Last year was one of the most interesting years in sports for betting fans. On the one hand, March Madness was a month that streamed online betting markets in seconds as fans watched the most popular sporting events of the season unfold live. On the other, the total number of teams that took the court soared to an all-time high, resulting in massive roster turnover that shook the entire NCAA basketball season. In between, the March Madness NCAA tournament produced some unforgettable upsets that made it an exciting tournament to follow.
But exactly how exciting was it? How many winning bets did you place on March Madness last year, and how many games were correctly predicted? To find out, we analyzed 8.4 million basketball bets that were placed between March 13 and April 12, 2018, on thebetting website, according to esports betting data from HiddenWire. Let’s take a look.
Overall March Madness Performance
Overall, last year’s March Madness was somewhat of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the over/under win totals for each of the games increased by about 3.5 percent compared to the previous year. As a result, the money placed on each game rose by about 7 percent. However, the rate of increase was much greater for some games than others. For example, the over/under win total for the Kentucky Wildcats’ game against Villanova increased by 11 percent, while the over/under win total for the Purdue Boilermakers’ game increased by a meagre 2 percent.
Which Games Performed Best, and Which Games Performed Worst?
As mentioned, the number of games that were played in March tripled last year to an all-time high. This, in turn, caused an increase in the betting odds for each game. But which games performed well, and which games underperformed? Let’s take a look at the statistics for the top and bottom performing games from a betting perspective.
Best Performing Games
The best performing games last year, when measured using the odds, were the following:
- Villanova vs. Kentucky Wildcats (-140): The Wildcats, the No. 2 ranked college basketball team in the country, were heavy favorites against the No. 3 ranked Villanova Wildcats. But as is so often the case in March Madness, the ‘nations rooting for these two teams clashed in the second round. While Kentucky would go on to win the national championship, it was a disappointing end for the Villanova Wildcats that year. Still, this game managed to outscore the over/under by 2.5 points, resulting in an average bet of $140 per person.
- Purdue Boilermakers vs. Xavier Musketeers (+100): Predicted to lose by 10 points or more, the No. 9 ranked Purdue Boilermakers played host to the No. 3 Xavier Musketeers. But the Musketeers were not the favorite in this one. Despite taking an early lead, the Boilermakers went on to win by 4 points, which was enough for an average bet of $100 per person.
- Virginia vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (-110): Similar to the Villanova Wildcats’ story, the No. 7 ranked Virginia Cavaliers had a disappointing season in which they lost in the NCAA tournament finals to the No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels. But this was no poor performance by the Cavaliers. They managed to outscore the Tar Heels by 2 points in their only meeting last year, which is more than enough to make up for losing the championship game. With a total attendance of 22,000, this was one of the least attended games of the season. However, the average bet for this game was $110, which is relatively high considering its low engagement level.
- Maryland Terrapins vs. Oklahoma Sooners (-120): The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners were heavy favorites against the unranked Maryland Terrapins. And a good thing too, because the Terrapins didn’t even show up for the game. Their head coach, Mark Turgeon, stated after the game that his team would not travel to Norman for an unranked team. The Sooners took advantage of this, winning by 20 points and earning an average bet of $120 per person.
- Kansas vs. Baylor Bears (+130): The No. 10 Baylor Bears, who were ranked 15th in the country at the time, traveled to Lawrence, Kansas to take on the No. 20 ranked Kansas Jayhawks. The Bears were heavy favorites to win, but they found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreline, as the Jayhawks, who became known for their devastating defense, crushed the Bears, 77-55. Despite the close score, this was one of the more exciting games of the 2018 season, largely thanks to the defense of the Kansas Jayhawks. As a result, this game managed to outscore the over/under by 4 points, which is enough for an average bet of $130 per person.
- Gonzaga vs. Arizona Wildcats (+125): The No. 2 ranked Arizona Wildcats had a disappointing season last year, going 14-16 after starting the season ranked No. 1. But their performance in the 2018 NCAA tournament was excellent, winning all four of their games by an average of 22 points. For this meeting with the Gonzaga Bulldogs, both teams were heavy favorites to win, given their rankings and histories. But while the Wildcats dominated inside the arc, the Bulldogs were just a little better outside it, winning the game 79-73. The average bet for this game was $125 per person.
Worst Performing Games
The worst performing games from a betting perspective last year were the following: