March Madness Betting Guide for 2021

NCAA March Madness is one of the most popular basketball tournaments among Canadians.

College basketball has gone from strength to strength and as a result, March Madness is taken very seriously by all involved, including Canadian bettors.

Scroll through our March Madness betting guide to find out the following and more:

  • Our recommended list of top March Madness betting sites
  • March Madness betting tips from our expert
  • An introduction and history to the tournament
Sal Vetri

Sal Vetri
Sports Betting Expert

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Sal Vetri’s Expert March Madness Betting Tips

1. Aim to Beat the Closing Number

As with any sports betting endeavour, your greatest odds of long-term profitability are by repeatedly beating the closing number. Let me show an example. Beating the closing number means betting early in the day / week once the lines come out.

This is a time when the lines are the ‘softest’, meaning they have not been influenced much by wagers. The spread and Over/Under will move throughout the day / week based on betting action.

If the line moves in your favour (Ex: You bet Duke -14 and the line moves to -16) then you have beat the closing line. In other words, the bet you placed early was better than the bet you would have placed later in the week.

Let’s look at the stock market for a loose comparison. If you are continuously late to the party on your investments, and you buy at high points, your room for upside does not outmatch the potential downturn.

But if you have arrived early via calculated and objective research then your potential upside becomes greater than your potential downsides. Bet your numbers early.

2. Bet on Great Two-Way Teams

Historically, great two-way teams have outperformed expectations more than teams that strive more on just one side of the court. This means you should look to back teams that are balanced on both the defensive end and the offensive side of the court.

Now – usually these teams are favorites but that is not always the case. When choosing between two similarly ranked teams, or shorter spread games, consider backing the more balanced team.

3. Shop for Your Line

It is now easier than ever to shop for your lines since the legalization of sports betting in 2018. Before placing your bet, be sure to look at a few other sportsbooks and compare the ‘price’ of your bet.

For example, if you like Duke -14 at (-110) vig then you should look around and see if another sportsbook has any Duke -13.5 or -13 numbers out there. Perhaps you will find a book that is offering better ‘vig’ on your bet. You may not be able to find anything better than Duke -14, but you may be able to find a better payout opportunity such as Duke -14 at (-105) as opposed to your original option of Duke -14 at (-110). These may seem like such minor differences, but over the long run they will prove to be major.

4. Take Advantage of Live Betting

Be sure to take advantage of live betting opportunities. One of the more underutilized strategies is to seek out a line you like before the game starts and wait until the game actually begins to place a wager, also known as live betting. For example, if you like Duke -14 you may consider waiting for tipoff and seeing if you can quickly get a better number.

If Duke was to go down 6-0 early, that -14 number would likely move down to -13 or -12. The first few minutes of the basketball game rarely decide the outcome, but the live betting odds will change based on those minutes. Remember what the line was before tipoff and use it as a baseline during those first few minutes. If a more favourable number pops up, consider taking that number.

Pro Tip: I would only recommend using this strategy when backing big favourites and not when backing big underdogs. Underdogs that fall behind early struggle to make up that ground throughout the game.

5. Fade the Noise of Subjective ‘Brackets’, Stick to Advanced Objective Data

Do not make your decisions based off of other individuals and their ‘bracket picks’. Biases are hard to control. Biases fuel emotional betting. Betting via emotions is a proven way to become a losing sports bettor.

Understand that most brackets you see are created by people who have pre-conceived biases and thus are selecting their ‘picks’ emotionally. Instead – stick to less subjective and more objective information. Advanced statistics and data are easy to find these days.

Let that information guide you into your decision(s). Human reasoning will always need to be added to statistics / data to make sense of it all – but that is a far more reputable approach than simply backing your favourite talk show hosts bracket picks.

An Introduction to March Madness

  • There are 68 college basketball teams which compete in March Madness.

  • The first March Madness tournament was held in 1939 and it has been held every year since.

  • From 1939 to 1950, the tournament had just eight teams competing. This doubled to 16 in 1951 before drastically increasing to 64 in 1985.

  • The tournament is a straight knock-out competition, hosting 67 games over 21 days. The Selection Committee will seed the entire field.

  • There are two ways a team can earn a spot at the NCAA tournament. The 32 Division 1 conferences all receive an automatic bid, while another route in is up to a selection committee who decide which 36 teams are worthy of a spot.

  • The selection committee is responsible for choosing the remaining 36 teams, seeding and bracketing the field for the tournament. Each member will serve a five-year term if chosen.

  • Once the 68 teams have been selected, each will be assigned a seed and placed into one of four regions. Overall, this determines who will play who and set out each team’s routes to the final.

How March Madness Odds Work

There is no difference to gambling on March Madness compared to the NBA. Figuring out its odds is simple, and to help you, here’s an example:

Virginia
Virginia
2.0
Kentucky
Kentucky
3.25

Here, Virginia are the betting favorites. For every $4 staked on Virginia, you win $4 and get your stake back.

Kentucky are the outsiders according to the odds. A $4 bet on Kentucky generates $9 profit and a total of $13 returned as a whole.

March Madness Betting Options

Match Bets
  • The moneyline

    The moneyline

    Which college team will come out on top? For example, Virginia to beat Connecticut at 2.75. Note the odds will usually be expressed in American format, or alternatively decimal.

    Eg:
    Virginia
    2.75
    Virginia
    UConn Huskies
    3.25
    UConn Huskies
  • Spread betting

    Spread betting

    Sportsbook traders use data and form to set margins which they believe are the most likely outcomes. For example, this could be the total points in a match. For example, total points 37.5 in the second quarter in North Carolina @ Villanova at 3.50.

    Eg:
    North Carolina Tar Heels
    +37.5
    3.50
    North Carolina Tar Heels
    Villanova Wildcats
    -37.5
    3.50
    Villanova Wildcats
  • Handicaps

    Handicaps

    Similar to spread betting, handicaps offer an advantage for the underdogs to hold onto. For example, Kentucky with a +10.5 points handicap against Virginia at 1.85.

    Eg:
    Virginia Cavaliers
    -10.5
    2.20
    Virginia Cavaliers
    Kentucky Wildcats
    +10.5
    1.85
    Kentucky Wildcats
  • Over/Under

    Over/Under

    Here you can bet on the total amount of points within a match, either with both teams combined or on their own. You can bet on the amount of points for the whole match or select a particular quarter. For example, over 100.5 points in Duke Blue Devils @ UConn Huskies at 1.80.

    Eg:
    Over 110.5
    1.80
    Under 110.5
    2.00
  • Quarter betting

    Quarter betting

    A popular bet among players is betting on the outcome of individual quarters. For example, Virginia to win the second quarter against Villanova at 3.00.

    Eg:
    Virginia Cavaliers
    3.00
    Virginia Cavaliers
    Villanova Wildcats
    3.25
    Villanova Wildcats
Future Bets
  • March Madness Winner

    March Madness Winner

    Reckon you know who is going to come out on top and be crowned champions? For example, Virginia to win March Madness at 10.00.

    Eg:
    Virginia Cavaliers
    10.00
    Virginia Cavaliers

What is March Madness Live Betting?

  • March Madness betting is available when matches are live, or in-play
  • Odds will move throughout the game depending on what happens on the court
  • Live betting will allow you to bet on certain markets such as: teams to win a certain quarter, total match points and full-time result
  • It is possible to secure better odds in-play rather than taking fixed odds beforehand depending on how the game plays out

Timeline

March Madness was founded and to begin with, only eight teams competed. Oregon were crowned as the first ever champions but have failed to win the tournament since.

1939

Harvard entered their first March Madness having secured the Ivy League title. However, they had to wait 66 years before their next appearance – a league record drought.

1946

UCLA claimed their first title, before going on to win it nine more times out of the next 11 years.

1964

Notre Dame’s Austin Carr scored 61 points against Ohio, a record which still stands to this day.

1970

The term “March Madness” didn’t properly attach itself to the NCAA tournament until it was used by CBS broadcaster, Brent Musburger, when covering the 43rd edition.

1982

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) expanded the competition to 64 teams.

1985

Michigan State were victorious in the millennium, winning their second title 21 years after their first.

2000

The NCAA announced the tournament would be expanding to 68 teams from the original 64.

2011

North Carolina won their sixth title, becoming the third most successful team behind Kentucky and UCLA.

2017

Baltimore County Retrievers became the first no.16 seed to defeat a no.1 seed since expanding to 64 teams. That stopped the rot of 112 straight defeats for a no.16 seed when facing the top seed.

2018

Recent March Madness Champions

  • 2019
    Virginia Cavaliers
    Virginia Cavaliers
  • 2018
    Villanova Wildcats
    Villanova Wildcats
  • 2017
    North Carolina Tar Heels
    North Carolina Tar Heels
  • 2016
    Villanova Wildcats
    Villanova Wildcats
  • 2015
    Duke Blue Devils
    Duke Blue Devils
  • 2014
    UConn Huskies
    UConn Huskies
  • 2013
    Louisville Cardinals
    Louisville Cardinals
  • 2012
    Kentucky Wildcats
    Kentucky Wildcats
  • 2011
    UConn Huskies
    UConn Huskies
  • 2010
    Michigan Wolverines
    Michigan Wolverines

March Madness Betting FAQs

What is March Madness?

March Madness is a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) straight knock out tournament held across March and April.

How does March Madness betting work?

If you are looking to place a bet on March Madness online, locate the related section on one of our recommended sportsbooks. From here, click on the match of interest and add the odds to your betslip.

What are some of the most popular March Madness bets?

Some of the most popular March Madness bets include: moneyline, spread betting, handicaps, over/under markets and quarter betting. Certain sportsbooks will offer a host of other markets.

What are the top March Madness betting sites?

Our top 5 recommended March Madness betting sites according to our experts are:

Can I bet on March Madness on my mobile?

You certainly can. Most leading betting sites have free-to-download apps, which you can use on both your mobile and tablet.

What is March Madness live betting?

Live betting is where you place bets on March Madness games once they tipoff. Prices will continue to fluctuate throughout the match.

What is the March Madness moneyline?

Moneyline markets are betting odds without a draw or tie included on which team will win a March Madness game. You will often these expressed in the American price format.

What is the maximum I can win?

This depends on your stake and odds you choose to bet on. Please be aware that some sportsbooks will have max payout limits.

Will I be safe playing at online sportsbook sites?

To feature among our top March Madness betting sites here, we make sure the sportsbook is fully certified and takes security very seriously to create a safe gambling environment for all users.

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