Duke Is Most Popular March Madness Title Bet, But Sportsbooks Aren’t Worried

Duke Is Most Popular March Madness Title Bet, But Sportsbooks Aren’t Worried article feature image

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1).

  • Duke has been the favorite to win the 2019 NCAA Tournament since the opening night -- and they've been a popular bet throughout the season.
  • But Darren Rovell reports on why sportsbooks aren't worried about their futures liability on the Blue Devils.

There has been plenty of money thrown on Duke to win the NCAA Tournament, but with the odds so short all season long, bookmakers don’t have much liability.

“Duke winning is good for us,” said Nick Bogdanovich, bookmaker at William Hill. “They’ve been at +220 and +240 all year and now they’re +200 (2/1).”

Duke is both No. 1 in tickets (9%, tied with Gonzaga) and in money (alone at 19%) at the more 100 William Hill sportsbooks across the U.S.

William Hill is also offering a bet on Duke (+200) vs. the field (-240).

At DraftKings, the first mover and biggest mobile market-share holder in New Jersey, Duke also isn’t an issue.

“If you really believe Duke will win it all, you’ll get a much better deal if you roll it over every game,” said Johnny Avello, the director of operations for the company.

At 2-1, Duke is the shortest favorite to win it all since Kentucky in 2015 (the Wildcats lost to Wisconsin that year in the Final Four). Kentucky, in 2011, also was shorter than 2-1 and did win it all with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb.

“I don’t think college basketball is like that anymore, where a team will definitely come in and run the table,” Avello said.

ACC members and No. 1 seeds Duke (19%), Virginia (12%) and North Carolina (7%) represent 38 percent of the total money bet at William Hill on futures.

But Bogdanovich says he actually isn’t concerned about any of the top 10 teams with the most money bet.

He says he’s most worried about 12-seed Oregon, which opened at 20-1 but got as high as 1500-1 as the Ducks quacked under pressure, losing to Oregon State, USC and UCLA down the stretch.

Oregon was 1500-1 at William Hill as recent as March 2. The biggest bet at that price was $10 that would net $15,000. William Hill wrote seven tickets at 1500/1 on Oregon.

The Ducks then proceeded to close out the season with eight straight wins, including winning the Pac-12 title on Saturday night.

Oregon opened as a 1-point underdog against Wisconsin in a 12-vs.-5 matchup that will tip off on Friday afternoon.

The most aggressive bookmaker, PointsBet, which has a mobile business in New Jersey, was asking for Duke money on Sunday night. It opened at +300 and got pounded down enough for the odds to move to +250.

“We looked at it this morning and saw the market tightening up and we didn’t have much liability on Duke, so we decided to take a chance,” said Matt Chaprales, Director of Content for PointsBet. “It’s clear that they are a healthy public favorite.”

Now that they asked for the Duke business, Chaprales said the book would lose five figures on a Duke title.

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