NCAA Tournament Moneyline Rollover Strategy: Dr. Giffen’s Guide to Betting March Madness
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Over the years I’ve developed a low-risk, high-reward approach to betting March Madness.
The general idea is to identify teams seeded fifth through 16th that have a good shot of making it far in the tournament and betting these teams on the moneyline each game. As long as these teams keep winning, we will keep betting them on the moneyline, rolling up our previous winnings into each subsequent bet until either:
- two of our identified teams face each other, or
- an identified team makes the Elite Eight
Using this approach we can identify eight teams and invest a unit size on each one, say $25, thus spending eight units total.
Using a $25 unit, this $200 initial investment will pay off as long as at least one of our eight identified teams makes the Elite Eight. If none do, we’re out $200 bucks.
This has the potential for some large returns if underdog teams make it far.
In 2017, my analysis identified 11-seed Xavier. The Musketeers made the Elite Eight while knocking off the No. 6, No. 3 and No. 2 seeds, returning 33 units profit.
In 2018, that team was another 11-seed in Loyola Chicago. It returned about half of what Xavier did by virtue of facing a 7-seed instead of a 2-seed. Per my system, I cashed the Ramblers out in the Elite Eight, but Loyola continued the Cinderella story onto the Final Four.
In 2019, 5-seed Auburn was one of my teams. The Tigers also reached the Final Four. In a bit of an exception, I bet them to cover the spread in the first game, then rolled them up on the moneyline thereafter, earning 10 units profit before cashing out in the Elite Eight.
This isn’t going to hit every year, but when it does, it has the chance for some very nice returns.
Identifying Teams to Bet
As mentioned, we want to find eight middle- or lower-seeded teams that have a shot to make the Elite Eight.
Ideally, we’d like one team from each eighth of the bracket, but in practice, it doesn’t work out that way because some eighths have teams we want to avoid or no identifiable values.
My process of identifying value includes blending together predictive team rankings from places such as TeamRankings, KenPom and more.
From there, I take it on a more granular level, identifying matchup-level or variance-increasing spots that help the underdog.
Slower-paced games and 3-point shooting matchups are situations that can help an underdog.
Bolting all this together, it’s time to dive into my eight picks to target to make the Elite Eight in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Picks
We’re avoiding the Gonzaga side of this region and instead targeting the Duke side. Ten-seed Davidson is my pick out of this eighth of the bracket.
Davidson and Michigan State rank quite close together in the predictive team rankings. Their slow pace of play combined with the average pace that both Michigan State and Duke play with should help keep these games closer.
Duke also grades out as the worst 2-seed in the averaged team rankings.
I’m avoiding Arizona’s half of the bracket here in part because the Wildcats are good, but also because UAB and Illinois prove to be problematic 3-point matchups for a slow-paced Houston team. And I don’t like UAB or the 8- or 9-seeds to upset Arizona.
Turning to Villanova’s side, I’m targeting Loyola Chicago, just as I did in 2018.
The Ramblers should be closer to a 7- or 8-seed, according to predictive metrics, while Ohio State actually comes in slightly lower ranked than Loyola.
Then, there’s the matter of Villanova. The Wildcats and Ramblers both are in the bottom 15% in pace, making this a tight affair should Loyola get past the Buckeyes.
Since we passed on Gonzaga and Arizona’s eighths of the bracket, we need to double up in two other eighths. That’s what we’re doing on both sides of the Midwest Region.
On Kansas’ side, San Diego State is a slow-paced 8-seed that predictively should be more like a borderline 6- or 7-seed. Kansas is the lowest-rated 2-seed, per the average rankings.
I’m also targeting Iowa as a 5-seed. That means I’ll be betting Iowa on the spread against Richmond and betting it on the moneyline thereafter. Richmond ranks closer to a 13-seed, while Iowa should be as high as a 3-seed in predicted team strength.
Add in a weak 4-seed in Providence, and Iowa has a nice path to the Sweet 16. If San Diego State and Providence meet in the Sweet 16, we can cash out all our winnings on both teams. If one or the other make it, we roll them up to the Elite Eight.
In the lower half of the Midwest Region, we’re targeting Wisconsin, a very weak 3-seed. Wisconsin ranks 30th in the team average, putting it closer to an 8-seed. That means I’m picking Colgate, which is the strongest 14 seed.
Additionally, I’m targeting LSU in another double-up scenario. As a favored 6-seed, I’d ordinarily bet LSU on the spread in the first game. However, the Tigers recently fired head coach Will Wade. In 2019, LSU played in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments without Wade and underperformed in every game. That means I’ll be taking LSU on the moneyline in every game.
Ideally, LSU and Colgate both win, and we get to cash out our winnings from each as they face off in the second round.
In the East, I’m picking one of the at-large play-in teams. Because Indiana is in the play-in, it just needs to make the Sweet 16 for this bet to pay off.
The Hoosiers are much stronger than their record indicates. On the flip side, Wyoming doesn’t rate too well for a 12-seed.
If Indiana gets past Wyoming, Saint Mary’s represents a slow team that also matches up poorly. The Gaels are a 2-point funnel defense, but Indiana doesn’t rely on the 3 to succeed.
In the other half of the East, I have Virginia Tech as my Elite Eight hope. The 11-seed Hokies have been on fire since a slow start to the year, and while they face a tough Texas team, they receive slightly longer odds than Texas moving forward, creating a larger payoff.
If you’d rather roll with Texas using this method, I don’t mind that play. We just get a bit better payout with the Hokies.
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