How to bet on March Madness

Logo_Basketball_NCAAB March Madness 64x64

How does March Madness betting work?

March Madness is an annual tournament that determines that year’s champions in NCAA Division I college basketball. It normally runs for three weeks from mid-March to the first week of April, and is so named for the buzz it generates among fans, teams, and the media alike. The tournament is the most watched and bet on event in college sports, and of special interest to bettors who attempt the arduous task of predicting a perfect bracket every year.

After the final spots are decided in the First Four round, the main March Madness bracket begins, which seeds 64 teams into four groups of 16 by region. The bracket is a single-elimination tournament, meaning it often produces exciting games and big shocks, including early exits from outright favorites and unexpected runs into the latter rounds by supposed underdogs.

Sportsbooks offer a large range of markets on March Madness every year, including numerous lines on every single game of the tournament and live betting. For those who enjoy college sports or high-stakes basketball action, March Madness is undoubtedly a highlight of the sporting calendar.

Basketball_March Madness_Kansas Jayhawks celebrate
© Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

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What March Madness odds can you get?

The markets and odds available for March Madness will be familiar to anyone who has previously bet on other basketball competitions such as the NBA. The most popular March Madness markets offered by sportsbooks include:

  • Moneyline: This is a simple market on which team will win a March Madness game.

  • Point spread: This is a type of bet on whether a team will win or lose a March Madness game by a specific margin.

  • Total or over/under: This involves betting on if the total number of points in a March Madness game will be over or under a number set by the sportsbook.

  • Parlays: You can place parlay bets featuring multiple selections on March Madness. These can be same-game parlays (several selections on the same game) or multi-game parlays (multiple selections on different games).

  • Prop bets: Props allow you to bet on anything that can happen in a March Madness game not directly linked to the final result, e.g. which team or player will score more three pointers or get more rebounds.

  • Futures: March Madness futures are available for markets including the outright winner and whether a team will reach the Final Four.

March Madness betting tips

Scout the location

You should always check a team's road and neutral-site records, both straight up and against the spread.

If a team performed well in the regular season due to a strong home record, they may be overvalued when it comes to March Madness.

Check the stats

Examine all the relevant stats for the teams and players involved that you can find. Instead of focusing on a team's seeding, consider their recent form and key metrics from their last three or four games. If a team is performing better or worse than expected, see if you can identify the underlying stats driving that.

Look for experience

The format of March Madness is intense and drives pressure, and often catches many first-timers off guard.

Check how experienced the squads and coaches for each team are and if they can lean on prior deep runs in the tournament.

Be wary of public favorites

There are some teams that are consistently highly rated by college basketball fans, irrespective of their actual ability. If a team is leading the outright market, try and find out if that’s because of their performances or merely a groundswell of public support.

Get the best odds

As per betting on any sporting event,you should always check a range of sportsbooks to ensure the odds you’re betting on are good value. Many sportsbooks offer odds on March Madness, so there’s an incentive to shop for the best available.

Who are the current March Madness champions?

The Kansas Jayhawks won March Madness in 2022 for the fourth time in their history, narrowly defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 72-69 in the Championship Game at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. They entered the main bracket as the top Midwestern seed courtesy of their 28-6 regular season record, reaching the Final Four with an impressive 76-50 win over No. 10 seed the Miami Hurricanes.

In the Final Four, they beat the Villanova Wildcats 81-65, before producing a stunning comeback to clinch the championship, having trailed North Carolina by 15 points after the first half. Jalen Wilson and David McCormack were their offensive heroes on the day with 15 points each, while Christian Braun claimed 12 rebounds. The title was Kansas’ first March Madness victory since 2008 and their first appearance in the Championship Game since they lost to the Kentucky Wildcats in 2012.

March Madness history

March Madness was first held in 1939, when the Oregon Webfoots became the inaugural champions by winning the then eight-team tournament. It has been held every year since then with the exception of 2020, when it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tournament doubled in size to 16 teams in 1951 and continued to grow over the next few decades until 1985, when the contemporary structure of a 64-team bracket began. In 2011, the number of teams increased to 68 with the introduction of the First Four round.

The tournament first began to be known as March Madness in 1982, when CBS reporter Brent Musburger nicknamed it as such during a game telecast. Up until then, ‘March Madness’ was actually known as another basketball championship – the annual Illinois High School Association tournament.

There are several teams who have made their mark on March Madness history, most notably the UCLA Bruins, who can boast an unmatched 11 titles. The Kentucky Wildcats follow with eight, while the North Carolina Tar Heels have won six titles from their record 20 Final Four appearances. John Wooden is the most successful coach in March Madness history, winning 10 titles with the Bruins between 1964 and 1975.

Basketball_March Madness_Kansas Jayhawks forward Mitch Lightfoot
© Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

March Madness betting FAQs

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BET.CA staff
BET.CA staff