The American Gaming Association estimates approximately 10 percent of Americans over the age of 21 fill out an NCAA bracket every year. Then they pay to enter it in a pool at the office or a local bar or social club.
These paid pools are a form of sports betting that is against the law in 37 of 50 states. However, this type of NCAA March Madness betting is so ingrained in American culture no one is about to start enforcing the law.
Don’t worry; we won’t tell anybody what you’re up to. Plus, the chances of getting arrested for filling out an NCAA tournament bracket stand between incredibly slim and none.
If you are concerned about it, stick to one of the many free-to-enter NCAA bracket online contests held every year. FanDuel hosted a massive one in 2018.
In the meantime, if you are in a pool, or planning to be, you won’t be able to fill out a bracket until the NCAA announces the teams in the field this year. That’ll happen on Selection Sunday: Sunday, March 17.
However, the beginning of March is a good time to start paying a little attention to college basketball. Get to know who the real contenders are for a National Championship this year. Look around for teams that are heating up as the regular season winds down.
Perhaps even watch a few games in the mid-March conference tournaments ahead of Selection Sunday.
All these activities will give you a clear advantage when it comes time to sit down and pick winners on a 63-game NCAA bracket sheet.
Here are some general tips that might help as well:
No. 1 seeds (almost) always win the first few rounds
Maryland-Baltimore County beat Virginia 74-54 in the first round of the 2018 NCAA tournament. This marked the first time since the NCAA tournament went to 64 teams in 1985 that a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed.
That means the No. 1 seeds enjoyed a 135-game winning streak before Maryland-Baltimore County shocked the world. The Maryland-Baltimore County win proved March Madness miracles could happen.
But it also proved they don’t happen all that often.
When you make your picks for the NCAA tournament this year, you’re going to want to look for possible upsets and identify the teams that could be this year’s Cinderella story.
Just remember the chances a No. 16 seed can do it again this year aren’t very good.
Lightning doesn’t usually strike twice
Upsets were in the offing at the 2018 NCAA tournament. In fact, all four of the top-seeded teams in the South region got knocked off before the Sweet 16, marking the first time in NCAA history that had happened in any region.
There was even a regional final match-up of between a No. 9 seed and a No. 11 seed for the first time. That No. 11 seed was Loyola-Chicago who became the real Cinderella of the 2018 NCAA tournament by reaching the Final Four.
There have been years with more upsets, including 1985 and 2014 where there were 13 total upsets in 63 games. But, for the most part, 2018 was an outlier in NCAA history because so many top seeds failed to go deep.
Don’t get caught up in thinking the same thing is bound to happen this year.
The search for Cinderella starts at No. 12
Identifying where the biggest upsets are going to happen should be your No. 1 goal in putting together your NCAA tournament bracket.
The difference between winning and losing any pool can be correctly picking this year’s Cinderella. Plus, you’re not likely to win anything backing the same favorites everyone else does the whole way.
In your search for underdogs that stand a real chance, begin with the No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchups. The truth is that No. 12 seeds historically win close to two-thirds of these games. Most of the time, the lower seed is a dog on paper only here.
The search for Cinderella continues with No. 11
The No. 6 versus No. 11 and No. 7 vs. No. 10 games are usually better matchups than the seeding suggests. While the lower seeds don’t win these games at the same incredible clip No. 12s beat No. 5s, if there’s a Cinderella to be found, it might be found here.
Loyola-Chicago became the Cinderella story of the 2018 NCAA tournament by reaching the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.
However, they were actually the fourth No. 11 seed in history to advance to the Final Four, the lowest seeds ever to go that far.
Momentum is real
Picking upsets in first round games is only half the battle. You have to identify the teams that are capable of making a run at the title.
As you weave your way through the later rounds on your NCAA bracket sheets, a little pre-tournament research can help.
The truth is the teams that win in the second, third and fourth round of the NCAA tournament aren’t always the higher seeds. The winners are the teams that are playing the best.
First, identify teams with momentum on their side. There are only a few ways to identify who these teams are likely to be ahead of the NCAA tournament’s first round.
The first is looking around at the most talented teams in the nation and seeing who is actually living up to the hype. Look for teams that earn the top spot in a conference tournament and run away with the tournament itself.
The second is paying attention to the teams that make a big jump up on the coaches and press polls at the end of the regular season. This is where you might find a hot-playing dark horse to back.
Finally, look for the teams that make surprisingly deep runs in conference tournaments. They may not get the seeding love from the NCAA, but they have already proven they can put a few wins together.
The NCAA selection committee knows what it’s doing
While there are always upsets and surprises throughout the tournament, The NCAA selection committee does know what it’s doing when it comes to seeding. Nothing proves this more than the Final Four.
The fact is, the higher-seeded team wins close to 75 percent of the time in the Final Four.
After you’ve done your picks through the first four rounds of the NCAA tournament, and the names of just four teams remain on your bracket, remind yourself of where the NCAA selection committee originally seeded these teams.
Then, be very careful before you pick an underdog to go to the Championship game.
No. 1 seeds win it all a majority of the time
Yes, there are upsets. The top seeds don’t always win. There have been National Championship winners who surprised everybody even to make the final game, let alone win it.
However, in the 34 years since the NCAA tournament was expanded to 64 teams, a No. 1 seed has won it all a majority of the time. Twenty-one out of 34 to be exact.
No. 2s have come through five times in that span and No. 3s four times. A No. 4 seed won it once, and although no No. 5 seed has ever won, a No. 6 and No. 7 seed have each won it once as well.
Finally, the lowest seed ever to win the NCAA tournament was the No. 8 seeded 1985 Villanova Wildcats.
Of course, this is just a long-winded way of saying don’t second guess yourself if your bracket has a top seed winning it all. It happens almost every year.
Bet on March Madness games
Maybe your bracket isn’t working out, or you just can’t be bothered with picking all 63 games before the tournament begins. Either way, you can still enjoy three weeks of betting on US college basketball at NJ sportsbooks and NJ gambling websites, online and off.
NJ sportsbooks are going to have moneyline, spread and totals lines you can bet on for every NCAA tournament game that doesn’t include a NJ-based team.
Plus, using NJ casino mobile apps, you can bet futures on who will win the title, and put together March Madness parlays to give yourself a bit of an odds boost without having to pick all 63 games.
Get in on all this March Madness action at any of the NJ online sportsbooks on this list:
|Sports Betting Partner(s)
|William Hill NJ