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

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

Connecticut, Purdue, Alabama and NC State. The Final Four is set!

The NCAA Tournament has been a spectacle full of memorable moments. Let's finish strong.

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

All data, stats and trends are updated as of Saturday, April 6, 1 p.m. ET.

Longshot History

NC State has made the Final Four after having 200-1 odds to win the National Championship prior to the tournament. The Wolfpack now join an exclusive club.

Highest pre-tourney title odds to make Final Four …

  • 2018 Loyola-Chicago: 380-1
  • 2011 VCU: 300-1
  • 2017 S. Carolina: 280-1
  • 2016 Syracuse: 275-1
  • πŸπŸŽπŸπŸ’ 𝐍𝐂 π’π­πšπ­πž: 𝟐𝟎𝟎-𝟏
  • 2011 Butler: 200-1
  • 2023 FAU: 200-1

Finishing The Job

Highest Odds to Win Title Entering NCAA Tournament – Champions Since 1978: UConn is highest at 100-1 prior to the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

If NC State wins it all, it would take the title for "biggest longshot" in the seeding era. If NC State beats Purdue, it would join only Butler to make it to the title game with 200-1 odds or longer entering the tourney in the seeding era.

Only four teams above 20-1 entering March Madness have won the title since 1978: 2014 UConn, 1985 Villanova, 2011 UConn, 1983 NC State

We're Going Streaking

That's nine consecutive straight up wins for the Wolfpack. A $100 bettor would be up $1,849 betting NC State during its ACC and NCAA Tournament win streak.

Let's try and put that $1,849 figure into perspective. Using the Bet Labs database, here are the most profitable teams, on the moneyline, in both their conference tournament and the NCAA Tournaments combined for a single season since 2005.

2015-16 Hartford: 1-1 SU (+$3,650)
2017-18 UMBC: 4-1 SU (+$2,456)
2011-12 Norfolk State: 4-1 SU (+$2,243)
2021-22 St. Peter's: 6-1 SU (+$2,095)
2023-24 NC State: 9-0 SU (+$1,849)
2015-16 Holy Cross: 5-1 SU (+$1,800)
2010-11 VCU: 7-2 SU (+$1,712)
2015-16 Middle Tenn. St: 4-1 SU (+$1,705)

We should probably eliminate 2015-16 Hartford, which had a 18.5-pt upset in its conference tournament, but then lost and didn't make the dance. But aside from that, UMBC is the top target for NC State β€” which would be at around +$2,194 with the win over Purdue.

The Wolfpack join 2011 Connecticut in winning a conference tournament with five wins in five days. 2011 UConn then went on a run, going 6-0 SU, 5-1 ATS in the NCAA Tournament and winning it all.

About When You Lose

NC State entered the NCAA Tournament with 14 total losses. That is the most for any team to ever make the Final Four.

Most Regular Season Losses By A Final Four Team*
14 β€” 2024 NC State
13 β€” 2016 Syracuse
13 β€” 2000 North Carolina
13 β€” 2000 Wisconsin
*Previous three lost in the Final Four

Upset Coming?

Here are the biggest upsets in either the Final Four or national title game over the last 60 years. The only teams to lose twice in the mini tourney as 7-point favorites or more was Oklahoma in 1988 and 2002 and UNC in 1972 and 1998. The biggest upset? Of course, Georgetown falling to Villanova in 1985.

Depending where Alabama closes, it could have the biggest upset in Final Four and title game.

Worst NCAA Tournament Betting Losses in Final Four and Title Game

1985: Georgetown (-10) lost to Villanova
1999: Duke (-9.5) lost to Connecticut
1991: UNLV (-9) lost to Duke
1998: North Carolina (-8.5) lost to Utah
1988: Oklahoma (-8) lost to Kansas
1966: Kentucky (-8) lost to UTEP
2014: Florida (-7) lost to Connecticut
2002: Oklahoma (-7) lost to Indiana
1983: Houston (-7) lost to NC State
1972: North Carolina (-7) lost to Florida State

Our Powers Combined

  • UConn -11.5 vs. Alabama
  • Purdue -9.5 vs. NC State

The 21 combined points both teams are favored by is the second-most in the semifinals in the past 60 years (UCLA and UNC, 1972).

In the past 60 years of the Final Four, 12 teams have closed above an 11-point favorite.

  • 8 of the 12 were UCLA between 1964-73.
  • Here are the biggest favorites in the past 50 years of the Final Four since the Bruins run:
2021SemisGonzaga-14UCLAW, 93-90No
1996ChampKentucky-14SyracuseW, 76-67No
1974ChampNC State-12MarquetteW, 76-64Push
1999SemisDuke-11.5Michigan StateW, 68-62No

The Favorite List

Including the 12-point spread in the Final Four, Connecticut has been favored by a combined 74 points through five NCAA Tournament games β€” that is tied for the 7th-highest mark in the past 50 years.

1999 Duke -124.5
1996 Kentucky -89
2001 Duke -84.5
2021 Gonzaga -83.5
2015 Kentucky -79
1991 UNLV -76
1985 Georgetown -73
1997 Kentucky -73
2024 Connecticut-73

Cover Town

ATS records for all four teams this season:

Connecticut: 26-12 ATS (35-3 SU)
Purdue: 21-16 ATS (33-4 SU)
Alabama: 21-15 ATS (25-11 SU)
NC State: 20-20 ATS (26-14 SU)

If UConn wins it all and goes 2-0 ATS in the Final Four, it would finish 28-12 ATS (70%). That would tie 2018 Villanova for the highest ATS win percentage for a national champion since 1995.

2018 Villanova 28-12 ATS (70%)
2023 Connecticut 27-12 ATS (69.2%)
2019 Virginia 24-12 ATS (66.7%)
2006 Florida 21-11-1 ATS (65.6%)
2021 Baylor 17-9 ATS (65.4%)

Going For 12

Speaking of UConn, if is closes this tournament out 6-0 ATS, it will be an absurd 12-0 ATS in consecutive tournaments and back-to-back national champions β€” putting the Huskies in a class of their own.

Connecticut would join these teams as going undefeated against the spread (6-0), en route to a title since the tournament added a first round in 1983:

Of course, that also means UConn would go 12-0 ATS combined in consecutive NCAA Tournaments, winning back-to-back titles. In March Madness history, seven different schools have won back-to-back titles, with there being a total of 12 instances of back-to-back titles being won, including UCLA winning seven titles in a row between 1967-73.

UConn in 2023-24 would be the first instance of a team covering the spread in each of its tourney wins en route to the back-to-back titles.

Florida: 2006-07
Duke: 1991-92
UCLA: 1967-73
UCLA: 1964-65
Cincinnati: 1961-62
San Francisco: 1955-56
Kentucky: 1948-49
Oklahoma State: 1945-46

B2B History

The Connecticut Huskies won the national championship last year, were the betting favorites entering this year's tournament with a chance to repeat and are still the favorites entering the Final Four.

Since 1976, 2024 UConn is the seventh team to be favored to repeat entering the following tournament. The last was Florida in 2007, which completed the task and repeated. Of the previous six teams, 2007 Florida and 1992 Duke are the only two to go back-to-back.

The Ultimate Dog

Underdogs of 7 points or more were 4-41 straight up in the Elite 8 entering the NC State and Duke game last weekend. They're now 5-41 SU.

NC State now has a shot at history: Teams seeded 9th or lower are 0-9 SU (3-6 ATS) in the semifinals.

True Blue Devil

NC State knocked out its in-state rival Duke in the Elite 8 to make the Final Four. Teams love to beat Duke, but what they do after beating Duke sometimes is the question. Since 2012, teams are 2-7 SU and ATS the round after beating Duke in the tournament. They're also 3-10 SU in the past 15 years.

ACC Strong

In the past three NCAA Tournaments, the ACC is 33-14 against the spread β€” that $1,587 profit is the best of any conference. Second is the Big East, who is 27-12 ATS in the dance.

In this year's tournament, the ACC is 11-5 ATS, best of any conference.

All About Experience

How does coaching experience β€” specifically Final Four experience β€” impact results? Dan Hurley is the only coach in the field with Final Four experience.

Dan Hurley: 2nd
Nate Oats: 1st
Matt Painter: 1st
Kevin Keatts: 1st

  • In NCAA Tournament history, the coach with more Final Four experience is 117-69 SU in the Final Four and national championship game. In just the Final Four, they are 74-46 SU.
  • Since 1978 (start of seeding), the experienced Final Four coach is 68-44 SU and 59-52-1 ATS in the Final Four and national championship game. In just the Final Four, they are 42-31 SU and 37-35-1 ATS.
  • Since 1978, 46 head coaches have entered their first Final Four game vs. a coach with Final Four experience. Those head coaches are 21-25 SU and 25-20-1 ATS.

Dan The Man

Let's start with Dan Hurley. His 13-3 ATS (81.3%) record is the highest ATS win percentage for a coach (min. 10 games) in the seeding era since 1979. Hurley is the only remaining coach in the field who has won a national championship.

  • UConn is the 1st team in seeding era ('79) to win and cover 10 in a row.
  • The Huskies are on a 26-6 ATS run in the dance since 2009 (covered by double-digits in 14 games).

Most Consecutive NCAAT ATS Covers Since 1979
WVU 12 (1998-08)
Villanova 11 (1985-88)
UConn 10 (2023-24)

Chalk Huskies

Connecticut enters the Final Four as a big favorite …

  • The Huskies are -190 to win it all (2nd-highest price since '00 behind '21 Gonzaga).
  • History says UConn or Purdue will win. Top-two title odds favorites entering Final Four have won it all in 18 of the past 19 tournaments ('14 UConn).

True Underdogs

Alabama and NC State are massive underdogs to win the title entering the Final Four this year. Since 1985, they currently own the 2nd and 3rd-highest odds to win it all entering a Final Four since the tournament expanded in 1985. The only team longer was UCLA in 2021.

Only four teams have had above 10-1 odds to win it all entering the Final Four and they all lost in the Semifinal and none of the eleven teams listed +1000 or higher eventually won the title.

Highest Title Odds Entering Final Four Since 1985

+2500: ’21 UCLA (L)
+1800: ’24 Alabama
+1600: ’24 NC State
+1350: ’16 Syracuse (L)
+1300: ’18 Loyola (L)
+1200: ’99 Ohio State (L)
+1000: ’11 Louisville (L)
+1000: ’02 Indiana (W, L in title game)
+1000: ’00 Wisconsin (L)
+1000: ’99 Michigan St (L)
+1000: ’98 Utah (W, L in title game)
+1000: ’96 Syracuse (W, L in title game)
+1000: ’91 Kansas (W, L in title game)

Cover The Paint

With a spread of 4 points or less, Matt Painter is 12-3 ATS (80%) in the NCAA Tournament with Purdue and Southern Illinois.

That is the 2nd-best ATS win percentage in the seeding era behind only Rollie Massimino.

Assuming Purdue's Final Four spread closes at nine or higher, that's still not bad for Painter, who is 6-3 ATS in the tourney in that spot.

Painter took the Purdue job in 2005.

Here are the most profitable CBB coaches ATS in the NCAA Tournament since then β€” Painter is No. 5 of 353 coaches in that span after Purdue's cover against Tennessee:

Big Problem

It's all up to Purdue. The Big Ten conference hasn't won a title since Michigan State won it all in 2000.

This is the conference's biggest title drought in tournament history. The second-biggest was between 1960-1976 and ended with Indiana's perfect season.

Started From The Bottom

A tale of the first men’s 1-seeds to lose to a 16-seed. Can Purdue match Virginia?

2018: 1 Virginia loses to 16 UMBC
2019: Virginia wins national title

2023: 1 Purdue loses to 16 Fairleigh Dickinson
2024: Purdue is in Final Four

Going a step further β€” 36 top-three seeds have lost in the Round of 64 since 1985 (including 2024 Kentucky and 2023 Purdue). Six have made it to the Final Four the following season and three won the title: 2019 Virginia, 2015 Duke, 1987 Indiana. Purdue can join this list with two more wins.

A Mixed Bag

Odds to Win National Championship Entering NCAA Tournament:

Connecticut: +400
Purdue: +650
Alabama: +3500
NC State: +20000

If you add up the four final teams' national title odds entering the dance, they would add up to +24,550 β€” which is the 7th-highest total in the seeding era. Five of the top seven seasons with the most unlikely Final Four by odds have come since 2016 (2024, 2023, 2018, 2017, 2016).

Double The Fun

Here is every school that has sent its men's and women's teams to the Final Four in the same season. 2024 is the first time two teams will go from both the men's and women's tournaments.

83: Georgia
99: Duke
02: Oklahoma
03: Texas
04: UConn
05: Michigan St
06: LSU
09: UConn
11: UConn
13: Louisville
14: UConn
16: Syracuse
17: South Carolina
24: NC State, UConn

Perfect When It Counts

Connecticut is a perfect 5-0 straight up and against the spread in national title games. That's the best win percentage in national title games, with the most wins, among all programs.

UConn is 10-1 SU and 9-2 ATS in the Final Four in program history.

If you add up the Huskies men's titles and women's titles in basketball, they have 16 total national championships. Second on the list is UCLA with 11 men's titles (no women's) and then Kentucky with eight men's and Tennessee with eight women's titles.

The only program with two or more titles in men's and women's is Connecticut.

Big Favorites

In this year's NCAA Tournament, favorites of eight points or more are 18-5 (78.3%) against the spread.

In the past 50 year's of the NCAA Tournament, 48 of those 50 years had at least five tourney games with a spread of eight points or more β€” the 78.3% ATS win percentage is the highest of those 48 seasons. Second was in 1987, when favorites of eight or more went 13-6-1 ATS.

Down To Earth

In the Bet Labs database, which dates back to 2005, the public (51% of spread tickets or more) is 26-27-1 ATS in the Final Four and national championship game.

In this year's tournament, the public has been on a ride.

  • Overall, the public is 43-20 ATS (68.3%) in the 2024 NCAA Tournament.
  • In the First Four, Round of 64 and 32 combined, the public went 38-13 ATS (74.5%) β€” best public tourney start.
  • In the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, public went just 5-7 ATS.

When looking at the biggest public sides in that span, they are 0-3 SU and ATS in the Final Four. No team has closed with even 62% of the tickets or higher since 2008.

Biggest Public Sides in Final Four Since 2005

TeamMatchup (ET)Year/Result
UNC (-2.5) vs.
2008, Final Four
UNC (70%) | Kansas, 84-66
Memphis (-1.5) vs.
2008, Title Game
Memphis (65%) | Kansas, 75-68
LSU (-1.5) vs.
2006, Final Four
LSU (63%) | UCLA, 59-45

Unfamiliar Foes

Connecticut has played 32 non-conference games over the past two seasons …

  • It is 31-1 SU and 27-5 against the spread
  • When the line is -20 or less, the Huskies are 20-1 SU/ATS

Slow It Down

The Final Four is in Phoenix, Arizona at State Farm Stadium, which also hosted the 2017 Final Four β€” the only college basketball event of note at the arena.

In the three games in 2017, the second half under went 3-0, going under the total by 7.3 PPG.

In the national championship game since 2011, the second half under is 9-3, going under the total by 3.1 PPG and one of the three losses was the Virginia-Texas Tech overtime game.

In the Elite 8 or later, the second half under is 57-31 (65%) since 2011.

We've Been There

Program experience in National Title games:

  • Connecticut: 6
  • NC State: 2
  • Purdue: 1
  • Alabama: 0

If Alabama beats Connecticut, this will be the 14th title game, since the field expanded in 1985, where one program is entering its second (or more) title game (Purdue or NC State) and the other program is in its first (Alabama).

The more experienced school is 8-5 straight up, but has won five in a row and six of the past seven since 2000. The only loss was Indiana against Maryland in 2002.

Free Is Free

Good free-throw shooting teams have excelled recently in March Madness. Overall, teams that shoot 75% or higher vs. teams that shoot under that mark are 56.7% ATS since 2005, including 85-54-2 ATS (61.2%) since 2018. In the Final Four, that would match Alabama against Connecticut against the spread.

$$$: Good FT Shooting in NCAAT
the game was played during the 2023-24 or 2022-23 or 2021-22 or 2020-21 or 2018-19 or 2017-18 season
the Opponent's FT % is between 0 and 74.9
the game is in the NCAA Tournament
the Off FT % is between 75 and 100

Changing Of The Tide?

Since seeding began in 1978, every NCAA champion to play in a conference tournament made it to at least their conference semifinals (won at least one game). In that span, eight champions never actually had a conference tournament ('97 ARI, '95 UCLA, '89 MICH, '87 IU, '81 IU, '79 MSU, '78 UK, '77 MARQ). No eventual national champion has ever lost its first conference tournament game, either (h/t Stuckey).

Alabama is the lone team remaining that can break this trend as the Tide lost in their first game of the SEC Tournament.

Quiet On The Western Front

The streak continues. No team west of Texas has won the National Championship since Arizona in 1997.

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