March Madness serves as its own annual prolonged holiday for sports bettors and college basketball fans. With legalized online sports betting in more states than ever before, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament continues to be a massive gambling event from Selection Sunday through to the Final Four. Huge amounts of money swing on every blocked shot and dunk as the upsets and buzzer-beaters create an electric atmosphere for March Madness betting.
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How Does the March Madness Tournament Work?
NCAA March Madness is a single-elimination tournament featuring the best teams in college basketball. The one-and-done format makes it one of the most popular sporting events in the world, rivaling even the Super Bowl. Upsets are frequent and surprises plentiful with teams needing to win six consecutive games to cut down the nets.
How does the seeding work? The NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Committee ultimately selects the top 68 teams at the end of the regular season to set the field. Teams that win their conference tournaments are guaranteed a spot, no matter their regular season record. The rest receive at-large bids by committee vote.
The committee then separates the schools into four regions – Midwest, West, South and East – and sets the first-round matchups (and potential future matchups).
March Madness betting added a new wrinkle in 2011 with the addition of the First Four. It added four tournament games - and four betting opportunities - played Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of opening weekend. The four winning teams are then added to create a field of 64 teams.
Teams are seeded 1-16 in each of the four regions. The No. 1 seed plays the No. 16 seed in the first round, the No. 2 seed plays the No. 15 seed, etc. A 16 seed has only beaten a No. 1 seed one time since the men’s basketball tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 – UMBC stunned March Madness bettors by knocking off No. 1 Virginia in 2018.
In most years, games are played Thursday-Sunday of opening weekend. That has been adjusted to Friday-Monday for the 2021 because the entire tournament will be held in Indiana, at four locations in Indianapolis and at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Teams that win their first game advance. Teams that lose are eliminated. Teams that win both games advance to the Sweet 16. In 2021, those games will be played the following Saturday-Tuesday (most seasons it is Thursday-Sunday).
Regional locations change every year. Teams that win both regional games advance to the Final Four.
How Bookies.com Picked the Best Sites to Bet on March Madness
We use firsthand March Madness betting experience and a thorough review process to rank the best online betting sites. These rankings are based on several different factors that ultimately make for the best user experience. When ranking betting websites, we only recommend licensed and legal betting sites that are regulated in the state they operate. We never recommend offshore betting sites, which present unnecessary risks.
You should always shop around for different bonus offers and sign-up incentives for March Madness betting. Whether it’s free bets or matched deposits, we’ve looked around for all the best online bonus offers from individual online sportsbooks to provide the most betting value.
Offshore sportsbooks are risky and, more importantly, illegal. It can be hard to withdraw winnings or speak with an employee if problems arise. Our top March Madness betting sites are all totally legal and fully licensed. Skip the headaches with this list of legit online college basketball betting websites.
Some March Madness betting sites are just easier to use than others. We keep an especially close eye on the betting apps. This is how most bettors place wagers these days, and it’s important that the site is user-friendly and moves quickly. You don’t want to miss out on a winning March Madness bet because of a clunky, slow online sportsbook.
Most legal online sports betting sites now take a variety of payment methods. PayPal, Play+, bank transfers and credit/debit cards are common. We’ve searched to find the most versatile online betting sites so you don’t have any trouble making deposits or withdrawals with March Madness betting.
Odds and Wager Options
All sportsbooks will offer point spreads, moneylines and over/under bets for every NCAA Tournament game. Many also offer a wide variety of prop bets, parlays or teasers and live betting. It’s important to look around at betting lines on different sites. That’s how March Madness bettors will get the most value throughout the NCAA basketball tournament.
Why Bet on March Madness?
The annual March Madness bracket pool has always been a popular way to bet on the NCAA Tournament. But anyone who’s ever entered an office pool knows those early-round upsets can bust the bracket in a hurry. Your entire Final Four can go up in smoke on opening weekend.
So maybe you had the Duke Blue Devils winning it all and they don’t even make the Sweet 16. Making actual bets on March Madness means you can keep a rooting interest in every single game. Those upsets are a lot sweeter when betting the moneyline on an underdog.
Bettors who watch college basketball games every night can also clean up. It’s not just Kansas and Michigan State in this thing. Those that have logged the hours with San Diego State and Belmont and Wofford should do far better on point-spread betting. March Madness odds are largely a reflection of seeding and public perception, so there’s tons of value for the true hoops nerds familiar with lesser-known teams.
Lastly, betting on March Madness is a blast. Watching the NCAA Tournament morning to night is a glorious experience. Throwing a few dollars around with some Sweet 16 bets or longshot Final Four or championship futures takes the good times to another level.
States Where You Can Legally Bet on the March Madness Tournament
The following states (and Washington DC) are currently accepting legal March Madness bets.
- Retail & online: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington DC, West Virginia
- Online only: Tennessee, Virginia*
- Retail only: Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina
Note: Virginia will be both retail and mobile once the physical casinos are built
To sign up with an online sportsbook, simply look around our top sites list and pick one that works best for you. Remember to keep an eye out for good bonuses or incentives on first-time signups. Next, sign up and make a deposit. You’ll likely need to provide photo ID, full name and address, proof of address and payment method. You will also typically be asked for the final four digits of your Social Security number (or sometimes the whole number). Don’t be nervous – this is totally normal and shows why safety and security is one of our top priorities when choosing the best March Madness betting sites. Once the deposit goes through, you’re ready to start betting on the NCAA Tournament.
Bonuses & Promotions at March Madness Betting Sites
You definitely want to take advantage of bonuses and signup incentives before placing any bets. Matching the initial deposit is a common bonus, meaning if you deposit $500 the sportsbook will match and you’ll have $1,000 to bet with. Make sure to read the terms and conditions, though, as most bonus matches have a playthrough requirement, meaning you would have to bet that $500 several times before being able to cash out the bonus.
Others might offer boosted odds on a specific game. Let’s say Kentucky is a 10-point favorite over Florida. Some sportsbooks might “boost” the odds down to Kentucky -1, offering a great opportunity to clean up on an altered point spread.
Types of March Madness Bets
Online sportsbooks offer a ton of different March Madness bets, including traditional point spread wagers. Everyone knows a No. 1 seed will almost certainly beat a No. 16 seed. But you can bet a No. 16 seed like Wright State at +30 against Baylor and cash in if Wright State loses by less than 30.
Moneyline bets are also available. A No. 12 seed like UCLA could be +650 to beat a team like Auburn. That’s a sweet payout if you correctly bet an upset.
College basketball futures odds are also popular in the days leading up to and during the NCAA Tournament. You can bet on teams you think will make the Final Four or win the National Championship, etc. And if your bracket is toast after the opening round, championship futures odds reset constantly. You can bet on which of the Sweet 16 teams you think will win the championship with odds adjusted after opening weekend.
Player scoring props, over/unders and teasers are popular March Madness bets as well.
How to Bet on March Madness – Strategies & Tips to Consider
Sports bettors develop systems and strategies for March Madness over time, many of which are unique to the NCAA Tournament and can’t be used in other sports. Take the seeding, for example. That is how the public will perceive these teams, more so than record or conference or past performance. March Madness betting is a great time to take advantage of public perception or consensus betting. A team could be overvalued based on past reputation, which is a great time to bet against them. Some teams are undervalued because the public hasn’t watched their games. Identify these teams and those betting lines and wager accordingly.
Moneyline betting on underdog teams is also a popular strategy. A No. 12 seed has upset a No. 5 seed 47 times since 1985. Remember these teams are seeded by human beings prone to errors of judgment. Betting the moneyline on a No. 12 seed you believe to be undervalued can be your one shining moment, with big profits and bragging rights.
One can also bet for or against conferences on the whole. Every season it seems a conference that’s been hyped up all year will see all its teams lose in the early rounds. Fading an entire conference with spread and moneyline betting on individual games is just one of many ways to attack March Madness betting with vision and strategy. Make sure to check out our guides for even more tips and our free expert picks throughout the tournament.
March Madness Dates For 2021
Here are the key dates for the 2021 NCAA Tournament’s opening weekend, regionals and Final Four. All games will be played in Indiana at a total of six locations: Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse and Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis; Mackey Arena in West Lafayette; and Assembly Hall in Bloomington
|Selection Sunday||n/a||March 14|
|First Four||Mackey Arena, Assembly Hall||March 18|
|First Round||Mackey Arena, Assembly Hall, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Lucas Oil Stadium||March 19-20|
|Second Round||Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Lucas Oil Stadium||March 21-22|
|Sweet 16||Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse||March 27-28|
|Elite Eight||Lucas Oil Stadium||March 29-30|
|Final Four||Lucas Oil Stadium||April 3|
|National Championship||Lucas Oil Stadium||April 5|
March Madness Betting History
There have been too many shocking upsets, buzzer-beaters and bracket-busters to count over the years. But we have seen betting trends develop over time. Take, for example, the No. 6 seed vs. the No. 11 seed in the opening round. No. 11 seeds have a 37.1% winning percentage against No. 6 seeds, suggesting good value on the moneyline. And from 2010-19, the No. 11 seeds are 21-19 against No. 6 seeds.
No. 12 seeds upset No. 5 seeds at a slightly lesser clip, winning 35.71% of the time. The No. 10 seed has a winning percentage of 39.29% over the No. 7 seed, suggesting that there’s better value picking the bigger upsets. Especially these days.
March Madness Betting FAQ
Is betting on March Madness legal?
Betting on March Madness is legal and ready in several states including Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Nevada, Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, New Mexico and New York. Other states that have legalized sports betting like Michigan, Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan and Colorado should begin taking bets in the near future.
When does March Madness start?
The First Four takes place March 17-18, 2020, in Dayton, Ohio. The opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament start March 19-20, 2020, at eight different locations across the country.
What is an upset in March Madness
An upset occurs when a higher-seeded team beats a lower-seeded team. A No. 15 seed could upset a No. 2 seed, for example. Upsets take place every year, and they’re a big part of the fun in betting on March Madness.
Who is the favorite to win the March Madness tournament?
The betting odds change every round. A team could be favored the entire way, or a team that looked particularly strong in the opening rounds could be the new favorite once the Sweet 16 starts. The No. 1 overall seed won’t always be the betting favorite as sportsbooks and handicappers make their own March Madness odds.
What was the biggest upset in March Madness history?
A No. 1 seed had never lost to a No. 16 seed prior to 2018, when UMBC beat Virginia in the opening round for the first such upset in NCAA Tournament history. UMBC was a 22-point underdog and roughly +2000 on the moneyline, so a historic upset was also extremely profitable for some March Madness bettors.
How many No. 1 seeds win the NCAA tournament?
A No. 1 seed has won the National Championship 22 times in the 35 years since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
What seed has won the March Madness tournament the most?
The No. 1 seed has won more than half the time since 1985. No. 2 seeds are next with five wins and No. 3 seeds have won four times.
What was the lowest seed to win the March Madness tournament?
Villanova was a No. 8 seed in 1985 and pulled off one of the greatest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, beating No. 1-seeded Georgetown to win the National Championship. Four No. 11 seeds have made the Final Four, but all failed to win the title.
Where can I find the best March Madness betting sites?
Our list of top March Madness online betting sites give you the chance to look around at different sportsbooks with the knowledge they are all safe and legal options to place NCAA Tournament bets.
What March Madness betting apps are available?
All the top sportsbooks offer mobile betting apps so you can easily wager on March Madness from anywhere in states with legal betting.
Which team has won the most March Madness tournaments?
Here are the teams with the most NCAA Tournament victories of all time.
|UCLA||11||1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1995|
|Kentucky||8||1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998, 2012|
|North Carolina||6||1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009, 2017|
|Duke||5||1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015|
|Indiana||5||1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987|
Who won the last March Madness tournament?
Here are the 10 most recent NCAA Tournament winners. There was no tournament in 2020 due to COVID.
How much do Americans bet on March Madness?
Americans bet an estimated $8.5 billion on March Madness games in 2019, according to the American Gambling Association. An estimated 40 million will fill out a bracket and wager roughly $4.6 billion in office pools and picks competitions. Nevada sportsbooks took on $495 million in NCAA Tournament bets in 2019.