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How To Bet On March Madness

Each March, basketball rules the day in the sporting world.

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which has affectionately come to be known as March Madness, features wall-to-wall games spread across several weeks.

Along the way, fans are treated to a ton of exciting moments. Viewership is through the roof throughout the tournament, and the same holds true from a wagering perspective. For round numbers, it’s estimated that $10 billion is bet annually on March Madness here in the United States.

About half of the money goes to popular bracket contests, while the rest is wagered on the tournament and its games. Now that sports betting has been legalized in several states, including Indiana, it’s safe to say the numbers will rise dramatically.

There are numerous possibilities to consider when it comes to wagering on March Madness. You can pick the winner of the tournament, focus on the individual games or even live bet as the action plays out in real time.

We’ve got all of the ins and outs covered for you right here, so let’s begin by taking a look at the top places for you to get in on the action.

Best Indiana betting apps for March Madness

SportsbookDate Launched
FanDuelOctober 2019
DraftKingsOctober 2019
PointsBetMarch 2020
Caesars SportsbookMay 2020

Betting on March Madness

There are options aplenty when it comes to betting on March Madness. This is one of the biggest times of the year for sportsbooks across the nation, and they aim to please. That translates into virtually all of the offerings you can think of with odds attached for each.

For each of the games on the docket, you’ll have three main bet types to consider. Here’s how each of them work with a simple example for each.


A moneyline bet is a simple bet in which you only need to pick the winner of the game. Odds for favorites are negative, while the odds are positive on the underdog side. The closer the range between the odds, the tighter the game is expected to be.

Florida             +130

Ohio State       -110

Point Spread

Oddsmakers will attach a point spread to each game, which is essentially an estimated margin of victory. Favorites cover by winning by a margin greater than the spread. Underdogs cover by keeping it closer than that or by winning outright.

Arizona            +2.5 (-110)

Indiana            -1.5 (-110)


This is an estimate of the total points scored for the game. Sportsbooks set the bar, and bettors then get to decide if they think the final number will be Over or Under the designated total.

Over                141.5 (-110)

Under             141.5 (-110)

Those are the basic betting options, but there are also several more to explore. Here are some of the other popular wager types to consider.

Prop Bets

These are side wagers on something which may happen during the course of the game. There will be props with just two choices to make, and others in which you have to choose from a range of options.

Which team will hold the halftime lead?

Who will have more points plus rebounds, Player A or Player B?


A parlay is a wager in which you include two or more outcomes on a single betting slip. The potential return increases with each choice added, but so too does the risk. As an example, you can group together a few moneyline choices on a single ticket.

Michigan over North Carolina

Duke over Florida State

Dayton over Saint Louis

Live Betting

Live bets are wagers you can place after the action has already tipped off. Odds and offerings move in real time right along with the game, so you have to be both quick and selective to take advantage.

How many total points will be scored in the first half?

Over/Under on individual player points for second half?

You don’t have to wait until the final game to bet on the outright winner of March Madness. There’s an active futures market where you can place a bet on that and a number of other future events at any time. Here are some of the biggest markets you’ll have to consider.

  • Tournament winner
  • Team to make Final Four
  • Most outstanding player

In these markets, odds are available for all those remaining in contention. When it comes to the winner of the tournament, the market stays active year-round. The odds board is listed in descending order with favorites on top and longshots on the bottom.

Here’s what the odds might look like for some of the favorites.

  • Gonzaga +200
  • Kansas +250
  • Texas Tech +300

You can take a long-term view with futures betting and place your bets soon after odds are released. Alternatively, you can remain engaged with the market throughout the year and hunt for appealing opportunities as they come up.

How March Madness works

At the top level of college basketball, we’re talking about 300+ teams spread across multiple conferences. Only 68 will have their tickets punched to the dance. Here’s how it happens.

Once the regular season is in the books, the conference tournaments get underway. The winners of those tourneys — 32 in all — receive an automatic bid for March Madness. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee handles the rest.

The committee has the task of selecting the next 36 best teams in the land for inclusion. Teams are vetted based on factors such as overall record and strength of schedule. Once the process is complete, the selections are announced live on Selection Sunday.

There’s simply no way to make everyone happy. Each year, there’s a group of teams which are considered to be “on the bubble” and many of them don’t have all the needed factors in their favor to make the cut.

That said, the committee has a wealth of data at its disposal. They do the best they can to recognize the best teams each season.

Beyond selecting the teams, the committee places them into geographic-based brackets — East, South, Midwest and West — and then has to rank each team by seed, one through 15.

The remaining eight teams get to play in the Opening Round. These play-in games are often referred to as the First Four and the winners move on and become the final seed for each of the brackets.

The field then moves on to play the First Round, which is basically wall-to-wall games spread over Thursday and Friday. Winners advance, and the same holds true for all subsequent rounds. Here’s a breakdown of the number of games on tap for each round.

  • First Round (Round of 64): 32
  • Second Round (Round of 32): 16
  • Sweet 16: 8
  • Elite Eight: 4
  • Final Four: 2
  • Championship: 1

From the Opening Round until the title tilt, that’s 67 games you can consider wagering on. March Madness is chock full of betting opportunities, not to mention tons of excitement on the court.

March Madness brackets

As mentioned, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is separated into four regions which combine to form the overall tournament bracket. The bracket itself is a big part of the fun as there are tons of contests that revolve around projecting how the whole thing will play out.

March Madness bracket contests range from the small — think a pool from your workplace or local tavern — to massive online competitions which attract thousands of users. The idea is to fill out the entire bracket all the way to the end and choose a champion.

Points are awarded for each correct pick along the way, usually with more of a reward as the rounds advance. At the end of the tournament, the player with the highest-scoring bracket wins. Some pools pay out multiple places, while others reserve the entire pot for the winner.

Filling out a bracket from start to finish is easy to do, but picking lots of winners along the way isn’t necessarily that simple. Upsets happen, so much so that the term “bracket busters” has been coined.

Think you have what it takes to fill out a perfect bracket? Good luck on that font, as mathematical studies have placed the odds on that happening at one in 9.2 quintillion. While perfection is nearly impossible, a winning bracket is a worthwhile goal to strive for.

For smaller local pools, it’s a chance to earn some extra coin and bragging rights. When it comes to the big online contests, you could be looking at some serious prizes. Industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel are among the top places to check out come March Madness time.

March Madness handicapping tips

Trying to pick the winner of a single game is easier said than done and trying to do so over the entire bracket can seem intimidating. However, there are steps you can take to place you on the path towards making the best decisions you can.

Handicapping the individual games and the tournament as a whole can provide you with a much clearer picture. While you’re not going to find any magical answers or land on guaranteed winners, it can help lead you to the winning side of the equation more often than not.

There are scores of handicapping systems to consider, ranging from the simple to the complex. You can devise your own that touches on the main points and fits in with the research time you have at your disposal.

Here are a couple of key tips you can include:

Team’s recent form

Each team that makes it to the dance is obviously doing something right, but some are simply in better shape than others. Pay close attention to the recent play for each squad. The ones that enter the tournament playing well could be in line to make some noise, while others that have been struggling may make early exits.

Realistic expectations

Everyone loves to nail an upset. For bracket competitions, this can help separate you from the pack. For betting, you can see a nice return due to the positive odds on underdogs. However, be careful not to reach too far. The top four seeds in each region are where they are for a reason.

Stats that matter

There are dozens and dozens of stats to consider, and it can be real easy to get lost in research as a result. As opposed to doing that, focus on the stats that tell as much of the story as possible. For college basketball, some great items to consider are true shooting percentage and defensive efficiency.

Study the odds board

If you take a step back and think it through, you’ll find the odds board is almost like a free research tool. Oddsmakers lay out favorites, underdogs, spreads and totals, and even give you odds that point to the likelihood of one thing happening over the other. Be sure to take time to study and digest what the odds are telling you.

Outside of professional handicappers, few folks have the time available to do a deep dive on every game in the field. However, we can all dedicate at least a few minutes of time to figure out which side looks like the better wager.

College basketball in Indiana

The Hoosier State is home to 10 Division I men’s college basketball programs.

Here are some of the key details on each program.

Ball State Cardinals

  • Location: Muncie
  • Home games: Worthen Arena
  • Conference: MAC
  • Head coach: James Whitford
  • March Madness appearances: Seven (last appearance was in 2000)

Butler Bulldogs

  • Location: Indianapolis
  • Home games: Hinkle Fieldhouse
  • Conference: Big East
  • Head coach: LaVall Jordan
  • March Madness appearances: 16 (last in 2018)

Evansville Purple Aces

  • Location: Evansville
  • Home games: Ford Center
  • Conference: Missouri Valley
  • Head coach: Todd Lickliter
  • March Madness appearances: Five (last in 1999)

Indiana Hoosiers

  • Location: Bloomington
  • Home games: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Head coach: Archie Miller
  • March Madness appearances: 39 (last in 2016)

Indiana State Sycamores

  • Location: Terre Haute
  • Home games: Hulman Center
  • Conference: Missouri Valley
  • Head coach: Greg Lansing
  • March Madness appearances: Four (last in 2011)

IUPUI Jaguars

  • Location: Indianapolis
  • Home games: Indiana Farmers Coliseum
  • Conference: Horizon
  • Head coach: Byron Rimm II
  • March Madness appearances: One (2003)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • Location: South Bend
  • Home games: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center
  • Conference: ACC
  • Head coach: Mike Brey
  • March Madness appearances: 36 (last in 2017)

Purdue Boilermakers

  • Location: West Lafayette
  • Home games: Mackey Arena
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Head coach: Matt Painter
  • March Madness appearances: 31 (last in 2019)

Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons

  • Location: Fort Wayne
  • Home games: Hilliard Gates Sports Center
  • Conference: Summit
  • Head coach: Jon Coffman
  • March Madness appearances: None

Valparaiso Crusaders

  • Location: Valparaiso
  • Home games: Athletics-Recreation Center
  • Conference: Missouri Valley
  • Head coach: Matt Lottich
  • March Madness appearances: Nine (last in 2015)


Which schools have made the most appearances in March Madness?

Kentucky holds the all-time record for tournament appearances at 58. The Wildcats have won the whole thing eight times, the last of which came in 2012. North Carolina is next on the list with 50 appearances, with six titles, followed by Kansas in third place with 48 appearances, three of which resulted in titles.

What program holds the record for NCAA Men’s Basketball titles?

UCLA is the all-time leader with 11 crowns, the last of which happened in 1995. The program went on a dominant run from 1964 through 1975, winning a staggering 10 titles over that span. Kentucky is second on the leaderboard with eight titles, followed by North Carolina with six.

Which coach has racked up the most wins in March Madness?

Mike Krzyzewski tops the list by a wide margin with 94 victories in the tournament, all of which have come during his tenure at Duke. Roy Williams is next up with 77 for Kansas and North Carolina. Dean Smith is third with 65 wins for North Carolina.

What player holds the record for scoring in March Madness?

Christian Laettner is well on top of the list with 407 points, which were scored over 23 games with Duke from 1989 through 1992. He is the only player to have scored over 400 points during tournament play. Elvin Hayes is next on the list with 358 points, which he racked up over 13 games with Houston. Danny Manning is third with 328 points over 16 games with Kansas.

Has there ever been a year where no No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four?

Yes, this has happened three times: 1980, 2006 and 2011. In 1980, it was Nos. 2, 5, 6 and 8 that comprised the Final Four. For 2006, it was Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 11, while it was Nos. 3, 4, 8 and 11 in 2011.

There has only been one year in which the Final Four was comprised of all No. 1 seeds. In 2008, Kansas took down Memphis in the title tilt with top-seeds North Carolina and UCLA rounding out the semifinals.