March Madness might be the greatest time of the year for sports bettors. We sat down with Sports Interaction’s head oddsmaker to get some insight into what booking the NCAA Tournament is really like.
In comparison to some of North America’s biggest sporting events – Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, NCAA football National Championship – how does March Madness stack up in terms of betting handle?
For North America, it doesn’t get any bigger than the Super Bowl but the NCAA Tournament is a pretty big event. There are so many games and they are all televised. Having the games televised boosts the handle with more casual players who may place a couple bets so they can have somebody to cheer for that night. Plus it’s a big public event that even non-sports fans know about with all the office pools. The entire tournament would be bigger than the BCS championship game, Kentucky Derby and almost anything else other than the Super Bowl amongst North American sports.
This year’s Tournament is unique with the unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats set as big +100 favorites to cut down the nets in the championship game. Outside of Kentucky, which other teams do you expect bettors to support strongly in the futures market?
All the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds generally take action on the futures from the public. I think Arizona is one team that will see some futures action. They have a relatively easy path to the Final Four. There are a few big name schools at long odds who also could take some action such as Michigan St and Kansas. Sometimes when the public sees a name they recognize paying a good price, they’ll place a couple bets.
March Madness is all about Cinderella stories. Which lesser-known teams could make a run deep into the Tournament?
A couple teams to watch could be Stephen F Austin and Valparaiso. Stephen Austin has a very balanced offence with a lot of guys who can shoot the ball. You can’t just shut down one guy with them and expect to win. Valparaiso has great defense and in a one and done tournament they could frustrate their opponent enough to move on. They don’t need to score a lot; they only need to score more than their opponent.
Upsets are a big part of March Madness. In general, do bettors tend to bet more underdogs than usual in the Tournament?
Definitely. In general, the chalk still rules but you definitely see more underdog action. All people hear about all week are how many upsets there will be so people can’t help but back a couple underdogs!
With so many games going on at the same time later this week, does Sports Interaction see a significant spike in live betting?
No question. March Madness is great for live betting! We carry every game in the tournament and they are all televised which is huge for live betting. It helps a lot when you can watch the games and make bets based on how you think the flow of the game is going. Plus you have the chat room where you can talk to your fellow bettors about all the crazy action on the court.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen much more parity in the NCAA Tournament. Are bettors more inclined to bet mid-major teams now than they were years ago?
A little bit, but at the end of it all it is still a big program that normally cuts the nets down. The big programs are the ones who attract the one-and-done players so they are still getting all the prime recruits.
The bracket can be a little intimidating for those just getting into NCAA Tournament betting. Any advice for a March Madness betting rookie?
Some of the ‘rules’ for picking a successful bracket will help you in the early rounds. Read up on some of those. And don’t turn off your TV and write off your bet at half-time. This is a tournament of upsets and crazy comebacks. Anything can happen – and usually does! That’s the beauty of March Madness.