March Madness Betting Preview: Underdog Mania As Top Teams Keep Falling

The thrill is in the air as the big show inches closer.

Underdogs are Wonderdogs, top teams are falling and college basketball oozes March Madness anticipation.

For the second straight weekend, sportsbooks and dog bettors enjoyed the victory, as the preview to the Big Dance was a rousing success.

Half the nation’s top 10 teams again lost, creating an underdog mania two weeks before the championship tournament starts. Even the favorites have reasonable title-winning March Madness betting odds because no team looks prohibitive.

Futures betting at NJ sportsbooks

Futures bettors will keenly eye revised boards as Kansas, at 6-1, joined Baylor, Gonzaga and Duke, all 8-1-12-1 at most NJ sportsbooks, as the picks to win it all.

Can these bets be lodged with confidence? Bettors may take a shot at some dogs.

Brigham Young will see some play after throttling second-ranked Gonzaga by 13 points last weekend. BYU remains under the radar, but for how long?

It is stashed in the 55-60-1 area at books, such as:

Futures, of course, are only one realm of the betting panorama.

Serious players eye the Ohio Valley, Patriot League and West Coast conference tournaments this week.

Bettors en masse view major conference tournaments one week later and then a March Madness lineup that is not to miss. It will be here before you know it.

  • Selection Sunday —March 15
  • First Four — Tuesday, March 17, and Wednesday, March 18
  • NCAA Tournament Round 1 — Thursday, March 19, and Friday, March 20
  • NCAA Tournament Round 2 — Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22
  • Sweet 16 — Thursday, March 26, and Friday, March 27
  • Elite 8 — Saturday, March 28, and Sunday, March 29
  • Final Four — Saturday, April 4
  • 2020 NCAA Championship game — Monday, April 6

Enlivened by uncertainty, it’s all here. Coming to a sportsbook near you. Or the NJ sports betting app in your hand.

This is the richly exciting, highly anticipated college basketball homestretch.

William Hill sees an even playing field as March Madness closes in

Competitive balance and big efforts from underdogs have been music to the ears of Nick Bogdanovich, the director of trading for William Hill US. The company has a strong online presence in New Jersey.

“It’s been a revolving door since November,” he told NJ Gambling Sites.

“Anyone can get beat this year. It’s great for the fans and it’s great for the books. I’m excited about what’s coming now.  The conference tournaments get hot and heavy for two weeks and then we have the championship tournament, so it’s going to be a big four-week run.”

The excitement from the regular season carries into the conference tournaments, which become a separate entity. Winners of those tournaments advance into the post-season, but, as history suggests, there’s no guarantee these teams advance from the first weekend of the Big Dance.

“The end of February was great for us,” Bogdanovich said.  “Every time you say upset around a bookmaker, that is something that is welcome news.”

Welcome, with a capital W this time.

The mighty teams fell and parlay cards went with them. Baylor, the top team in the country two weeks back, lost on successive Saturdays to Kansas (understandable) and TCU (a 13-loss team, puzzling).

San Diego State eyed a morally-uplifting unbeaten season before UNLV surprised them last weekend. The Aztecs will nonetheless gain a high post-season seed.

Maryland lost to Ohio State and Michigan State on successive weekends. The setback to Michigan State came at home after a victory against the same team earlier this month, on the road. So much for the home-court edge.

Duke lost to Virginia this past weekend and finished February on a 1-3 tailspin. Does that look like the team books listed as fourth likely to win the NCAA championship just last week?

Florida State reached the six spot before suffering a heartbreaking setback to Clemson. How heartbreaking.

The Seminoles gained the lead with eight seconds left, only to see a buzzer-beating layup, literally hang on the rim, taunting bettors with a half-in, half-out look, before driving through the hoop.

That moment is a defining portrait of March Madness. And it happened in February.

So tenuous is life in the NCAA top 10 that Creighton was escorted into the ratings Sunday morning because of Saturday’s upsets. Then they were unceremoniously bounced out hours later by St. Johns. By a 20-point margin. From a team that entered 14-14.

What parity, perhaps more than any college basketball season in recent memory.

One point to keep in mind at championship tournament time: Unlike this past couple of weeks, the home court will not come into play. March Madness games are predominantly at neutral sites.

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Barking dogs at SugarHouse Sportsbook NJ

We’ve seen players jump for joy after a big hit. What is the bookmakers’ equivalent? Plunging favorites.

Here is the betting breakdown from SugarHouse for the first upset weekend:

  • Gonzaga received 80% of tickets to cover and win outright but lost to BYU.
  • Baylor received 75% of tickets to cover and win outright, yet was dropped by Kansas.
  • San Diego State received 90% of tickets to cover and win outright. The Aztecs were chalk, chalk, chalk until UNLV erased them.

Not only did books prevail in their risky one-way action, but these tickets were part of many parlays that never were cashed.

Who celebrated with the books? Bettors savvy enough to take the dogs with points and on the moneyline. They were onto something.

SugarHouse officials told us that Gonzaga improved to 7-1 from 8-1 because of the Baylor loss, most likely due to the fact it will still be the top seed in its bracket.

Kansas was clearly the big change of the last two weekends, being the only unscathed major powers not to go down.  That justified its No. 1 billing, but even so, Kansas escaped with a 4-point win against Kansas State on Saturday.

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NJ sports betting fan turns $5 into $12,000 at DraftKings

Not all the college basketball betting world involved the top-ranked teams.

One bettor had a hunch on several games that did not involve the big names. The uncanny ticket showed a strong knowledge of game totals. This bettor had a hunch without “over” playing the hand.

The user turned a $5 wager into a $12,281.51 payout on a recent 12-leg parlay. All legs were over the total points in college basketball games. The ticket odds were +245,500 — what a win.

Five bucks? Some coffee is more expensive. Here’s a look at the box score:

  • North Dakota vs. Omaha over 153
  • Evansville vs. Northern Iowa over 136
  • Indiana State vs. Southern Illinois over 125.5
  • Arkansas State vs. LA-Lafayette over 150.5
  • Georgetown vs. Marquette over 151
  • Southeastern Louisiana vs. McNeese State over 150
  • Northwestern State vs. Stephen F. Austin over 147.5
  • Sam Houston State vs. Abilene Christian over 140.5
  • Nicholls State vs. Houston Baptist over 162.5
  • Tennessee vs. Arkansas over 135.5
  • Texas A&M-CC vs. New Orleans over 136.5
  • Incarnate Word vs. Lamar over 133.5

Parlay cards indicate that bettors gain an increasing knack of leveraging patterns (over/unders, spreads or moneylines) with a couple of key hunches to make strong collections.

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.