March Madness odds – NCAA Basketball Tournament trends
- March Madness odds: being a high seed doesn't guarantee a great run
- Still, A No. 1 seed has never lost in the first round
- If you're No. 8 seed or worse, you likely won't be making the Final Four
64 teams, one tournament, one winner. Sounds fairly straightforward, right? That’s the groundwork for what’s formally known as the NCAA Basketball Tournament but there’s a reason why it’s informally known as March Madness. Breaking down a March Madness money line is quite simply one of the most exciting events in the betting world.
While the tournament does start with 64 teams (65 including the play-in game), it quickly parses down to 16 after the first weekend of action, four after the second weekend and a champion shortly thereafter.
What makes March Madness point spreads so fun to examine and bet on is, as the name suggests, the madness. The teams may be ranked from one to 16 in four different regions, but once two teams step onto a neutral court, all sorts of upsets can happen.
One of the main differences between college basketball and the professional game – or pro sports in general – is the emotion. Sometimes we forget that college athletes are, in fact, college kids. The raw emotion, nerves and jubilation is on display much more so than in pro sports.
Before you start handicapping March Madness totals or spreads, take a look at some of the tournament trends through the history of the NCAA Tournament:
Since the inception of the NCAA Tournament, only once have all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four; meanwhile, the Championship Final has matched two No. 1 seeds just six times. Being No. 1 doesn't guarantee your March Madness odds of winning—the No. 1 seed has won the tournament just six times and three of those times came in this decade.
On the flip side, you don’t want your team to be ranked too low in the Tournament because history will not be on your side. The lowest seed to reach a National Championship Game is a No. 8 seed (UCLA in 1980 and Villanova in 1985). Villanova won the Tournament as a No. 8 seed.
Beyond that, No. 10 and No. 12 seeds haven’t made it past the Elite Eight, while No. 13 and No. 14 seeds have reached the Sweet Sixteen, but only twice. A No. 16 seed has never defeated a No. 1 seed in the first round and only 11 have come within 10 points, so save your money there.
Here is a breakdown of the percentages of how the first-round usually plays out:
- The #1 seed has beaten the #16 seed all 96 times (100%).
- The #2 seed has beaten the #15 seed 92 times (96%).
- The #3 seed has beaten the #14 seed 81 times (84%).
- The #4 seed has beaten the #13 seed 79 times (82%).
- The #5 seed has beaten the #12 seed 65 times (67%).
- The #6 seed has beaten the #11 seed 66 times (69%).
- The #7 seed has beaten the #10 seed 60 times (62%).
- The #8 seed has beaten the #9 seed 44 times (46%).
The most successful NCAA Tournament team is the UCLA Bruins, with 11 Championships. They are followed by the Kentucky Wildcats (7), Indiana Hoosiers (5), North Carolina Tar Heels (4) and Duke Blue Devils (3). Eight other teams are tied with two Championships.
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Washington Tucker was practically raised at Rucker Park. Though a freak knee injury cost him a major college basketball scholarship, his “sixth-sense” on the hardwood has translated into a spectacular career in basketball handicapping.