March Madness Specials: How to Make Money Off of Team Seeding
Published on March 14, 2018
The college basketball regular season may not garner as much interest nowadays as it once did, but March Madness is still one of America’s marquee sporting events. Most of college basketball’s biggest names wind up jumping to the NBA after just one year these days, which makes it harder for fans to connect with teams on a year-to-year basis.
This season , which means we’re probably in for a wild tournament full of twists. Virginia earned the tournament’s top overall seed after dropping just 2 games during the regular season, but they have an incredibly tough bracket that happens to include 2 teams that were ranked in the preseason top-5 (Kentucky, Arizona). Have fun with that, Cavaliers.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve already gone through and put together at least one bracket. Some are more scientific than others when it comes to making picks. You may do a deep dive into the data and numbers, while your friend may just pick whichever mascot he thinks is better. In the end, you’re probably on a level playing field.
March Madness also presents a slew of betting opportunities, including a variety of props. Let’s roll through some of them and try to identify some betting value, shall we?
History tells us that there is an excellent chance that at least one No. 5 team will fall at the hands of a 12 seed in the round of 64. Since 1985, there have been a whopping 47 teams seeded twelfth to knock off a No. 5 in the NCAA tournament. So, 35.6% of all 12 seeds have managed to advance past this round.
Considering the perceived discrepancy between a 5 and a 12, 35.6% is a staggering number. There’s no real rhyme or reason for this, but it’s just one of those things. Last year, Middle Tennessee managed to knock off Minnesota as a 12 seed. A pair of 12 seeds advanced in the 2016 tournament (Yale, Little Rock), while 3 (Stephen F. Austin, Harvard, North Dakota State) advanced past this round in 2014.
In fact, in the round of 64 over the last 9 tournaments. Last year, they went 3-1 against the spread, though only one would ultimately win outright. So, we’re probably getting at least one more of these upsets in 2018. The 5-12 matchups this year are as follows:
The early game spreads give New Mexico State (+5 as of this writing) the best chance to knock off a 5 seed. Anything can happen, but I’m going to have to side with history here. Yes (-260) is the play.
A 12 beating a 5 is far more common than some of the other matchups we’ll list here. Since 1985, just 26 teams seeded 13th have beaten the team seeded 4th. That comes out just under 20%. No 13-seed advanced last year, and the most recent team to do so was Hawaii in 2016 when they knocked off Cal.
While a 13-4 upset is statistically less likely to occur, we do have some interesting games on tap. Here are the 13-4 matchups in the round of 64:
Arizona looks like the best No. 4 on the board here. They have arguably the best player in the country (DeAndre Ayton), and I think they’re primed for a run here. The matchup that looks most intriguing is Marshall vs. Wichita State.
We know the Shockers are a team that has made deep tournament runs in the past, but Marshall presents a matchup problem. They’re coached by Dan D’Antoni (brother of Mike), and, like Mike, Dan likes his team to play fast. The Thundering Herd name is apt here. If Marshall are able to dictate the tempo of the game, they may be able to pull off the Shocker (heh) here.
Marshall was somewhat lucky to make the tournament (they had to win their conference tourney), but I think they’ll make the most of their unlikely NCAA appearance. So, I think at least one 13 will knock off a 4 this year. Go with “yes” for -105.
Going back to the history books, we see that since 1985. That’s a hair under 16%. No 14 advanced last season, while the most recent to do so was Stephen F. Austin when they beat West Virginia in 2016. A pair of 14 seeds advanced back in 2015. Georgia State got past Baylor, while UAB edged Iowa State. I picked Iowa State to win it all that year, yet they didn’t even get out of the first round. Yes, I’m still bitter about it.
Here are this year’s matchups:
Interestingly enough, Stephen F. Austin and Bucknell are 2 of the 21 teams that have advanced out of this spot before. Bucknell famously beat Bill Self’s loaded Kansas squad back in 2005. Michigan State has also lost as a No. 3 seed, but that was way back in 1995 when they fell to Weber State.
The 14-3 upset has been a fairly common occurrence in recent years. Of the 21 teams to accomplish the feat, 5 of them have come in the last 5 tournaments.
If I had to pick one particularly vulnerable No. 3 this year, it would be Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are largely unproven on the postseason stage, while the Lumberjacks have been here before. This is SFA’s fourth tourney appearance in the last 5 years. Texas Tech, meanwhile, is making just their second tournament appearance in the last decade.
With how wide open this tournament figures to be, it won’t be shocking to see a 3 seed go down. Once again, go with “yes” here.
Only 8 15 seeds have beaten a 2 seed since 1985 (6.06%). That’s not particularly encouraging for Lipscomb, Georgia State, Cal State Fullerton or Iona, but anything can happen in March.
A couple of this year’s 2 seeds (North Carolina and Duke) are true titans of the sport. The others (Cincinnati and Purdue) are less proven on the big stage. Still, each of the 4 teams seeded No. 2 in their respective regions are favored by double digits as of this writing. In fact, the closest spread right now is Cincinnati -14. These are supposed to be blowouts.
Mike Krzyzewski knows that the Blue Devils . Back in 2012, Duke was shockingly ousted by 15th-seeded Lehigh, a team that featured current NBA star CJ McCollum. Duke should thrash Iona this time around, but stranger things have happened.
I have enough faith in this crop of 2 seeds to where I don’t think any of them chokes in this spot. So, take “no” at -800.
No team seeded 16th has ever taken down a top seed. As you may expect, this is a game that has historically rarely been competitive. Only 15 games pitting a 1 seed against a 16 have even been decided by single digits. Weber State only lost by 9 against Arizona in 2014, while Gonzaga picked up a 6-point win over Southern the year prior.
3 of the top seeds this year aren’t exactly longtime powerhouses (Virginia, Villanova, Xavier). Kansas is obviously the lone exception, but the Jayhawhs have looked vulnerable at times this year.
Still, I’m not going to come in here and predict that one of them is going down. Penn is the strongest 16 seed in the field, so they at least have a puncher’s chance at giving Kansas a game. Still, the smart money is on all 4 top seeds moving on.
There are a number of other props posted, so let’s do a little lightning round here.
To the surprise of nobody, than any other seed. In fact, we’ve had 7 national championship games thus far that have pitted a pair of top-seeded teams against one another. Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a No. 1 seed has won 15 of the 24 titles (over 62%). A top seed has finished as the runner-up another 10 times (41%).
So, we’re likely to have at least one top seed (Kansas, Xavier, Villanova, Virginia) in the title game. Given the pedigree of a couple of the 2 seeds (Duke, North Carolina), it wouldn’t be shocking to see a couple of powerhouses square off in San Antonio.
This particular field looks rather unpredictable, but having a 1 or 2 seed win it all is a pretty safe bet. UConn shockingly won as a No. 7 seed in 2014, but 13 winners since 2000 have been No. 1 seeds.
A 3 seed winning it all isn’t unprecedented. While 1 and 2 have dominated, 3s have done well for themselves, too. UConn (2011) is the most recent No. 3 seed to win a title, but Florida (2006) and Syracuse (2003) have also done so since 2000. Michigan in 1989 is the only other 3 seed since 1985 to win the title.
Michigan State is a team that has constantly exceeded expectations come tourney time. Tom Izzo is one of the best tournament coaches in the country, so it would surprise nobody to see the 3-seeded Spartans make a deep run again this year. Michigan, another 3 seed, is another strong contender.
If you’re a risk-tolerant bettor looking for value, then there are worse bets than “yes” here at +450. I’ve mentioned that there’s no clear title favorite at this point, so one of the 3 seeds could challenge the 1s and 2s. It’s unlikely, but not impossible.
Since 1985, just one 4 seed (1997 Arizona) has been the last team standing. That said, others have come close. Michigan and Syracuse each made the 2013 Final Four as 4 seeds, while Louisville (2012), Kentucky (2011) and LSU (2006) have done the same in recent years. Each of those teams ultimately came up short, but we’ve seen some 4 seeds rise up in March.
I mentioned previously that I think Arizona is a good candidate to make some noise this month, and the Wildcats. A potential second round clash with Kentucky will be tough, but there’s a path to the Final 4 for Sean Miller’s team.
You can take a flier here at +1000, though I wouldn’t go crazy with it. If it hits, though, the profit potential is obviously massive.