Oddsmakers Insight and NCAA Tournament Bracket Tips
The first round of the NCAA Tournament starts Thursday. Let’s look at betting strategies before you complete your brackets and combine that with some knowledge from two veteran oddsmakers.
The opening round of the NCAA tournament is always filled with excitement. Check out our stories on underdogs and 5 Bets.
I always tell people to select one to four games when they’re looking at the board. And personally, I go with teams or conferences I’m familiar with.
But the madness doesn’t allow for conventional reasoning. The American Gaming Association is projecting that 68 million American adults will wager $15.5 billion on the tournament this year. Of that number, 83% of the bettors will participate in a bracket contest.
To have a realistic chance at winning your bracket pool, you must have your Final Four intact at the end of the opening round. If you have two teams that exit early, your bracket is busted even if your remaining two teams play for the National Championship.
This year’s field of 64 has no clear-cut favorite. Five teams were ranked No. 1 this season according to the AP poll. They were Kansas Jayhawks, Alabama Crimson Tide, Purdue Boilermakers, Houston Cougars, and North Carolina Tar Heels. While UNC did not make this year’s tournament, the other four teams all received a No. 1 seed in their respective regions.
I would rank those teams in the following order: Alabama, Purdue, Houston, and Kansas. Houston falls to No. 3 from No. 1 because of the injury to Marcus Sasser, who is their best player. Kansas fall to No. 4 because of the two losses to the Texas Longhorns within a 10-day span and the uncertainty of Head Coach Bill Self who was hospitalized during the Big 12 Conference Championship.
Recent History and Power Rankings
I include how the conference fared in recent NCAA opening round play and the power ranking of the conference in the regular season in my bracket selections.
The Big 12 was the best conference from top to bottom. Second was the Big Ten and the SEC was third. The Big 12 received seven invitations from the selection committee. eight invitations were given to the Big Ten and the SEC. The Big 12 is vying to become the first conference in more than three decades to win the tournament three consecutive years.
Last year, the Big Ten went 6-2 in the opening round. The Big 12 was 6-0 while the SEC went 3-3. Based on recent history, I would look for at least two upsets of SEC teams in the opening rounds.
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Kornegay, Gable Weigh in on NCAA Tournament
Jay Kornegay, Vice President of Race and Sports at Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino and Tom Gable, Director of Race and Sports from Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa shared information about the early action. Keep in mind that most of the action will start coming in Wednesday into Thursday.
What does the early action look like so far?
Kornegay: “As soon as we posted the games on Sunday night, the action has been hot and heavy. We saw early action on Northwestern, Arizona St, Missouri, and Baylor to name a few. We also took sizeable futures bets on Tennessee and UConn. It is a promising start to the week.”
Gable: “It is always exciting when you open up the lines on Sunday night after the Selection Show and react to what comes in to start. Most of the people betting the openers on Sunday night are the ones who are going to influence line movement. The vast majority of the public gets involved closer to Thursday and Friday. Some underdogs got bet right away like Kent State at +5 ½ and +5. That number has already moved to Indiana -4. You see who the popular dogs will be right away but by the time the public really starts betting they won’t be getting the best of the number.”
Risk Shifting on Top Teams
What type of liability or risk did the book have prior to Selection Sunday on the top seeded teams?
Kornegay: “We’re in a pretty good position at this point. Of the main contenders, only Texas has liability attached to them. Gonzaga also has some liability but they wouldn’t be in that top tier to start the tournament.”
Gable: “Houston has been the betting favorite for the majority of the season. They still remain the favorite to win it all. We have some liability on them just due to the volume of wagers we have received on them throughout the year, but for the other #1 seeds, we are in good shape in the future book. One team that has been picking up a lot of steam in the last couple of weeks has been Duke. We have some decent liability built up on them now and we’ve been carrying liability on UConn for quite a while now as well. St. Mary’s, surprisingly, would also be a pretty big loser for us.”
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