standings, most of these teams will likely see an early exit in the tournament. An interesting game to watch will be the first-round matchup between St. Bonaventure and LSU who will have a stylistic clash as the Tigers are well-known as a fast-paced team that likes to put up points in bunches.