Enter March Madness
When March comes all sports’ fans eyes are turned towards NCAA’s most enjoyable and unpredictable playoff tournament, the March Madness, with millions of brackets being submitted every year. Bitcoin betting value abounds (for even the smallest of stakes) in one of the fasted-paced, most thrilling competition in world basketball, and we even put together a promotion to go along with it.
NBA’s potential future superstars take the stage and give it all in a unique and all-time classic format. As we head into the last weeks of the regular season, should you need to know more about this tournament and how to bet on it, then this is the place.
March Madness history and structure
An idea of coach Harold Olsen back in 1939, the NCAA March Madness (or NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament) is a College basketball yearly single-elimination tournament taking place in the United States in order to decide the national championship. It starts around mid-March, with the Final Four to conclude every season, being held somewhere around the first weekend of April.
68 teams qualify for the tournament, with 32 of them checking in as champions of Division I conferences and 36 being given at-large berth entries by a selection committee. These teams are decided in the so-called “Selection Sunday”, just a few days before the First Round starts, in a process called “seeding”.
What is seeding?
After all participants are confirmed, teams are ranked from 1 to 68. The four lowest seeded champions’ entries along with the four lowest seeded at-large entries from the “First Four” round and each subset plays against itself, meaning that champions entries cannot play against at-large entries. This round has been taking place in Canton, Ohio, since 2011 with the four winning teams proceeding to the Tournament’s First Round of 64 and giving it its final shape.
Why is seeding important?
Then the four regions are set, each containing 16 teams. Seeds from 1 to 16 are given to the teams, with the highest seeded team playing the lowest (no. 1 vs. no. 16, no. 2 vs. no. 15 and so on). Seeding is rather important and sets the scene for every team’s road and potentially who faces whom. The way it is, it kind of works as a safety valve for 1-seeds, as they have to face the lowest seeds proceeding on every round until the Final Four.
It has happened only once for a 16-seed to pull an upset at the First Round, when last year 16-seeded UMBC beat Virginia and made history, as this had never happened before on 135 attempts.
Each regional champion proceeds to the Tournament’s last stage, the Final Four. Its location is preselected, with the two Semi-finals’ winners playing for the National Championship. The last team to be crowned champions were the Villanova Wildcats after beating the Michigan Wolverines in the 2018 final.
Playing schedule can become hectic for teams and players as they proceed into the latter stages of the Tournament, with games scheduled every two days for the First Rounds. Fatigue should be a factor when we take into account that players are not professional yet and could easily be affected, especially when teams will have to travel a lot in a short time period, something that could translate into some betting value in favor of the underdogs later on.
This kind of format has increasing chances of a “Cinderella team” to make some noise and advance into the latter stages of the tournament.
Villanova’s 1985 improbable run from the 8-seed to win the National Championship game against Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas should be regarded as one of the most unforgettable in history. They had a nearly perfect game, shooting at 79% and managed to complete an amazing run.
More recent examples of 2008 Stephen Curry’s Davidson or 2010 & 2011 Gordon Hayward’s Butler (coached by Brad Stevens) reaching the Elite Eight & the Championship Game respectively, proved that every March Madness participant can dream big while the stars of tomorrow make a name for themselves. Curry was stellar in the Tournament (several 30-point games and one 40-point game) with the Wildcats being a shot away from making the Final Four against Kansas.
Two years later, Butler managed to reach two consecutive finals after beating several powerhouses on their way including 1-seed Syracuse in 2010 and lost the Championship game by two points. This is regarded as a huge overachievement for a program of Butler’s size and reputation.
Of course it is not always about making deep runs in order to be counted for a Cinderella team; 2015 15-seed Lehigh’s huge upset against 2-seed Duke (led by C.J. McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers) in the First Round was enough to confirm the special and amazing David against Goliath stories March Madness produces.
Where is the betting value?
These stories should also translate into some betting value as well. When combined with deeper analysis, these general strategies can lead to betting profits:
- One strategy that can be used here is to take advantage of the more generous lines that bookmakers should give to 11-seeds early on in matchups against 6-seeds, in a match-up where traditionally several upsets occur, at 36.5%.
- Games are in most cases very competitive and close, so taking the Under in total points scored is always a good option.
- When the tournament is in its early stages, a safer bet could be to go with the handicap in favor of the top seeds, as the differences between teams in the First Round for example are big enough and chances for an upset pretty low (top-3 seeds are 378-30 against bottom-3 seeds all time).
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Who to look out for
The impressive Bulldogs maintain the best record among all Division I teams, with Rui Hachimura being amazing as of lately, guiding his teammates into a certain top seed for March. They have been on a roll with lots of consecutive wins and can definitely go all the way.
Duke Blue Devils
It’s Zion’s world and we all live in it. His injury in the first minutes of the game against the Tar Heels made every basketball’s fan heart to skip a beat, but thankfully it is not that serious and will return on time for March Madness. Coach Krzyzewski, a living basketball legend with more wins than anyone in NCAA History should continue to coach a team thriving for the foreseeable future.
North Carolina Tar Heels
One of the nation’s best, top-recruiting and most iconic programs, NC remains a perennial powerhouse and is again primed for a deep campaign. The duo of Coby White and Cameron Johnson looks very promising, the team is excelling defensively, with the recent win against Duke reminding us that the Tar Heels remain a force to be reckoned with.
Buffalo looks to have been flying under the radar after having a hot start in the season with enthusiastic guard CJ Massinburg leading the way. The Bulls may possibly be given a double-digit seed and prove themselves dangerous for anyone to face them in the First Round.
Zion Williamson of Duke is an absolute wonder of nature, standing just at 6’ 7” in but with a nowhere-to-be found body type of 285 lbs that gives him a head start against any other player standing in his way so far. Explosive finishing around the rim along with some noteworthy playmaking skills round off an amazing package, an NBA-ready talent since day one. He is the real deal; already considered as a lock to be selected 1st overall in the 2019 NBA Draft.
R.J. Barrett was another candidate to go 1st in the Draft before the season started, but the “Zion Phenomenon” looks to have surpassed him for good. A gifted scorer with great athleticism and style that fits today’s NBA, Barrett has established himself into a top-3 selection. Already a star in FIBA International level, he could well lead the Tournament in scoring.
Ja Morant of Murray State has very good chances to be the first point guard to get off the board, with several NBA already keeping an eye out for him. Despite playing for a lesser-known school such as the Racers, Morant is a great leader with huge upside and mentality.
Rui Hachimura of the Gonzaga Bulldogs has already had his name heard among fans, playing also for a College where other internationals have been successful in today’s NBA (Domantas Sabonis, Kelly Olynyk, just to name some). Versatile defender with lots of potential as a prospect that will be a high lottery pick. The lack of international talent in the Draft could push his hype even higher.
Cam Reddish rounds off a great trio to play for this year’s Blue Devils. An elite option for the wing positions, Reddish’s talents include scoring with ease from outside while possessing a pretty solid defensive mindset as well and is a great sidekick to Williamson & Barrett.