Every year, the first week of May is reserved for one of the greatest sporting events of the year: the NCAA Tournament. Over the course of one week, thousands of college basketball games are played, and the fans follow the action closely, making it one of the world’s biggest sporting events. Since the beginning of this year’s tournament, people have been placing bets on who will win each game. Will it be Villanova or Michigan? Will Kansas or Florida ever lose?
The answer to all of these questions may surprise you. Let’s take a look at the current betting trends as we approach the Elite 8 stage of this year’s tournament.
Who Is People Betting On To Win The NCAA Basketball Tournament?
Since the earliest days of this year’s tournament, people have been placing bets on who will win the whole thing. And the answer may surprise you. When the dust settled on March Madness, six undefeated teams remained – and those teams are all heading to the semi-finals. Interestingly, the betting public seems to have a soft spot for underdogs, so all of the teams which have not yet won a single game are being backed against the odds. Even Miami – who fans believe can make a serious run at one of the top four spots – has not yet been able to notch a single victory this season.
As you may have guessed, the teams which have yet to win a game are not very popular among bookmakers. According to Oddshark, a sports betting website which tracks the odds on sporting events, the lines of bet for the eight undefeated teams are as follows:
- Villanova -6.5
- Michigan -6
- Kansas +9
- Florida +14
- North Carolina +16
- Gonzaga +17
- Cincinnati +19
That’s a lot of love for the underdogs. As a rule of thumb, when a team has not yet won a game in a given year’s NCAA Tournament, gamblers usually favor those odds. Case in point: in 2014, only two undefeated teams – Virginia and South Carolina – remained after the first week of the NCAA Tournament. The public’s affection for the underdogs continued as both teams went on to win their respective games before the eventual champ, Kentucky, upset the South Carolina Wildcats. In 2015, three undefeated teams made it to the Elite 8 – Michigan, Louisville, and Ohio State – and all three teams lost in the semi-finals.
While underdogs usually do well in the NCAA Tournament, this is not set in stone. In 2011, for example, Kansas – who notched an undefeated season and had one of the year’s biggest upsets when they knocked off top-seeded Missouri in the first round – lost in the Elite 8 to Memphis. Interestingly enough, the Tigers went on to win the whole thing. So, while underdogs may have a tendency to prevail in the NCAA Tournament, it is by no means a sure thing.
Which Team Is Most Popular To Bet On?
When it comes to betting on an NCAA Tournament favorite, people have clear favorites. As you may have guessed, the teams which are most commonly chosen to go to the bookies are those which come from blue bloods – dynasties which have won numerous titles in the past. From 1992 to 2012, only seven teams scored fewer than ten victories in a season. Out of those seven teams, four made it to the Elite 8 – and three of those teams ended up losing. So, if you’re looking to lay some money on the winner of the tournament, the safer bet is to go with a team which has had previous success.
On the other hand, people have been known to back teams which are unlikely to make it to the Final Four just so they can take a shot at betting on a stunning upset. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re looking to place a wager on a team which is statistically likely to lose, go with Kansas or Florida – two of the most popular picks to win the tournament this year. On the other hand, if you think that your money is definitely safer with one of the blue bloods, go with Villanova or Michigan. Those two teams have gotten off to a quick start, winning their first two games by a combined margin of 52 points. While it’s too soon to tell what kind of trajectory the two teams on the rise will take, it’s clear that the bookies do not agree.
Which Club Is Leading The Charge?
While most experts predict that Kansas will win the whole thing this year, the handicappers at Genius Sports put their money where their mouth is and are backing the Jayhawks to win every game. According to them, Kansas’ tough defense and experience will prove too much for the rest of the nation to handle. For months, Geniuses have been touting Kansas as the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing, and now that the tournament’s started, their confidence seems well-placed.
The best teams in the country have historically done well in the NCAA Tournament. In 2012, for example, Stanford – a team which has not lost a game all year – upset top-seeded Memphis in the second round and advanced to the Elite 8. Ultimately, though, the Cardinal lost to Oregon State in a close game.
As you may have guessed, the teams which have been the most successful in the history of the tournament are those which rely on a group of exceptional players coming together to form a cohesive unit. In 1985, for example, the Michigan Wolverines – a team led by Steve Fisher which would later on go on to win the whole thing – defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders by a decisive score of 77-64. The next year, they defeated a formidable UCLA team in the Elite 8 before going on to win the whole thing by defeating Indiana in the final.
This year’s tournament features some of the best players in the country, and it should be an exciting tournament to watch. The opening round will begin on Thursday, and you can follow the games via the NCAA Basketball Tournament Live Stream on twitch.tv.