NCAA Tournament Betting Tip: Avoid These Trendy First-Round Underdogs


Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Saint Mary’s Gaels

  • Underdogs receiving the majority of spread tickets have been historically bad bets in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Using Bet Labs, we analyze how bettors should approach these "trendy underdogs" throughout March Madness.

Don’t get swept up in NCAA Tournament betting trends. It’s March and crazy things have been known to happen, but more often then not, they don’t. It just seems that way because you choose to remember things like Sister Jean and UMBC.

Maybe picking some of the trendy underdogs in your bracket is a wise move, depending on what type of pool you’re in, of course. But when it comes to betting, you’re going to want to fade the trendy dogs.

According to Bet Labs, we see that underdogs getting the majority of spread bets have covered just 44.3% of the time in the NCAA Tournament.

And when we focus on the early rounds, they’ve done even worse. Trendy dogs in First Four, Round of 64 and Round of 32 have covered just 41.8% of the time.

Which dogs are trendier than Snoop this year? Here’s the list, with percentages as of noon ET Tuesday.

  • #13 Cal Irvine: 72% on +4.5 vs. Kansas State
  • #12 Liberty: 71% on +6.5 vs. Mississippi State
  • #13 Vermont: 71% on +10 vs. Florida State
  • #13 Northeastern: 70% on +7 vs. Kansas
  • #12 Murray State: 65% on +4 vs. Marquette
  • #10 Seton Hall: 62% on +2.5 vs. Wofford
  • #12 New Mexico State: 60% on +6 vs. Auburn
  • #12 Oregon: 59% on +1.5 vs. Wisconsin
  • #15 Bradley: 56% on +18.5 vs. Michigan State
  • #11 Saint Mary’s CA: 54% on +5 vs. Villanova
  • #15 Montana: 53% on +15.5 vs. Michigan

We have trendy dogs of all shapes and sizes! That had me thinking … are there some trendy dogs that perform better or worse than others?

Here’s what I found for all rounds of the tournament:

Additional Trendy Dog … Trends

  • 13-16 seeds: 16-33 against the spread (ATS)
  • Higher-seeded underdogs: 13-15 ATS
  • Double-digit dogs: 20-18 ATS (surprising considering how poorly 13-16 seeds have done)
  • When the line has moved in their favor: 28-39-1 ATS
  • 8-seeds or higher that have reached at least the Sweet 16: 8-7-1 ATS

Maybe Sister Jean-type Cinderellas are worth buying into, though to my surprise, Loyola Chicago did not end up with the majority of bets in the Sweet 16, Elite 8 or Final Four last year.

Like I said, picking some of these dogs to advance in your bracket might be a good strategy, but betting on a bunch of them to cover has been the opposite of a smart choice historically.

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