2022 NCAA Tournament Calcutta Auction Pool Strategy, Tips & Picks: The Teams to Buy for March Madness
John E. Moore III/Getty Images. Pictured: Chibuzo Agbo.
Plenty of items coupled together can create the perfect marriage. Just ahead of peanut butter and jelly is the creation of March Madness and a Calcutta auction of all 68 teams.
This novelty pool gives the consumer an investment chance to turn cheap prices into big payoffs. There are a number of different strategies for a Calcutta auction — but first, an explanation of the rules:
All 68 teams from Gonzaga to Colgate will be auctioned to the members of the pool. While most prefer to go region by region, others prefer to auction the 1-seeds all at the same time.
The beauty of the auction is that everyone has a chance to buy Arizona at a premium or Jacksonville State on the cheap. Whether teams are randomized or in order of seeding, the total pot will grow with each individual sale.
Payout percentages will be determined beforehand and will vary depending on what rules you want to use, but each team will collect a percentage of the pot for winning a game. For strategy in this post, we will assume 1% of the pot for each of the first two rounds, a 3% pot share for a Sweet 16 and Elite 8 victory, 5% for making the finals and 6% for the team winning the national title.
A national title team will earn 19% of the total pot with 13% dedicated to the runner-up. The most important aspect of the live auction is keeping tabs on what the 1% of pot target will be — essentially knowing how much a team will pay out with a victory in the first round.
There may be an underdog 9-seed that has +130 odds in the market. The beauty of a Calcutta is knowing when the 1% threshold has been exceeded and the opening-round best bet is the live market.
Estimating the distance of a team’s journey in the brackets against the value in the auction is one of the most exciting aspects of any sports investing format.
How to Estimate the Total Pot
Here’s the hard part. Let’s say Baylor goes for $100 as the first team nominated. What does that mean for the rest of the prices? There’s no guarantee Arizona will be the most expensive team.
If a buyer believes a seed can make the Final Four, then 8% of the projected pot should be the target price auctioned.
Estimating the total pot becomes easier as the auction progresses, but there are two strategies pre-auction that will help execute the best Calcutta bids.
First, handicap each individual game by knowing the point spread and moneyline cost. When you bid on a favorite, understand there’s an opposing underdog with a moneyline in the live market that can be used to hedge after the auction.
Secondly, handicap the auction field. Some pools consist of people who have a budget of $50, while other auctions I have participated in have reached five-figure bids. If you shoot over the budgets of all other participants, you may be stuck with the worst value in the contest. So, try to poke around and feel the crowd out.
Another strategy is to fire on the first top seed to be thrown out. Generally, the first top seed is the cheapest. As the bar is set, the other owners will try and catch up and overbid. Seeds that are favorites in the betting market will exceed their value in bidding in relation to the first seed thrown out.
In a decade of Calcutta auctions, I have never seen the first top seed not be the cheapest in the contest. With strategy in your back pocket, here are a number of teams that should be considered a buy, sell and a pump during the auction.
Teams to Buy in Calcutta Auctions
Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Red Raiders have the top defensive efficiency ranking, per KenPom, and finished ninth in the NET rankings.
The departure of Chris Beard to Texas did nothing to stop Texas Tech from being a national title contender. Head coach Mark Adams fielded a team that ranked top-50 in experience and bench minutes, a key factor to keep the Red Raiders’ depth chart fresh.
As a 3-seed, the Red Raiders are expected to make the Sweet 16, but the path may be extended due to matchups that favor Texas Tech.
An opening number of -15 against Montana State suggests the Bobcats will not pose too many issues on Friday. The path in the second round may come from an Alabama team that has lost three straight. The Crimson Tide have one of the highest rates in the nation of finishing at the rim, a specialty for the Red Raiders defense. Texas Tech may also face a Notre Dame or Rutgers team that is playing a third game in five days.
The Red Raiders may have the easiest Sweet 16 path of any team, making the Calcutta a minimum of 2% of the estimated pot.
The Elite Eight is where investors may capitalize on backing the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech must run through the No. 2 Duke bracket to reach the national quarterfinal. Not only has Duke looked disinterested in a recent set of ACC games, but the Blue Devils are also the most inexperienced roster in the bracket. The highest offensive play call for the Duke offense is isolation, a metric the Texas Tech defense ranks third in nationally.
If the Red Raiders can produce offense against Gonzaga in a projected Elite Eight matchup, the Red Raiders will be making their way to New Orleans.
Texas Tech is a minimum buy of 2% of the estimated Calcutta pot all the way up to 8%, pending rules on what a Sweet 16 and Elite Eight victory pay out.
Sticking in the West Region, Davidson lost the Atlantic 10 Championship to Richmond in a nail-biter. The Wildcats have one of the more favorable brackets for a double-digit seed.
An opener of Michigan State -2 was hammered on Sunday night by bettors looking to get a piece of the Atlantic 10 runner-ups. The Spartans are one of the worst defensive turnover teams in the nation, which will allow Davidson to run an offense that excels in setting screens while running the pick and roll.
An upset victory over the Spartans may lead to a Round of 32 matchup with Duke, another team that does not generate turnovers. The Blue Devils have ranks just inside the top 100 in defending the offense that Davidson wants to execute.
The Wildcats will be a team I happily bid 1% of the estimated Calcutta pot with short underdog odds in two games to make the Sweet 16.
It’s national title or bust for an Arizona team that finished 6-3 in Quad 1 games this season.
The Wildcats were blessed with the easiest path to the Final Four, starting with a 16-seed that was forced to participate in a play-in game. The Round of 32 will consist of TCU or Seton Hall, and neither has played its best basketball leading up to the dance.
A projected matchup with Houston or Illinois in the Sweet 16 has heavy schematic advantages for Arizona. The Wildcats are one of the few teams equipped to shut down Kofi Cockburn and the half-court offense of Illinois, while Houston does not have the offensive steam to keep with Arizona.
Potential Elite Eight opponents include Tennessee, Villanova or Ohio State. None of the teams mentioned have the transition defense to stop an Arizona offense that ranks seventh in tempo and 13th in transition efficiency.
From a pricing standpoint, 8% of the estimated Calcutta pot is the minimum bid for Arizona, which is expected to be a favorite through the national title game. The ceiling for purchasing the Wildcats is 13%, roughly the payout for a national runner-up.
Keep in mind, if you have the chance to dictate the teams being auctioned, consider Arizona as the first No. 1 seed up for bid to secure the cheapest price.
Teams to Sell in Calcutta Auctions
Alabama Crimson Tide
The Crimson Tide took the basketball scene by storm in 2021, mixing plenty of 3-pointers with scores that finished at the rim. Alabama is still playing this same offense under Nate Oats, but the execution has not been there this season. The Crimson Tide are outside the top 200 in efficiency of finishing at the rim and 172nd in catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.
The path to victory will start with Notre Dame or Rutgers after a play-in game. If Alabama makes it to the Round of 32, Texas Tech would likely be on deck. The Crimson Tide would be a 7-point underdog against one of the best defenses in the nation.
Alabama is not a team I’m not looking to buy or pump during an auction.
Duke Blue Devils
Has the legacy of head coach Mike Krzyzewski overshadowed the Blue Devils down the final stretch of the season?
A much-anticipated final game at Cameron Indoor resulted in a blowout loss to rival North Carolina. Duke then escaped surging Syracuse and Miami squads before losing the ACC Tournament to Virginia Tech.
The biggest issue is not the matchups in the West Region but more of the price tag associated with Duke. The Blue Devils finished 12th in both NET and KenPom, far away from the range of a No. 2 seed.
While Duke was given a break in seeding, Calcutta auction investors should have the Blue Devils priced closer to Purdue than Kentucky.
With Texas Tech and Gonzaga in the projected path, the price tag on Duke is too expensive for a team that is not playing well down the stretch.
Early wagering on the opening round saw plenty of action on ACC Tournament champion Virginia Tech.
The Longhorns did nothing down the stretch to give investors reason to believe there could be a deep run in the tournament. Texas has lost three consecutive games and picked up narrow victories over non-tournament teams in Oklahoma and West Virginia.
The Longhorns offense has struggled to put points on the board, while the defense has one of the worst free-throw rates in college basketball.
Virginia Tech specializes in screens and off-the-dribble 3-point attempts. Texas has struggled against off-dribble 3-pointers with more success coming against catch-and-shoot plays.
Awaiting Texas in light of a victory is Purdue, a titanic matchup in which the Boilermakers should dominate the boards. Texas may be able to win in the opening round against Virginia Tech, but expecting a return greater than 1% is unlikely in Beard’s first trip to the dance as the head coach in Austin.
Teams to Pump in Calcutta Auctions
The Catamounts will be one of the hottest names thrown this week in a first-round matchup against Arkansas. The Razorbacks are shallow on roster depth but torched the SEC in regular-season play before a semifinal loss in the conference tournament.
What makes Vermont a worthy team of an auction bid is the matchup with Arkansas. Eric Musselman’s squad prefers to be in transition and finish at the rim — aspects in which Vermont has superior defensive ranks.
Arkansas has the defense to give trouble to most opponents, but Vermont has top-10 efficiencies in half-court, post-up and cut plays.
The Razorbacks have been deflated when JD Notae or Jaylin Williams get into foul trouble. Arkansas has one of the lower ranks in bench minutes and minutes continuity, evident in the Texas A&M loss when fouls plagued the Hogs.
Vermont is a pump up to 1% in Calcutta auctions, with a dark-horse chance of making the Sweet 16.
If there’s a discount to be found, it may be an LSU team that does not have a head coach. Will Wade was relieved of his duties after the NCAA found multiple violations.
This was one of the youngest rosters coming into play this season at 320th, leading to plenty of games filled with mistakes and unneeded fouls.
The Tigers are still one of the most talented teams in the bracket, as sophomore Tari Eason ranked top-100 individually in defensive block and steal rate.
Iowa State has one of the highest defensive foul rates in the country, while Wisconsin may struggle to contain LSU’s strategy of transition and attacking the rim on offense in a potential second-round matchup.
LSU may be one of the softest bids in the Calcutta auction, but a favorable matchup with Iowa State makes the Tigers a value play at 1% of the estimated pot.