From the first tip of the college basketball season back on Nov. 10 to the Final Four tipping off Saturday — more than 140 days — we are down to just four teams: Villanova, Kansas, Michigan … and Loyola-Chicago.

Over the weekend, future tickets on some of the biggest power teams in the country — including Kentucky, Gonzaga and Duke — disappeared into thin air, while a blue blood in Kansas rewarded its backers with a trip to San Antonio.

Entering the Sweet 16, our first NCAA Tournament Hedge Mailbag focused on a mix of short-term and long-term hedging opportunities depending on the teams, value and liability. With just four teams left and a limited number of potential scenarios, it is time to leave with some money in your pocket.

We should stress to the folks who were kind enough to send in questions and to others holding similar tickets: There’s no perfect answer with any of these scenarios. Our goal is to give you a sense of your options and ultimately tell you what our staff of experts would do if they were holding your ticket.

But here’s the thing: We’re not holding your ticket, and we might have a different risk tolerance than you. So if you want to let your lottery ticket ride, you absolutely should. And if you want to hedge, there’s no shame in locking in a little profit while the numbers work in your favor.

That’s enough of a preamble. Let’s take a look at five potential hedging scenarios submitted by readers for the Final Four.

All odds as of Tuesday evening.


Reader Question: $300 to win $4900 on Kansas to win the champ game. Thinking Nova ML to cover the cost, plus a little profit? $1000 to win $550-ish. — Justin G.

The setup: Kansas is a 5-point underdog vs. Villanova in the Final Four.

For your head: According to our Bracket Simulator, Kansas has a 30% chance to beat Villanova and a 17.2% chance to cut down the nets in San Antonio. Time to hedge.

For your heart: Is the juice worth the squeeze on this KU bet? The odds are stacked against the Jayhawks; hedge to secure a profit.

 

Our advice: Nova is currently a -235 moneyline favorite. Bet $1,000 to win approximately $426. If Kansas loses, you profit, and if Bill Self’s squad upsets the Wildcats, you can still hedge in the title game to guarantee that the tournament won’t end without you making some cash.


Reader Question: I have a Michigan 30-1 ticket for $250. I’m not usually a hedger, but what do you think of this one? I like to just go for the kill. Guess that’s just the greediness in me. — Jeff B.

The setup: Michigan is a 5-point favorite vs. Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four.

For your head: If I told you Michigan would face a No. 11 seed in the Final Four, how much would you have bet on the Maize and Blue at 30-1? The Wolverines are sitting pretty and have a 70% chance of advancing to the championship game, according to our model. Let it ride.

For your heart: Greed …

 

Our advice: You’re not a hedger, so why start now when your team is a solid favorite to advance? In the title game, we would recommend a hedge to secure a profit, as Villanova would be projected to win 66.1% of the time in 10,000 simulations.


Reader Question: I have a Loyola future for $25 to win $2,500. What do I do? — Jackson (@jangoharris)

The setup: Loyola-Chicago is a 5-point underdog vs. Michigan in the Final Four.

For your head: Bill Simmons has a simple gambling theory: Don’t bet against God and puppies. Sister Jean is a stand-in for the man upstairs, and Loyola-Chicago’s mascot is a wolf, from which dogs descended. That being said, the Ramblers are sizable underdogs in the Final Four and would be even bigger longshots in a title game against the Villanova-Kansas winner. Nothing wrong with ensuring a profit.

For your heart: Sister Jean agrees…

 

Our advice: Michigan is a -240 moneyline favorite. Bet $300 to win $125; this way you make $100 on your initial $25 bet if the Wolverines win as the betting market and our model predict they will. If we see Sister Jean on Monday, you’ll still have room to hedge in the title game.


Reader Question: I am a Nova 28/1 ticket holder ($100/$2800). Saw Nova KU line around 5ish? Have to assume Nova is same against UM and maybe 8-9ish vs. Loyola? — Chris L.

The setup: Kansas is a 5-point underdog vs. Villanova in the Final Four.

For your head: Here is what we love about Nova:
-Favorite to win it all in Vegas.
-Simulation Favorite to cut down the nets.
-Coming off a terrible shooting game from 3; expect positive regression for one of the best 3-point-shooting teams in the country.
-Kansas still has the ability to do this…

 

For your heart: From a bettor’s point of view, pretty sure this is what heaven feels like: having the favorite to win a four-team tournament at 28-1 odds. Every simulation and predictor will tell you Villanova has the best shot to win it all, but you might as well throw some coin on the Jayhawks and not sweat the Final Four.

Our advice: Hedge by putting $250 on Kansas’ moneyline, which would net you a $400 profit if the Jayhawks win and plenty of room for the Wolverines or Ramblers in the title game.


Reader Question from March 20th: Back in November I followed your advice and grabbed futures on Nova at 22-1 and Kansas at 16-1 and I added Gonzaga at 25-1 right before the tourney. Thoughts on if and when I should hedge and the best way to go about it. Thanks for your time and consideration and keep up the good work! — Bryan B.

The setup: Villanova is a 5-point favorite vs. Kansas in the Final Four.

 

For your head: Welcome back, Bryan! In our first Hedge Mailbag, we thought it was advantageous to let your future tickets ride, given you “only had a 4.5% chance all three would lose in the Sweet 16.” We are still on the “let it ride” train. Nova is the betting favorite, and the Wildcats and Jayhawks, combined, have a 68.1% chance to win the national championship.

For your heart: You really couldn’t be in a better position having two future tickets at 16-1 and 22-1 facing off in the Final Four. I would look to see if Villanova comes out of the gate fast and if you are able to grab Kansas at a bigger price in-game as well.

Our advice: Enjoy Saturday night and be ready to lock in some profits once the prices come out for Monday’s national championship.

 

Top Photo: Malik Newman, Kansas (© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports), Eric Paschall, Villanova (© Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports), Moritz Wagner, Michigan (© Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports), Marques Townes, Loyola-Chicago (© Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports).

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