March Madness: Betting Strategies Involving the Top Seeds

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March Madness: Betting Strategies Involving the Top Seeds

In the first round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament the top seeds are generally favored by at least double digits over 16-seed.

In fact, in the past 15 years, there has not been No. 1 seed that was a single-digit favorite. So, let’s break down and slice through my massive database to provide actionable sports betting intelligence when it comes to the top seeds.

How Do the 1-Seeds do against the 16-Seeds?

On the blind betting all 1-seeds taking on a 16-seed have gone 32-31-1 against the spread, losing about $50 depending on the vig and producing a not so exciting –1.0% return on investment over the past 15 NCAA Tournaments.

The largest 1-seed was Kentucky, who was favored by 34.5 points in their 79-56 win over Hampton in 2015. The smallest 1-seed favorite was Memphis, who was favored by 10.5 points and defeated Oral Roberts 94-78 in 2006.

How Do the 2-Seeds do against the 15-Seeds?

The 2-Seed has not done well over the past 15 Tournaments, posting a 28-33-3 against the spread record for 46% and a –10.7 return on investment.

In last year’s tournament, three of the four 2-Seeds lost to the spread, including Oral Roberts, who upset Ohio State as 15-point underdogs.

I will never forget this game because I bet Oral Roberts at +950 on the moneyline with pizza money, trailing Ohio State by just two points with less than two minutes to go in the game and knowing that Oral Roberts was the best free throw shooting team in the nation.

How Do the 1 and 2-Seeds Do as a Group?

Over the past 15 tournaments, the 1 and 2-seeds combined have produced an uninteresting 60-64-4 against the spread record and a -6.1% return on investment.

However, slicing through the database provides direction toward a potential bet on Duke, who is a 2-Seed and will be taking on 15-seed Cal State Fullerton on Friday.

Fading a 15 or 16-seed that is on a four-game win streak coming into the matchup against a 1 or 2-seed has produced a 15-9-1 against the spread record for 63% winning bets over the past 15 tournaments.

Fading 15 and 16-Seeds that are coming into the tournament as conference champions and riding a four or more-game win streak have been money losers.

A 1 or 2-seed that is facing an opponent that is riding a four or more-game win streak has gone 32-24-2 against the spread for 57% winning bets over the past 15 tournaments.

There are three 1 or 2-seeds in this year’s tournament worth looking at to bet on as shown by the table below.

Play Higher SeedLower Seed Lower Seed win/loss streakDate
Play on Gonzaga 1-Gonzaga 16-Georgia State 10Thursday
Play on Kentucky 2-Kentucky 15-Saint Peter’s 7Thursday
Play on Duke 2-Duke 15-Cal State Fullerton 4Friday

Using Live In-Game Betting Successfully

I utilize in-game betting to take advantage of better lines that are offered because of scoring runs that are a major characteristic of nearly every NCAA and NBA basketball game played.

So, for instance, we can bet Duke pre-flop (before the game begins) at the current line as a -17-point favorite.

Instead bet 50% of your normal bet size pre-flop and then look to bet Duke at -13.5 points for 25% and then -11.5 points for the remaining 25% of your full-game betting amount.

The 1 and 2-seeds can start out flat in these matchups simply because they know mentally, they are vastly superior, but fail to start their games with the physical superiority resulting in the Cinderella getting out to an early lead. Let’s dive a little bit deeper and look at betting sentiment.

Fading the Public is a Highly Profitable Strategy

Generally, the NCAA Tournament is the only event in sports betting where the public betting community is enamored with the underdogs.

The expectations are that they like betting the big favorites in the first and second rounds. Of course, they will get on the 12-seeds given their historical run of providing the greatest number of upset wins.

The elite pedigree teams, which are the 1 and 2-seeds will carry an inflated line in their matchups. Look at it as having to pay a tax to be allowed to bet on these storied programs.

So, when the public betting sentiment is 75% or greater on the 1 or 2-seed is an opportunity to fade the public. Those 1 and 2-seed teams have gone just 8-15-1 against the spread for 34% over the last 15 tournaments.

This simple betting system points to betting against Duke, who is receiving 85% of the best being made in this matchup.

Over the past seven tournaments, this system has gone 2-6 against the spread and is a on a current four-game losing streak.

So, consider fading the public with a bet on Cal State Fullerton plus the 17 points.

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John Ryan

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