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The Final Four Hedge Mailbag: Best Options for Your Futures Tickets

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Photo credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Virginia basketball

  • If you are a proud owner of an NCAA Tournament future ticket for one of the four remaining teams, what is the best way to hedge?
  • Our experts answer a handful of questions submitted by readers and give advice on the best ways to handle hedging each unique situation.

From the first tip of the college basketball season to Saturday’s Final Four, we are down to just four teams: Virginia, Michigan State, Texas Tech and Auburn.

Last weekend, future tickets on some of the biggest power teams in the country — including Kentucky, Gonzaga and Duke — disappeared into thin air, while first-time Final Four participants like Auburn and Texas Tech rewarded their backers.

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 experts would do if they were holding your ticket.

But 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 Wednesday evening.


Reader Question: I got Auburn at 90-1 and 45-1 preseason. What do I do? — Neema A.

The setup: Auburn is a 5.5-point underdog vs. Virginia.

For your head: Even though Virginia opened the tournament with back-to-back double-digit wins, its last two victories haven’t been so easy, beating Oregon by four and escaping Purdue in overtime.

According to our Bracket Simulator, Auburn has a 30.9% chance to beat Virginia and an 11.6% chance to cut down the nets in Minneapolis. Hedging is the only thing that makes sense given the value of your future odds.

When it comes to the shooting issue Auburn may face having to deal with the conditions of a football stadium, our colleague Ryan Collinsworth actually broke it all down this week and the data shows that teams shoot worse in football stadiums, but to not necessarily to run to bet the under either.

For your heart: With Chuma Okeke lost due to a torn ACL and the fact that Auburn is an efficient 3-pt shooting team entering a football stadium, hedging is the right move.

Our advice: The Cavaliers are currently -245 moneyline favorites. Not knowing exactly how much you have on Auburn at both prices and if you’ve hedged for any amount already, I would bet enough to make back your principle (how much you initially bet on both future tickets) at the minimum — plus probably a few extra shekels to make it worth your time. — Evan Abrams

Reader Question: In January, My brother and I bet Virginia to win national title at +850 odds. I placed a $100 bet and he bet $350 on them. What would be your advice to hedge? — Garrick S.

The setup: Virginia is a 5.5-point favorite vs. Auburn.

For your head: Virginia has a 69.1% chance to defeat Auburn according to The Action Network simulations and a 39.6% chance of cutting down the nets in Minneapolis — best of the Final Four teams.

Tony Bennett’s team ranks No. 1 in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency metric and is the only team in the country that is top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

UVA is a better team than Auburn, don’t hedge.

For your heart: You feel great about your Hoos bet, especially given the fact that Vegas has them as favorites against Auburn and in a potential title game against Michigan State or Texas Tech. Of course, this same team also lost to 16-seed UMBC last year.

No one would fault you for hedging and locking in a profit.

Our advice: That said, don’t hedge. History is against Auburn in its first-ever Final Four. Since 1985, teams making their Final Four debut have gone 4-10 straight up . Plus, favorites in the Final Four and finals have gone 31-11 (74%) straight up since 2005.

Let your UVA ticket ride one more game and then feel free to lock in a profit in the National Championship Game. — John Ewing

Reader Question: I have two future tickets, what is the best way to hedge both and what is the way with the highest profit potential?

Mich St to win Nat’l Champ $100 to win $1200
Auburn to win Nat’l Champ $100 to win $5000 — Bryce B.

The setup: Auburn is a 5.5-point underdog vs. Virginia. Michigan State is a 2.5-point favorite vs. Texas Tech.

For your head: Having a team on both sides of the bracket means you are in pretty good shape. Your biggest payday would come from an Auburn win but that is the least likely result out of the four teams remaining at 11.5%. You need to protect that $5000 payout more than the $1200 payout.

For your heart: You have a 70% chance of one of your teams making it and a 17% chance of both of your bets making it to the championship game. If your goal is the highest profit potential, you let both bets ride and root for a Tigers vs. Spartans championship game.

Our advice: You really want to avoid the Virginia and Texas Tech combination, but there is no reason to parlay them since one game will be played after the other. I would hedge with the Virginia moneyline (-240) for a decent amount, somewhere around four or five units. Then you can decide how to proceed from there.

If Virginia wins, you can rollover the moneyline bet you just won into a Texas Tech hedge. If Auburn wins, you can lay off the second game and root for both of your tickets to wind up in the National Championship Game. — Travis Reed

Reader Question: Took a few futures at the beginning of the season and haven’t hedged yet because luckily all 4 teams got to the sweet 16, but at this point I only have Virginia left at 12-1.

I want to let it ride vs Auburn and more than likely hedge the title game provided they get past Auburn and lock in profit, but my gut says Virginia wins it this year.

Do you think the site of the final 4 is a disadvantage to Auburn being a team that relies on it’s shooting, I have heard that playing in stadiums like that can be difficult to shoot in because of different sight lines and such, appreciate the advice! — Bryan B.

The setup: Virginia is a 5.5-point favorite vs. Auburn in the Final Four.

For your head: Even after watching Virginia almost lose to Purdue, Vegas still lists the Cavaliers with the best odds to cut down the nets in Minneapolis. Given your exceptional odds on Virginia at 12-1 and the fact you haven’t hedged yet, it may make sense to bet on Auburn’s moneyline for enough to cover your Virginia future ticket.

For your heart: It seems you believe Virginia will and can win it all, so letting your ticket ride to the National Championship Game, where the Cavaliers are projected as 1-point favorites against Michigan State and 3-point favorites against Texas Tech.

Our advice: Let the Virginia ticket ride to the national championship and then hedge with Michigan State or Texas Tech to win to both cover your principle and secure some profit. — Evan Abrams

Reader Question: Here’s my situation. I’m not a rich guy. I have 2 futures. One with $10 on Texas Tech to win it all at 85-1 that I got in December. And I have $72 on Virginia to win it all at 14-1, which pays $1,008 that I got preseason. My goal is to lock in a profit, even if it is just $200-$300. — Rob Bensen

The setup: Virginia is a 5.5-point favorite vs. Auburn. Texas Tech is a 2.5-point underdog vs. Michigan State.

For your head: If your goal is to lock in a profit, I think you have to start with a bet on Auburn to beat Virginia due to the games not going on simultaneously. The Cavaliers are the favorites to win the tournament in Vegas and our projections, but you will also receive the highest payout if they cut down the nets.

If Virginia advances, it will be around a 1-point favorite against Michigan State and a 3-point favorite against Texas Tech in the title game.

For your heart: You have a horse in both races … that’s a heck of an opportunity. Because you want to secure a profit, it makes sense to wager first on Auburn to win, see how that plays out and then if the Tigers win, you have secured a profit and can make a decision whether to let Texas Tech ride or profit since you wagered only $10 on the ticket.

Our advice: Assuming you haven’t hedged already and your initial future wagers are the basis for the amount to hedge, here is my advice. Bet $200 on Auburn’s moneyline (+215) to beat Virginia, which should win you about $430.

If Auburn wins, you won $358 (losing $72 on the initial Virginia ticket) and still have your Texas Tech ticket and the ability to make more money in the late game.

If Virginia wins, you are technically in the hole for $272, with still $736 of value left in your ticket. You can lock in a profit by betting Michigan State on the moneyline against Virginia, should it beat Texas Tech.

If Tech wins, both of your tickets advanced and you should grab a bottle to watch the game Monday night to celebrate! — Evan Abrams

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