The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, also known as March Madness, is one of the biggest sporting events of the calendar year, and it captures the imagination of people from coast to coast as a result.
For three straight weeks, basketball rules the day. It’s all about bracket busters, buzzer beaters, Cinderella stories, powerhouse squads and upset specials. March Madness is tons of fun, and the interest level will only continue to go through the roof in the coming years.
That’s at least partially thanks to the evolving legal and regulated sports betting environment here in the United States. Betting on March Madness is big business, to the tune of staggering sums of money.
According to data from the American Gaming Association, Americans wagered an expected $8.5 billion on March Madness in 2019. That number breaks down into about half on brackets with the rest devoted to sports betting.
For the latter category, you’ll have a number of opportunities to bet as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament plays out. Folks in Colorado, along with the rest of the US, missed out on betting on March Madness in 2020, but Colorado bettors can now legally place bets the next time it rolls around.
We’re going to cover everything you need to know right here, including the latest odds on the championship. Let’s get to it.
In May 2018, the US Supreme Court ruled on a long-running case regarding the legality of a federal sports betting ban. The high court felt that it was a matter for individual states to decide for themselves. It was the proverbial green light, and many states were quick to act. Today, a number of states offer legal and regulated sports betting, including Colorado.
Users can bet in person at retail sportsbooks, online with major operators or on the go with sports betting apps. After legalizing sports betting in November 2019, Colorado officially launched the state’s first sportsbooks on May 1, 2020. The launch began with just a few apps, but with a number of casinos and sports betting licensees in the state, Colorado is set to offer a very robust and competitive market of both online betting apps and retail sportsbooks.
That includes the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos, as well as a number of major online operators such as DraftKings, FanDuel and PointsBet. Now that apps are live, you can sign up to play online quickly and easily. You can click through on our exclusive links to create your account, and you’ll be eligible for some excellent free bets and bonuses just for doing so. After you enter a few simple pieces of information such as name, email address and password, your new account will be created instantly.
From there, take the time to download the app for your device so you can bet on the go. On the main website, you’ll find instructions for both iPhone and Android. Download the app for your device, log in on mobile, and you’ll be all set.
There are 350 colleges across the US that play at the Division I level, but only 68 of them qualify for March Madness. So how do teams make the cut? At the end of the college basketball regular season, conference tournaments get underway. The winners of those 32 tournaments receive automatic invites to the dance.
The remaining 36 teams are chosen by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. All of the teams selected are revealed on Selection Sunday, which is a made-for-TV event that airs once all of the conference tournaments are in the books.
Top teams that excelled during the regular season are easy choices, but it becomes less clear-cut the further we move down the ranks. The committee naturally does the best that it can to make fair selections, and it has plenty of tools at its disposal to do so.
Among the biggest is a rankings system known as NET, which stands for NCAA Evaluation Tool. It includes a number of metrics, and the best of the remaining teams earn bids when all is said and done. Once the field of 68 is set, it’s time for the NCAA to fill out the bracket that it will release to the public. There are 15 teams assigned to each of four geographic regions: East, South, Midwest and West.
That’s 60 teams, leaving the eight remaining teams to play in the opening round, which is also known as the First Four or play-in games. The winners of those four contests advance to the first round and assume their place in the respective regions.
The first round of the tournament takes place on Thursday and Friday. There are 16 games on each of those days, with the winners advancing. Over the weekend, there are another 16 games, with the winners moving on to make up the Sweet 16.
There’s a slight pause before the action gets back up and running the following Thursday and Friday. The winners of the Sweet 16 games advance to the weekend to play in the Elite Eight, which is also known as the regional final round.
The winners of those four games advance to the Final Four, which is the semifinals of the entire tournament, on the following Saturday. Final Four winners then go on to play in the men’s national championship game, which is held on Monday. Add it all up, and there are 67 games in March Madness. It’s a wild ride that presents plenty of betting opportunities along the way.
There are a number of ways to get in on the action of March Madness. You can bet on the individual games, place a wager on the winner of the tournament and even place live bets as the action plays out in real time.
Here’s a look at the major bet types you’ll come across.
Moneyline: This is a simple bet in which you’re just picking the winner of a game. Favorites will have negative odds, while it’s positive odds on the underdog side.
Point spread: Oddsmakers install a spread on each game that essentially represents a projected margin of victory. You can take the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the points.
Totals: These are wagers that revolve around the total points scored in a game. Oddsmakers set an estimated number, and bettors decide if they expect the total to be over or under that number.
Props: These are additional wagering opportunities for each game on things that may or may not happen from a team or player perspective:
Parlays: You can tie together multiple game bets on a single betting slip, and the result is a parlay. The potential return rises with each game added to the ticket, but so do the odds of hitting the parlay.
Futures: These are bets you can place on something that has yet to happen, such as the winner of the tournament or one of the specific regions. Odds will be listed for each team still in the hunt.
Live betting: You can still place wagers after the action has gotten underway. The live betting market is fast-paced, and you’ll find a number of opportunities to choose from:
The sheer number of games on tap is part of what makes March Madness so special, but it can also make it seem a little intimidating from a betting perspective. When you have so many choices in front of you, it can be tough to decide where to begin.
Keep your cool and remember to pick your spots. There’s no reason to bet on all of the games. Instead, you can zero in on the ones you like the most and focus on breaking those contests down. Once you have some games selected, here are some betting tips you can use.
Each game will have odds attached, and you can quickly gain a sense of the overall strength of the two teams involved just by looking at them. In addition, keep an eye on any movement in the odds from the time they are released until you’re ready to place bets. This can be a great clue on market sentiment for the game.
Teams seeded one through four have a good track record of success in the early rounds. That doesn’t mean that upsets won’t happen, but it does mean that you shouldn’t try to force them. The top teams in the nation are where they are for a reason. Be sure to understand their overall strength in relation to their opponents.
Speaking of upsets, one great way to spot games that have potential to break in this fashion is by studying recent form. Under-the-radar teams that are flying high heading into the tournament could find some success against powerhouse programs that have struggled of late, for example.
For each game on the docket, there are reams of stats to consider. You also won’t have a hard time finding opinions on which side will win.
On stats, focus on things that really matter, such as overall shooting percentage, defensive efficiency and depth of the rotations. As for opinions, feel free to consult trusted sources, but be sure to stick with your instincts when it comes time to make final decisions.
There are five Division I men’s college basketball programs in the state of Colorado. Here are some key details for each of them.
Filling out a bracket is a huge part of the enjoyment of March Madness. There are contests of all shapes and sizes, ranging from small office pools all the way up to massive online tournaments that pay out real prizes.
Brackets start getting filled out soon after they are released on Selection Sunday. Participants in competitions must fill the entire bracket out before the first game tips off.
You receive points for correct picks, and some pools give more weight to selections that prove to be right in the later rounds. At the end of the contest, the player with the most points wins the pool, while some contests pay out several top finishers.
On the online contest front, many major outlets and companies release bracket competitions that are quite popular with the masses. Top sportsbook operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel do the same.
According to the American Gaming Association, a whopping $8.5 billion was wagered on March Madness in the US in 2019. That number includes money spent on bracket competitions and actual bets placed on the games and tournament as a whole. It’s close to an even split between the two categories in terms of dollars.
Anything is possible, but the chances of actually filling out a perfect March Madness bracket are incredibly small. In fact, advanced mathematical studies have placed the odds of doing so at one in 9.2 quintillion. For perspective, one quintillion is the equivalent of one million trillions. While many dream of hitting the perfect bracket, the odds suggest it’s just not going to happen.
There are a number of programs across the nation with impressive March Madness track records. Here are the top five schools with the most tournament appearances, listed with the number of times they made it to the dance and how many times they have won the national title.
The biggest upset in tournament history actually happened recently. In 2018, the UMBC Retrievers, a 16 seed, upset the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers by a score of 74-54. This was the first time in tournament history that a 16 seed came out on top of a one seed. Entering the game, Virginia was a 20.5-point favorite.
For the tournament as a whole, the eighth-seeded Villanova Wildcats won the whole thing back in 1985, defeating the powerhouse Georgetown Hoyas in the national championship game. Villanova still stands as the lowest-ranked team to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The UCLA Bruins hold the all-time record for national titles with 11, the last of which came in 1995. Here are the next four teams on the list with the number of times they won the tournament and the year of their last championship win.
Kentucky Wildcats, eight, 2012
North Carolina Tar Heels, six, 2017
Duke Blue Devils, five, 2015
Indiana Hoosiers, five, 1987