March Madness Betting Trends, Stats, Notes: Action Network Betting Primer

March Madness Betting Trends, Stats, Notes: Action Network Betting Primer article feature image

The Selection Show is behind us and now it's time to dig into the bracket. We're here to answer tourney questions, dish out stats and facts, talk futures, the bracket, coaches, cinderella and more.

Welcome to the March Madness edition of Action Network's betting primer.

All data, stats and trends are updated as of Thursday, March 16, 12 p.m. ET.


1. Caution …

The old "fade the public" — teams with 60% or more of the bets on the spread are 56-80-5 (41.2%) against the spread in the NCAA Tournament since 2016. A $100 bettor would be down $2,812 (-19.9% ROI) tailing each of those public picks.

2. Not The Same Team

According to our Bet Labs database, after a team pulls off a double-digit point spread upset in the NCAA Tournament, they are 3-17 straight up and 5-15 against the spread in the next round, dating back to 2005. Those such teams were 0-9 straight up between 2005 and 2013. Florida Gulf Coast broke the streak in 2013.

3. Momentum Isn't Everything…

Kansas State and Baylor are 3 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, both coming off consecutive losses entering the dance. Since 2000, top-4 seeds entering the Round of 64 on at least a 2-game losing streak are 17-0 SU and 14-3 ATS.

…But Momentum Matters Sometimes.

Since seeding began in 1978, every NCAA champion — 100% of them — to play in a Conference Tournament made it to at least their Conference Semifinals (won at least one game). In that span, 8 champions never actually had a Conference Tournament (97 ARI, 95 UCLA, 89 MICH, 87 IU, 81 IU, 79 MSU, 78 UK, 77 MARQ).

Some of the candidates this eliminates this year: Kansas State, Baylor, Auburn, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan State, USC, Providence, Northwestern, Nevada.

March Madness 2023 

Click on one of the categories below to navigate to specific content.


Futures Market & Notes 

  • Here's a look at the BetMGM futures market, from opening to current lines to win it all:


  • What are the highest odds to win the title entering the NCAA Tournament since seeding began in 1978?

2014 Connecticut Huskies: 100-1 pre-tournament


  • Only three other teams listed above 20-1 entering March Madness have won the title in that same time frame:

1985 Villanova Wildcats: 35-1 pre-tournament

2011 Connecticut Huskies: 25-1 pre-tournament

1983 NC State Wolfpack: 25-1 pre-tournament


How have pre-tournament favorites performed in March Madness recently? The pre-tournament favorite has gone on to win it all nine times.

Pre-Tournament Favorites to win Championship Since 2000…

Villanova (2018)

North Carolina (2005, 2009, 2017)

Louisville (2013)

Kentucky (2012)

Florida (2007)

Duke (2001)

Michigan State (2000)

Last pre-tournament favorites to lose in the first weekend since 1990: 2010 Kansas, 2004 Kentucky, 1994 UNC, 1990 Oklahoma

  • How has the preseason favorite to win the national title performed in March Madness?

Gonzaga and North Carolina

This year's preseason favorites were Gonzaga and North Carolina, both at +900 odds.

In 2021, Baylor and Gonzaga were preseason favorites and met in the title game (Baylor won it all). Prior to that, the last preseason favorite to win it all was UNC at +500 back in 2009.

Preseason Favorites to make Final Four Since 2009:

2021 Baylor Bears: +800 preseason

2021 Gonzaga Bulldogs: +800 preseason

2014, 2015 Kentucky Wildcats: +300 & +400 preseason

2009 North Carolina: +500 preseason


Game-By-Game Matchups 

Thursday Games:

13

Furman

4

Virginia

  • Tony Bennett is 7-13 ATS in the tournament with Virginia. Since his first year at Virginia in 2009, he is the 3rd-least profitable coach ATS in the NCAA Tournament.

Least Profitable Coaches ATS in NCAA Tournament since 2009 ($100/wager):

275. Tony Bennett: 7-13 ATS (-$631)

276. Lon Kruger: 5-12 ATS ($712)

277. Rick Barnes: 2-13 ATS (-$1,114)


10

Utah State

7

Missouri

  • Utah State is 1-18 straight up in its last 19 NCAA Tournament games dating back to their 1970 Elite Eight loss. Their only win came back in 2001 in the Round of 64 against Ohio State. They've lost nine straight tourney games on the moneyline.

Better seed and an underdog. Three games currently fit that mold in this year's NCAA Tournament:

+ 8 Maryland (+2.5) vs. 9 West Virginia
+ 8 Iowa (+1.5) vs. 9 Auburn
+ 7 Missouri (+1.5) vs. 10 Utah State

Historically, that 7 seed has struggled in a small sample size ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/gR727LwYHT

— Evan Abrams (@EvanHAbrams) March 14, 2023


16

Howard

1

Kansas

  • Kansas and Bill Self habe won 11 straight games SU as a favorite in the tourney. Last loss came in 2017 against Oregon in the Elite 8 (they are 17-2 SU as a favorite in NCAAT since 2016).
  • Kansas w/ Self as a 1 seed: 11th time. Both Self’s titles came as a 1 seed. Kansas has made at least Elite 8 in 8 of 10 NCAAT app. as 1 seed w/ Self. Self is 24-18 ATS as a 1 seed, 17-17 ATS not as 1 seed.

15

Colgate

2

Texas

  • Texas is 1-11 ATS in their last 12 NCAA Tournament games, including 2-8 ATS when the game is played past the Round of 64 (1-8 ATS last nine Round 64 games).
  • Texas hasn’t advanced past the R32 since making it to the Elite 8 back in 2008 — 11 NCAA Tournament trips ago, including 2023.
  • Colgate has played five NCAA Tournament games. They are 0-5 SU, but 4-1 ATS.

» Return to the table of contents «


Friday Games:

10

USC

7

Michigan State

  • Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has lost 3 of his last 4 NCAA Tournament games. Izzo is just 5-9 ATS in his last 14 NCAA Tournament games.
  • The over has cashed in three straight Michigan State NCAA Tournament games (3 of 3 since 2021) and the over is 12-6 in the NCAA Tournament since 2015.

In the Round of 64 or earlier, the over has cashed in 8 straight NCAA Tournament games for Mich State since 2014, including 10-1 since 2011.


14

Kennesaw State

3

Xavier

  • Xavier coach Sean Miller is 8-3 straight up and 4-5-2 ATS in the Round of 64. Since 2010 – all with Arizona – Miller is 1-5-1 ATS in Round of 64. In his 11 Round of 64 games, the over is 9-1-1.

In 30 NCAA Tournament games under Miller, the over is 19-10-1. 8-2 to the over with Xavier and 11-8-1 to the over with Arizona.


15

Vermont

2

Marquette

  • Shaka Smart’s third team he’s coached in March Madness. He is 7-9 SU, 9-7 ATS. Smart’s teams have lost 7 consecutive NCAA Tournament games straight up dating back to the Round of 32 in 2013. His last tournament win came on March 21, 2013.
  • Smart now has won tournament championships as a head coach in four different conferences:
    – Big East (2023 Marquette)
    – Big 12 (2021 Texas — Round 64)
    – Atlantic 10 (2015 VCU — Round 64)
    – Colonial Athletic Association (2012 VCU — Round 32)

In his three previous tournaments as an automatic qualifier, he’s never made it past the first weekend.


14

NC State

3

Creighton

  • Per BetLabs, NCAA Tournament teams who lost their last game by 20 or more points are 21-12 against the number dating back to 2007. It’s not often a team gets completely obliterated entering the big dance, but perhaps there’s a real psychological response to that angle.
  • Greg McDermott is 6-10 SU, 6-9-1 ATS in the NCAA Tournament. Here he is when it comes to a seed advantage, which is the case here, and seed disadvantage:

2-6-1 ATS with the seed advantage | 1-7 SU with the seed disadvantage


11

Providence

6

Kentucky

  • Providence was 6-15 ATS (28.6%) in the NCAA Tournament between 1978 (when seeding began) and 2021, the worst win pct (min. 20 games) among 77 qualified teams. That changed last year in the NCAA Tournament, when they went a perfect 3-0 ATS, to move to 9-15 ATS since 1978.
  • Ed Cooley is 3-6 SU, 4-5 ATS in NCAA Tournament, including the under going 6-3 in his 9 NCAAT games.
  • This season, Kentucky is in the bottom three of NCAA Tournament teams 1H ATS and 2H ATS.
  • John Calipari is 19-2 straight up in Round of 64. He lost to Saint Peter’s last year and hasn’t lost in the first weekend in consecutive years since Memphis in 2003-04.

» Return to the table of contents «



The Coaches Database 

  • Dating back to 1978, the start of the seeding era in the NCAA Tournament, here is a search-based database of every head coach. Search a name and enjoy.


  • Here is a breakdown of the best and worst win percentages for active coaches in the NCAA Tournament (minimum 10 NCAAT games).


  • Which head coaches excel as an underdog and struggle as a favorite in the NCAA Tournament?

5 best active head coaches ATS as an underdog (min. 10 GP):

Sean Miller: 8-2 ATS

Cliff Ellis: 9-3 ATS

Bruce Pearl: 8-3 ATS

Shaka Smart: 8-3 ATS

Dana Altman: 13-5-1 ATS

He's Back: Miller was 4-1 ATS as an underdog in the NCAAT w/ Xavier
Quack: Altman is 3-0 ATS as an underdog with Oregon


5 worst active head coaches SU as a favorite (min. 5 GP):

Shaka Smart: 1-4 SU

Greg Gard: 2-3 SU

Fran McCaffery: 3-3 SU

Jamie Dixon: 11-9 SU

Rick Barnes: 24-18 SU

Bad Shaka: Smart is 1-7 SU, 2-6 ATS as a NCAAT favorite or dog of less than 4 pts
Horned Frog: Dixon is 1-4 SU/ATS in his past 5 NCAAT games as a favorite

The must-have app for college basketball bettors

The best NCAAB betting scoreboard

Free picks from proven pros

Live win probabilities for your bets

» Return to the table of contents «


Bet Labs Systems 

Let's take a look at three NCAA Tournament PRO Systems. Click each system for matches, bets and detailed profitability charts.

Notes: This system targets undervalued teams coming off of a good defensive performance. The system is 88-68-4 ATS in the Round of 64.

Notes: The old notion, "Fade The Public." This system targets under-bet teams in high-bet games.

Notes: A system with a small sample size, but games early in the day have leaned under in the postseason.


Now for a few system trends to keep an eye out for.

Get 'Em Early

Look for first half unders in the NCAA Tournament.

+ Since 2011, games played before 2:00 p.m. ET in March Madness, where the first half over/under is less than 70, are 55-28-3 (66.3%) to the first half under with a +25.5% ROI.

Potential Matches: Maryland/WVU, Virginia/Furman, Michigan St/USC, Baylor/UCSB

+ First half unders in the NCAA Tournament are 153-109-5 (58.4%) since 2018. When those games are played in the Round of 64 or First Four, they are 84-57-2 (59.6%) to the under.

  • Since 2017-18 NCAA Tournament, 1st half unders are 73-52-2 (58.4%) in the round of 64. A $100 bettor would be up $1,306 .

Thirsty Thursday

Historically in March Madness, favorites bark on the opening day and the underdogs come to play the second day. Since 2005, favorites are 133-115-8 ATS on Thursday, a $100 bettor would be up $1,070 (6 games above .500 ATS since 2016).

On Friday’s, favorites are 125-143-3 ATS. A $100 bettor would be down $2,519 (7 games below .500 ATS since 2017).


Inflation Problems

Teams to win by 20+ points in the Round of 64 are 66-28 straight up, but just 39-54-1 ATS in the Round of 32 when their opponent won by less than 20 points in the Round of 64.


The Bounce Back

Teams entering the NCAA Tournament off a loss of 20+ points are 22-11-1 ATS (66.7%) in the Round of 64 since 2005.

Matches for the tournament: Kansas & Saint Mary's.

(NC State & Creighton both apply, but are facing each other)


They Are Free!

Hit your free throws kids. Teams who hit above 77% free throw pct for the season entering any NCAA Tournament game since 2005 are 60-38-2 ATS (61.2%).

Here are your top shooting teams in the country:


» Return to the table of contents «


Who Does The Public Like? 

Betting percentages by sportsbook coming after Selection Sunday


When looking strictly at game-to-game spread betting percentages from our Action Labs software — which is available for every game across 10+ sports — here are some notes about public betting patterns and how to profit:


How do popular underdogs perform in the NCAA Tournament?

In the early rounds — not well. Underdogs receiving the majority of the ticket count in the Round of 32 or earlier are 102-126-3 ATS (44.7%) since 2005. When those teams receive 60% or more, they are 30-44-2 ATS (40.5%).


How has the public performed overall in March Madness?

Overall it just hasn't been profitable to bet with the public. Since the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the betting public (more than 50% spread bets) is below .500 ATS in every round of the tournament:

  • First Four: 15-25 ATS
  • Round 64: 153-157-6 ATS
  • Round 32: 73-81-2 ATS
  • Sweet 16: 36-38-4 ATS
  • Elite 8: 18-20-2 ATS
  • Final Four: 7-12-1 ATS
  • National Title: 4-6 ATS

What have we learned about public betting and over/unders?

The public tends to do a better job at accurately predicting unders in the NCAA Tournament than overs. Here are the public betting results for overs and unders in the past four tournaments (since 2017-18):

  • When overs are the public side (51%+ of tickets on the over): 83-98-4 (45.9%) to the over
  • When unders are the public side (51%+ of tickets on the under): 41-34 (54.7%) to the under

Should you avoid massive public sides?

Since 2005, only 13 different teams have closed with at least 80% of the spread bets in the NCAA Tournament. Those 13 teams are 2-11 ATS. When you lower it to 75%+, those sides are 27-40-2 ATS in March Madness.

Biggest Public Sides in NCAA Tournament Since 2005 (0-8 ATS)

Team
Matchup
Year/Result
Oregon (-8.5) vs.
Miami-Ohio
2007, Round of 64
Oregon (89%) | ORE, 58-56
Louisville (-21.5) vs.
Morehead State
2009, Round of 64
Louisville (87%) | UL, 74-54
Oklahoma (-14.5) vs.
Cal State Bakersfield
2016, Round of 64
Oklahoma (85%) | OU, 82-68
Tennessee (-19) vs.
American
2008, Round of 64
Tennessee (85%) | TENN, 72-57
Memphis (-20) vs.
Cal State Northridge
2009, Round of 64
Memphis (84%) | MEM, 81-70
Duke (-20.5) vs.
Albany
2013, Round of 64
Duke (83%) | Duke, 73-61
Memphis (-26) vs.
UT Arlington
2008, Round of 64
Memphis (83%) | MEM, 87-63
Michigan State (-5) vs.
George Mason
2006, Round of 64
Michigan St. (82%) | George Mason, 75-65

» Return to the table of contents «


March Madness Trends 

Dog Hunting


How Sweet It Is: Over the past five NCAA Tournaments, the two most profitable rounds for underdogs are the Sweet 16 (23-14-3 ATS) and the Round 64 (83-73-3 ATS). Underdogs are above .500 ATS in five straight NCAA Tournaments and in 7 of the past 8 tournaments. In that span, underdogs are 275-247-13 ATS (52.7%), with a $100 bettor up $1,188 (+2.2% ROI).

First 4 Problems: Since 2016-17, the First 4 is the least profitable round for underdogs.
Bet Dogs Late: In the Sweet 16 or later, dogs are 41-29-5 ATS in this span.

Quiet On The Western Front

Since Arizona won the National Title in 1997, no team west of Texas has won it all.


"We Need A Hero"


Stuck In The Middle: With Texas firing Chris Beard at the beginning of this calendar year and sliding interim coach Rodney Terry into the role, what is the precedence for a team entering the NCAA Tournament with an interim head coach?

First 4 Problems: Since the tournament expanded in 1985, 10 teams have entered March Madness with an "interim" head coach. Five lost in the Round 64 or First Four and four made it out of the first weekend: 2016 Wisconsin, 2009 Arizona, 1993 California and …
The Ultimate Interim: … Michigan and Steve Fisher won it all back in 1989.

It's Been A While

The only team since 1985 to start an NCAA Tournament 0-2 ATS and go on to win the NCAA Tournament was Arizona in 1997.


Market Money


Follow The Movement? Since 2010, in the Round of 64 or earlier, when the line moves two points or more from opening to closing toward any team (ex. -5 to -7), they are 34-24-1 ATS, a +15.2% ROI.

Watch Out Later: When it comes to the later rounds, fade the movement. When the line moves two points or more from open to close after the Round of 64, those teams are 3-12 ATS.
Overall: Teams are just 37-36-1 ATS when the line moves two points or more from open to close since 2010 in the NCAA Tournament.

Don't Over Think It

The Elite Eight has involved a 1 seed in every NCAA Tournament since 1979.

https://twitter.com/Stuckey2/status/1634050780968697857


Mark It Down


Let's Talk Seeding: We'll start with the 8 vs. 9 battle. 8 seeds are 72-76 SU, 67-77-4 ATS vs. 9 seeds in the Round 64 since 1985. It's the Round of 32 where you see the difference.

Round of 32 Results: 8 seeds in R32: 18-70 SU | 9 seeds in R32: 9-76 SU

Do Win Streaks Matter?

The answer is ignore it. Since 2005, teams on 10+ game straight up win streaks playing in the NCAA Tournament are an even 72-73-3 ATS when facing a team not on a 10-game plus win streak.


The Double One


11 Is The New 12: Of teams seeded 10th or higher in the NCAA Tournament, the 11 seed is the only one above .500 on the moneyline since 2010. If you look recently, the 11 seeds are 38-36 SU since the start of the 2016 tourney — a $100 bettor would be up $1,952.


Make It Make Sense …

In Round of 16 or earlier, lower-seeded underdogs are 93-99 straight up and 103-85-4 against the spread since 1985.


The Fade Zone


Sweet Spot: Which top seeds in the NCAA Tournament have struggled the most when it comes to covering the spread in the Round of 64? Since 2010, 4, 5 and 6 seeds are 57-83-4 ATS (40.7%) in the Round of 64. A $100 bettor would be down $2,902 for a -20.2% ROI.

Least profitable NCAA Tournament teams against the 2H spread this season via @Bet_Labs:

1. Kentucky: 5-16 ATS
2. Gonzaga: 8-17-2 ATS
3. San Diego State: 8-17-1 ATS
4. Montana State: 6-14-1 ATS
5. Michigan State: 9-16 ATS pic.twitter.com/amn36REqs9

— Evan Abrams (@EvanHAbrams) March 14, 2023


» Return to the table of contents «


How To Bet The First Four 

Here is what you need to know all about the First Four …

  The "First Four" began back in 2011. There have been 88 "First Four" teams and 44 winners.

 23 of those 44 winners were non-16 seeds — while all 21 16 seeds lost in the Round of 64. Here is how those 23 non-16 seeds performed in the NCAA Tournament:


  • 14 lost in the Round of 64
  • 4 lost in the Round of 32
  • 3 lost in the Sweet 16
  • 2 lost in the Final Four (2021 UCLA, 2011 VCU)

  Is there anything actionable we can take away from the nine First Four teams to advance past the Round of 64?

  • 8 of 9 were 11 seeds (1 was a 13 seed → 2013, La Salle)
  • 8 of 9 Round of 64 games had spreads under 7 points
  • 8 of 9 teams entered the NCAA Tournament top 50 in RPI
  • 8 of 9 teams faced an opponent in the Round of 64 that was an At-Large bid
  • 8 of 9 Round of 64 games went under the total
  • 7 of 9 teams had Round of 64 games with over/unders below 140
  • 6 of 9 teams won their Round of 64 game by double-digits

A First Four team has advanced to the Round of 32 in 10 of 11 years, including advancing to the Sweet 16 in 5 of 11 years.
Since the inception of the First Four in 2011, the public is 17-26 ATS in that round, the 2nd-least profitable round for the public in that span (ahead of the Round of 64).

The ultimate college basketball betting cheat code

Best bets for every game

Profitable data-driven system picks

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» Return to the table of contents «


Upsets & Betting Records 

Heading into March Madness, here are the biggest upsets in the tournament and the betting records set throughout the years …


What is the biggest NCAA Tournament favorite?

In the seeding era, 1999 Duke takes the cake when it was a 46-point favorite against Florida A&M. The Blue Devils beat the Rattlesnakes 99-58, failing to cover the lofty 46-point spread by five points.

Biggest Favorites in NCAA Tournament Since 1978:

Team
Matchup
Year/Result
Duke (-46) vs.
Florida A&M
1999, Round of 64
Duke, 99-58
Kansas (-36.5) vs.
Prairie View A&M
1998, Round of 64
Kansas, 110-52
Kansas (-35.5) vs.
Jackson State
1997, Round of 64
Kansas, 78-64

What is the highest & lowest totals in the NCAA Tournament?

Since 1995, we've only seen two totals reach above the 170 mark in the NCAA Tournament, and came all the way back in 1995. When it comes to the lowest totals, we've only seen one close below 110 and that came in 1996.


Maryland vs. Texas

Over/Under: 177

Oregon vs. Texas

Over/Under: 176

In the 1995 tourney, the Texas Longhorns, behind coach Tommy Penders, were averaging almost 93 points per game and had back-to-back games with a total above 170. They faced Oregon in the Round of 64 and won, then the total got a little higher when they faced an even higher scoring team in Maryland, a game in which the Longhorns lost by 14. Both games went under the total.

Princeton vs. Mississippi State

Over/Under: 108

The story of this over/under tale is Princeton's defense, which was number one in the country in 1995-96 and allowing under 52 points per game. As a 13-seed in the Round of 64, the Tigers beat 4-seed UCLA, 43-41 and held the Bruins to 38.5% shooting (Princeton shot 37% and won). Then in the Round of 32, the total closed at 108 vs. Mississippi State, which beat Princeton, 63-41, barely staying under the total.

What are the easiest betting wins in the NCAA Tournament?

Between the moneyline, against the spread and totals, going through history, what have been the easiest (largest margin) wins for bettors? Let's explore.

Easiest Bets Won in NCAA Tournament Since 1978

Teams
Year/Result
Bet Type
2016 National Semifinals
Villanova (-2.5) | VIL, 95-51
Covered by 41.5 pts
Against The Spread
1998 Round of 64
Kansas (-36.5) | KU, 110-52
Won by 58 pts
Moneyline
2002 Round of 32
Cincinnati/UCLA (139) | 105-101
Went over by 67 pts
Over
2017 Round of 64
S. Dakota St/Gonzaga (157.5) | 66-46
Went under by 45.5 pts
Under

What are the biggest betting upsets in the NCAA Tournament?

Since seeding began in 1978, nine teams have lost straight up in the NCAA Tournament as a favorite of 15 points or more. Let's look at the top 6 and more.

Worst betting losses in the NCAA Tournament

2012: Missouri (-21) lost to Norfolk State

2018: Virginia (-20.5) lost to UMBC

1997: South Carolina (-18.5) lost to Coppin State

1993: Arizona (-18.5) lost to Santa Clara

2022: Kentucky (-17.5) lost to Saint Peter's

2001: Iowa State (-17.5) lost to Hampton

1986: Notre Dame (-17) lost to Arkansas-Little Rock

Multiple: Here are the only schools to lose more than once as a 13-point favorite or higher → Iowa State, Georgetown & Missouri.
Big Favorites: 23 teams have closed as a double-digit favorite 10+ times since 1978. UCLA has the worst SU win pct at 11-3 (78.6%).

Worst NCAA Tournament betting losses in the Sweet 16 or later

2022: Purdue (-13) lost to Saint Peter's

2002: Duke (-12) lost to Indiana

2011: Kansas (-11.5) lost to VCU

1998: Arizona (-10.5) lost to Utah

1997: Kansas (-10.5) lost to Arizona

2022: Gonzaga (-10) lost to Arkansas

1985: Georgetown (-10) lost to Villanova


» Return to the table of contents «


Player images via StatMuse and historical odds history via Sports Odds History

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