Legal Sports Report

March Madness: College Basketball Betting

March Madness betting will be bigger than ever in 2020.

With legal sports wagering expanding across the US, several more states offer online sports betting on the 68-team postseason tournament than did a year ago.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimated that 47 million Americans planned to wager $8.5 billion on the NCAA Tournament in 2019. These figures will likely increase this year.

While a lot of this sum is gambled illegally, the percentage of legal betting handle will continue to increase.

Currently, over a dozen states host regulated sports betting markets. And several states are on the cusp of introducing legal sportsbooks this year.

Online sportsbooks with March Madness betting

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The NCAA Tournament creates several ways to bet on college basketball.

Some will fill out entire brackets for pools with their coworkers or friends. Others will choose to wager on games throughout the tournament by using a sportsbook.

March Madness begins with Selection Sunday on March 15. Once the field of 68 is chosen, the First Four will play on Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio.

The official first round begins on Thursday, March 19, with 16 total games.

Where can I legally bet on March Madness in the US?

Currently, the following states feature a legal sports betting industry where you can wager on the NCAA Tournament:

Retail & OnlineRetail OnlyUpcoming States
IndianaArkansasIllinois
IowaDelawareMontana
New JerseyMississippiNew Hampshire
OregonNew MexicoNorth Carolina
PennsylvaniaNew YorkTennessee
Rhode IslandMichigan
West VirginiaColorado
Nevada

The majority of states with a sports betting industry have retail sportsbooks as well as online sports betting apps.

If you live in one of the states listed above, you can wager on March Madness right from your mobile device through an online sportsbook.

Although Oregon hosts mobile sports betting, bettors in the state cannot wager on any collegiate sports, including college basketball.

Most of the states that feature online March Madness betting have several wagering platforms available.

These online sportsbooks currently allow NCAA basketball bets:

Betting through an online sportsbook is like wagering at a land-based location. The most significant difference is the availability to place live bets.

While some retail sportsbooks might accept live in-game wagers, the odds update so fast that having a betting app is a necessity.

The only other difference is your physical location, of course. With online sportsbooks, you can bet wherever you’d like in the entire state. At a retail sportsbook, you must be present at the time of wagering.

Even with legal options around the US, a lot of bettors still bet through offshore sportsbooks. This is dangerous for several reasons.

Beyond it being illegal, offshore sites are not regulated or protected. If you’re having issues with the site or you haven’t received your winnings on time, there is no alternative route to settling your bets.

Where to bet on March Madness Online in PA, NJ, IN and WV

Betting on college basketball and March Madness is easy in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana and West Virginia.

Each state offers several online sports betting options, including DraftKings and FanDuel sportsbooks.

Creating an account is a simple process that only takes a few minutes.

To start, you’ll need to provide some personal information that every sportsbook requires, which includes:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Social security number

You will also need to create a username and password that you’ll need to input to access the online sportsbook. Most will ask you to set up security questions as well.

To finish signing up, you will need to confirm you’re at least of legal age and agree to the terms and conditions.

Once complete, you will be able to make a deposit and start betting on March Madness.

New Jersey sports bettingThe New Jersey sports betting market was the first to go online, and it is the most extensive around. Currently, there are over 15 sports betting apps available in the state. These additional platforms include FanDuel, William Hill, SugarHouse, PointsBet and BetMGM.

Pennsylvania sports betting: Sports betting in PA went online in May 2019 with SugarHouse Sportsbook. Several more have launched, including DraftKings, FanDuel, Unibet, BetRivers and Fox Bet online sportsbooks.

Indiana sports bettingIndiana launched online sports betting in October 2019. Both DraftKings and BetRivers went live on Oct. 3, followed by FanDuel on Oct. 26. While the Hoosier State only offers three sportsbooks at the moment, others are in line to launch.

West Virginia sports bettingThe Mountain State initially joined the online market in December 2018 with BetLucky. This app was suspended. Online sportsbooks re-emerged when FanDuel released in August 2019. West Virginia now has three apps to choose from including BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel.

Among the best sportsbooks to use for March Madness betting are DraftKings and FanDuel. Both sports wagering apps feature a large amount of alternate lines, props and futures.

They’re also two of the best when it comes to live wagering. The sportsbooks each provide an extensive amount of live odds with multiple alternates for point spreads and totals.

Soon to open legal March Madness betting states

Some states in the US have legalized online sports betting, but have yet to put the law into action. Numerous states are working on rolling out some online sportsbooks in time for March Madness.

Michigan and Colorado both legalized sports wagering in 2019. Colorado did so in November, and Michigan followed it up in December.

Although it isn’t guaranteed that either state will be ready in time for the NCAA Tournament, both will launch this year.

Rhode Island was the eighth state to offer online sports wagering in 2019, and its only app is available through the state lottery.

Bettors are also required to confirm their account with in-person registration, which has deterred many from completing the process.

Bettors in Oregon do have access to the Scoreboard sports betting app; however, they are not permitted to wager on college sports of any type.

The Oregon Lottery oversees the only betting app in the state.

How much do Americans bet on March Madness?

As mentioned, the AGA estimated that $8.5 billion was going to be wagered during last year’s March Madness. These betting figures should only continue to rise as there are now more states with legal sports wagering than ever before.

According to the statistics from by the AGA:

  • 47 million adults in the US will wager on the NCAA Tournament.
  • 40 million people will fill out a bracket and wager $4.6 billion doing so.
  • 18 million Americans will bet $3.9 billion at some form of sportsbook.
  • 2.4 million will bet with an illegal bookie.
  • 5.2 million will bet on an illegal offshore website.
  • 4.1 million will wager through a regulated retail or online sportsbook.

Since legal wagering is in several more states than a year ago, legal betting figures should continue to increase.

In 2019, Nevada sportsbooks accepted $495 million in March Madness bets.

During NJ’s first year of March Madness wagering, the Garden State took in more than $100 million in legal handle for the tournament.

Types of bets you can place during March Madness

March Madness futures

Futures are a popular bet for March Madness.

These wagers are typically available all season long, with the odds changing throughout based on the results of games.

Although a lot of bettors place futures wagers right before the tournament begins, they are available leading up to the season and right now, too.

The most common futures bet is picking the winner of the national championship. It is a popular wager because of the opportunity to receive favorable odds.

Of course, betting on one of these teams before the season, as opposed to betting a No. 1 seed at the start of the tournament, would generate a larger payout.

Other widespread futures include:

  • Which conference will win the title?
  • Which player will be named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player?

Again, both of these options will have encouraging odds for bettors.

Some sportsbooks have additional futures that allow you to bet on how far along the team will get. Most will have lines for making the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four.

March Madness bracket challenges

Beyond futures or individual wagering, a lot of sportsbooks have bracket challenges too.  These are pools where you’re able to submit a full bracket like you would with your friends.

DraftKings, FanDuel and other sportsbooks implemented some type of bracket contest last season.

Though there are challenges that cost money to enter, the majority of books include ones that are free to join.

Paid challenges, like DraftKings’ NJ-only pool, cost $20 and had a total prize of $100,000 a year ago. While the free contests vary in cash prizes, they can range from DraftKings’ $64,000 pool to FanDuel’s $150,000 Bracket Madness.

Many sportsbooks, including SugarHouse, Caesars and PointsBet, also run various free bracket challenges.

After joining one of these contests, picking a bracket is easy.

You will choose a winner for every game in this single-elimination tournament until you’ve crowned your champion.

Since most pools don’t require picks for the First Four matchups, you’ll begin picking winners from the field of 64 in the first round.

The bracket is broken up by four regions, with teams being seeded one through 16.

Once you’re all done, the “madness” begins, and you officially have a rooting interest for every single game.

If, and usually when, your bracket becomes “busted,” you still can bet on individual games throughout the tournament. Every online sportsbook will provide betting odds for each game.

A lot of books will also update futures odds after every day or a round of action. If your bracket went down because your champion lost, you’re still able to put some money on another team you think will have the best chance.

March Madness live betting

Live betting has become one of the most standard ways to use any online sportsbook, and it isn’t any different when it comes to betting on March Madness.

As any college basketball fan can tell you, no lead is safe as long as there is still time on the clock.

Live in-game wagering allows you to place a bet at any time in the game with updated lines based on the current score and situation.

It is an excellent feature because it doesn’t restrict you to the pregame odds; you can wager at any point. It also lets you see how a game begins before deciding to commit any money.

Sometimes teams that get down a lot early will receive much better odds than when they entered the game. Bettors can take a chance of putting a few dollars down on an enhanced moneyline with the possibility that a comeback will provide a big payout.

Live betting will be available for every NCAA Tournament game.

Beyond the standard betting lines like point spreads, moneylines and game totals, most sportsbooks will offer a large selection of alternate lines as well as game and player props.

March Madness moneylines, spreads, over/unders

The most basic college basketball bets are moneylines, point spreads and over/unders.

These straight wagers are available for every regular-season game and every March Madness matchup too.

Betting the moneyline is merely choosing which team you think will win. The teams that are the favorite will have minus odds, meaning that you must wager more than the amount you’re going to win.

For instance, a 5-point favorite’s moneyline is probably going to be around -230. So, this means you’ll have to wager $230 to win $100.

The opposite applies to betting an underdog’s moneyline. A team receiving the same 5-point spread will have a moneyline around +180. Your $100 wager would win $180 with the underdog.

A point spread bet is similar, except that the game’s final score and the margin of victory come into play. If you bet on the favorite giving 5 points, they must win by at least 6 points for your wager to win.

While a 5-point victory would result in a push, any fewer points would be a win for the underdog getting the spread.

Game total bets, often referred to as the over/under, has nothing to do with which team wins the game. The over/under is strictly decided by how many combined points are scored in total.

College basketball totals will vary with every game, ranging from 120 to 160 points.

Bettors pick whether they think there will be more or fewer points scored than the given amount the sportsbook provides. If the total is set at 130 points and the final score consists of 125 points, then “under” bettors win and “over” backers lose.

March Madness betting tips

Early and equal

Parity is increasing in March Madness.

Think Loyola University in the 2018 Final Four, so take advantage of that parity early in the tournament when the point spreads are bigger.

For first-round games, betting on the No. 12 versus No. 5 seed games is the way to go. More than a third of all teams seeded at No. 12 have won during the round of 64.

That makes 12 seeds, as well as 11 and 13 seeds, good bets against the spread during the round of 64 and the round of 32.

Weigh strengths

Later in the tournament, pay attention to the team’s conference strength as well as momentum. Have they been just squeaking by or winning big?

Teams playing well into the third round are likely to keep playing well, regardless of seeding.

Keep an eye on higher seeds

In the Final Four, the higher-seeded team wins — and typically covers the spread — 75% of the time.

Wimpy records?

Teams with weak road or neutral records often do not fare well in the tournament.

March Madness betting trends

Most of the money is bet on the spreads of the games.

There will be a small amount on moneylines and totals, but fans love to bet big money on their team to win the national title. But not many teams worse than a No. 3 seed has won the tournament.

Many analysts say 50 million Americans bet on March Madness picks each year. The news media often reports on the billions of dollars in loss of productivity due to time spent filling out NCAA Tournament brackets and watching the games.

Forbes magazine estimates that the number of people worldwide who will place at least one bet on the tournament could be more than 100 million.

March Madness betting info

How much is bet on March Madness?

The American Gaming Association (AGA) expects $10.4 billion in wagers on March Madness this year. Amazingly, the AGA estimates that only 3% ($295 million) of wagers will be legal. The other 97% ($10.1 billion) is from illegal offshore books and bookies.

Final Four betting history

Connecticut’s 63-53 win over Florida in the 2014 tourney marked the end of a long run for favorites. It was the first upset in the semifinals since Michigan State knocked off UConn 82-73 as a 4.5-point dog in 2009.

Only four times since 2003 has a Final Four team been favored by seven or more points. Each of the last three underdogs in this spot has covered.

For the championship game, the biggest upset based on the spread since 1985 is Connecticut’s 77-74 win over Duke, when they were a 9.5-point underdog in 1994.

Last 10 NCAA basketball champions

  • 2018: Villanova
  • 2017: North Carolina
  • 2016: Villanova
  • 2015: Duke
  • 2014: Connecticut
  • 2013: Louisville
  • 2012: Kentucky
  • 2011: Connecticut
  • 2010: Duke
  • 2009: North Carolina

March Madness FAQ

When does March Madness start?

Selection Sunday is on Sunday, March 15.

The 2020 First Four begins on Tuesday, March 17, and the first round starts on Thursday, March 19.

What are the important dates?

First Four: March 19-20
First and second rounds: March 21-24
Sweet 16 and Elite Eight: March 28-31
Final Four and the championship game: April 6 and 8

How do I stream March Madness?

Every single March Madness game will air on either truTV, TBS, TNT or CBS.

Those looking to stream the game online have several options as well. If you receive these TV networks as part of your cable package, then you can log in and stream every game for free using March Madness Live.

Those without a cable subscription have other alternatives as well. They can stream games through services like fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV.

Is there DFS for March Madness?

Yes, you can play college basketball DFS contests on sites like DraftKings and FanDuel.

When are March Madness odds released?

Most sportsbooks have futures odds available now. Odds for the start of the tournament will become available after Selection Sunday on March 15.

How does March Madness work?

The field of 68 teams is selected and announced on Sunday, March 15.

Four play-in games known as the First Four finalize the four-region bracket before the first round begins on Thursday, March 19.

The opening round consists of 32 games in two days. After 16 more games through that weekend, the Sweet 16 is set for the following week.

Four more days of games will determine the regional champions and the Final Four.

The 2020 Final Four and title game will take place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.

The national championship will be decided on April 6.

Which team was the lowest seed to win March Madness?

Villanova was the lowest seed to ever win March Madness as a No. 8 seed in 1985. The seventh-seeded UConn Huskies are the second-lowest

A brief history of March Madness

March Madness is one of the most exciting and most gambled on sporting events in the US every year.

The NCAA Tournament was created in 1939 to determine college basketball’s annual national champion.

Like with anything else, the tournament has changed and expanded over the years. For the first 11 years of its existence, only eight teams qualified. By the 1980s, the field grew to 48 teams.

This number expanded to 64 teams and is the tournament we see today. The format stayed the same until a play-in game was reintroduced in 2001, adding the 65th squad.

Then in 2011, the field grew by three more teams and three more play-in games to have the current NCAA Tournament format that will occur this year.

Instead of only involving 16th-seeded teams, the four play-ins will have at least two games between Nos. 11, 12, 13 or 14 seeds. These opening games are now known as the First Four.

The field of 68 is determined on Selection Sunday, which takes place on March 15 this year.

An NCAA selection committee is in charge of rounding out the entire field and deciding which seed each team will have.

Thirty-two teams receive automatic bids into the tournament because they won their conference’s postseason. Regardless of record or anything that took place in the regular season, conference tournament champs get invited to the Big Dance.

The selection committee then decides the final 36 teams that receive an at-large bid. Every teams’ regular-season resume is put under scrutiny to determine the best and which deserve to play in March Madness.

The UCLA Bruins are the most successful team in the history of the tournament, winning the championship 11 times. Kentucky basketball isn’t far behind, with eight titles, followed by North Carolina with six.

Virginia won it all last year, winning its program’s first college basketball national championship.

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