March Madness 2021 Sports Betting Preview

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As we enter February and grieve the football season passing us by, we mustn’t forget what time of year it is. It’s March Madness time. That’s right, it’s time to dust off those old brackets and prepare for the greatest tournament in all of sports (and sports betting, for that matter). 

With the pandemic restricting the NCAA tournament to the Indianapolis area, many Covid-related questions are still in the air. That said, one thing is for certain – March Madness offers bettors one of the greatest opportunities to have fun and (hopefully) make money. 

March Madness Favorites

When odds were first announced, Villanova, the previous March Madness champs, came out as the favorite. However, much has changed. Villanova lost to Virginia Tech in late November and to Saint John’s, in a surprising defeat, on February 3rd. 

Despite these two losses, Villanova is still positioned as the 3rd overall team, with +750 odds at BetMGM. The Wildcats trail Gonzaga and Baylor (+250 and +450, respectively), both undefeated. 

Michigan comes in at 4th at +1200 with BetMGM. This judgment is echoed by Andy Katz, whose bracket has these four teams as the number one seeds. DraftKings is currently offering -305 odds for Gonzaga to make the final four, -305 for Baylor, +100 for Villanova, and +170 for Michigan. 

Underdog Picks

While making a futures bet on a favorite is always a safe move, betting on an underdog is where the most excitement, and hopefully the most money, is to be found. After all, who doesn’t love a Cinderella story?

One great way to profit from an underdog comes in the round of 64. Betting a 12 seed to upset a 5 seed, for instance, has been one of the most popular and profitable bets in recent years. Since the tournament expansion in 1985, 12 seeds have beaten 5 seeds roughly 35% of the time. 

Similarly, a bet on an 11 seed over a 6 seed or even a 13 seed over a 4 seed has historical merit. Since 1985, 29 13 seed teams have beaten 4 seeds, which equates to almost 21% of the time. For 11 seeds beating 6 seeds – the upset happens about 37% of the time. Given these stats, you can surely find some expected-value positive bets. 

An Underdog To Win

One team that stands out as the value-bettor’s sleeper is Illinois. Based on the NCAA’s NET rankings through February 3rd, Illinois is the 4th ranked team overall. However, many of the sportsbooks seem to disagree. DraftKings has Illinois at 13th overall to win the championship.

Considering this asymmetry, DraftKings’ odds of Illinois winning (+2000) or making the final four (+400) could be advantageous. Illinois is preparing for their bout against Michigan on February 11th – a game that will likely determine the Big Ten leader. If Illinois pulls off a win, you can rest assured those odds won’t be as sweet. 

Bracket Challenges 

Really, what is March Madness without a bracket? Making a bracket is not only wonderful for teasing your friends over their terrible picks, but it also gets you involved in every single game. And even though your bracket is sure to be busted, several sportsbooks have offered great challenges with big money payouts. 

For the last NCAA tournament, DraftKings offered New Jersey Residents a chance to compete in a $100,000 prize pool for a $20 buy-in. They also offered a free entry contest, available to anyone in the US. The contest touted $64,000 in total prizes. 

FanDuel also offered a free, nationwide bracket contest. With over $250,000 in total prizes, the proud owner of the best bracket received a cool $100,000. Assuming DraftKings and FanDuel offer something similar this year, making a bracket and signing up for the free competition is a no-brainer. 

About the Author

Chris Blundo

Chris Blundo is a freelance writer based out of Vero Beach, Florida. He holds a BA in economics and writes about Game Theory, poker, and all things gambling and sports betting.

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