March is upon us, and that means one thing: basketball season is almost here! The NCAA Tournament is just one week away, and with it, the excitement of postseason play. The tournament will run from March 16th to the 22nd, with the Final Four being played on Saturday, April 6th. Since the start of the season, many individuals and entities have weighed in on the tournament’s outcome, and now that the dust has settled, it’s time to ask: Who are the public betting on the NCAA Tournament?
To find out, Sportsbetting.com (formerly 5Dimes.com) examined the NCAA Tournament betting market and analyzed the performances of all 66 participating teams to create a ranking of the most popular bets for the big dance. The data revealed some interesting trends that help paint the current perception of the NCAA Tournament. Let’s take a look.
The Favorites Are Back
One of the most intriguing aspects of the NCAA Tournament is just how many teams people are willing to lay money on. Of the 66 games, 46 of them have betting odds of 7/2 or less, which indicates there is plenty of wagering interest in this year’s tournament. In fact, the NCAA Tournament has the highest average betting interest of any March event this year, according to Sportsbetting.com.
This year’s tournament also boasts a diverse group of favorites, with 17 different teams having odds of at least 7/2. This is in comparison to last year, when only 8 teams went into the NCAA Tournament as a favorite. The 2017 NCAA Tournament had the highest average favorite percentage (38%) of any March event this year, while the 2014 edition was the least popular (27%).
The diversity of betting favorites is just one of the interesting trends that can be attributed to the NCAA Tournament. Another is the fact that there are more chalk games than there are dog games. Chalk games are those in which the favorite wins by a wide margin, while dog games are those in which the teams are separated by a more narrow margin. So, if you’re looking to place a wager on this year’s NCAA Tournament, you should probably lean toward the chalk.
The Underdogs Have Woken Up
One of the interesting things about the NCAA Tournament is just how many underdog teams there are this year. A total of 33 teams currently have odds of less than 7/2, which is more than twice the amount that had odds between 6/1 to 7/1 a week ago. In addition, the 2017 tournament is one of the least favored years in recent history, which means there is considerable interest in the underdogs as well.
These are the teams that no one expected to make it this far. After all, we said the same thing about 16 teams just a week ago, but here they are, in the thick of the tournament. One of the big surprises this year has been Butler, which is coming off a surprising Big East Tournament appearance. In fact, the Bulldogs have exceeded expectations, going 14-4 in their last 18 games to close the regular season.
Similarly, the Virginia Tech Hokies were an unheralded 14-seed that surprised everyone by winning their first game before going on to knock off Arizona in the second round. While the 2017 edition hasn’t lived up to the high hopes of many people, just like Butler and Virginia Tech, there are still several underdogs that have exceeded expectations.
Which Conference Is Most Popular In The NCAA Tournament This Year?
A conference’s performance in the NCAA Tournament is usually contingent upon the overall strength of its individual teams. Thus, the strength of a conference in the tournament can provide valuable insight into how the NCAA Tournament is shaping up this year. To this end, we will examine the overall performance of the 12 strongest conferences in the NCAA Tournament and determine which one is the most popular this year. It is important to keep in mind that these are the conferences that matter most in terms of earning basketball tickets for the general public, as almost all top-level teams are committed to playing in these leagues.
So, which conference is most popular this year in the NCAA Tournament? The answer is the Big 12, which has 11 participating teams and odds of 14/1 or greater in all of its games. The second-place conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, has only 7 teams participating this year, but it does have the single highest-ranked game at number 12 overall, Clemson vs. Florida State. Both of these teams are strong, familiar names in college basketball, which makes the game important and thus likely to draw a crowd. Finally, the Big 12’s popularity isn’t confined to the NCAA Tournament. This year’s version of the league is 11-3 against the spread, which is.667 better than the next-best conference (the Pac-12, 7-7). This is likely because of the Big 12’s strength. It also performed admirably in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, posting a 3-1 record and winning the inaugural tournament championship. The Big 12 also led the way in 2017 as the most improved conference, having gained 8.25 slots from a preseason ranking of 13th to a postseason rank of 5th.
Conversely, the Southeastern Conference, despite having some very solid teams, has seen its stock drop a bit this year. It starts with Auburn, the number 14 seed, which was an 11-seed a year ago. The Tigers went on to lose in the second round to Clemson. Last year’s surprise run to the Final Four by Louisville was also a major contributing factor to the league’s slide in the betting market. The Cardinals were a 9-seed that season and went on to upset 7-seed Virginia in the Elite Eight. The following year, Louisville returned to spoil the Panthers’ Cinderella story and win the championship game.
The SEC isn’t the only conference that has seen its value decline this year. The Big Ten, which had the most dominant team in the country a year ago in Wisconsin, has seen its value decrease by 4.75 units since January 1st. This is mainly because of the team’s poor performance in the tournament. While the Badgers did manage to knock off the 2017 NCAA Champion North Carolina in the round of 32, they were not a popular team to place wagers on beforehand. Similarly, the Big Ten’s other representative, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, was a 16-seed last year and failed to advance to the Elite Eight. They managed to upset 5-seed Maryland in the round of 32, but this was not highly anticipated.
How Important Is Point Differential In The NCAA Tournament?
One of the most important stats for the NCAA Tournament is point differential. It measures the overall performance of a team during a particular season and provides valuable information about how that team performed under different circumstances. For example, imagine that the 2019 NCAA Tournament were played with 22-game conference schedules instead of 24-game conference schedules. This would make every game worth 2.33 points, which would boost the average point differential per game by.33 points. This is significant because it would mean that the average team would win by 2 points instead of the current 1.67 points.
In a similar manner, the 2019 NCAA Tournament is worth 2.33 points per game on average because all games matter in terms of the overall championship. However, looking solely at winning percentage, one would assume that every game was the same and thus would have an average winning percentage of.5. In this scenario, the 2019 NCAA Tournament would have an average winning percentage of.667, which is higher than the current figure.
Which Is The Most Valuable NCAA Tournament Champ?
There are several ways to value a team’s performance in the NCAA Tournament. One way is to look at the overall points scored by each team. The 2019 NCAA Tournament is worth 2.33 points on average, which is lower than ever before. The 2.33-point jump is also the largest increase in average tournament points scored since the 2000-01 season. This makes sense, given the expanded role that the NCAA Tournament plays now that every game matters for an overall championship. Teams usually score more points in the postseason than in the regular season because there are more shots available and more players on the floor at once, which leads to more opportunities for points to be scored.
Another way to value a team’s performance in the NCAA Tournament is to look at how much value they added above what was expected of them. To this end, we can compare their actual performance to that of a team with an equivalent overall record but without an NCAA Tournament appearance. For example, let’s assume that Gonzaga had an overall record of 24-4 and the same number of wins in the NCAA Tournament as Gonzaga had in all competitions (11). The Zags would have an equivalent overall record, but their points scored in the postseason (3,758) would be subtracted from their total points scored during the regular season (3,871). This is the value that Gonzaga added above what was expected of them, and it is officially classified as an undervalued performance.