Betting Against the Public in College Hoops: NCAA Basketball Tournament

by Wayne Root

March Madness 2021
Every March the public gears up for the single best sporting event on planet Earth. Four weeks of daily college basketball. Businesses run promotions around this craziness. Betting pools are in every office. Wives sit with husbands to watch “their college team”. The word “madness” might not tell the entire story. Sharp gamblers love when the public is involved. They continually make our handicapping easier year after year. We have a good idea who will win prior to tip off. When the public is involved, they become our barometer of betting.

Different Strategy for March Madness 

 There is increased public attention as we near the NCAA Tournament — so Betting Against the Public works particularly well at this time of the college basketball season. The annual countdown to March Madness begins anew. Although many casual fans wait until tournament time before regularly watching college hoops, the long duration of the regular season plus the copious number of Division 1 programs creates ample opportunities for contrarian sports bettors to extract value.
The Public Begins Madness Betting  
Betting Against the Public has proven to work across all of the major sports, but March Madness is a special time of year. The public loves to bet big name favorites. Their knowledge is based on looking at a top 25 poll and then laying double digits.  When one team garners more than 60% of the bets and is favored by at least 14 points, the favorite wins against the spread 56.5% of the time. 
Betting Trends and Tools

 These betting trends reflect real bets placed by real bettors, as opposed to other websites that use “consensus” numbers. By including both sharp and square sportsbooks, our betting percentages and analysis accurately reflect which teams the public is backing across the marketplace.
 College basketball offers sports investors many investment opportunities — and at the same time, many challenges.  We have many tools that sports investors can use for college hoops. Tools that the sports professionals utilize hourly. This includes bread-and-butter sports investing tools such as Betting Percentages and Line Moves. In addition, the Number of Bets placed at the counter is often overlooked as an indicator and the public doesn’t have access to that very important information. Parley cards are analyzed and put into algorithms for review.
Why Bet Contrarian to the Public?

 The value derived from betting against the public is directly correlated with the number of bets placed on the game so, naturally, it’s more lucrative to bet against the public when the volume of bets increases during March Madness. If more bets are being placed on a game, it’s more likely that oddsmakers will be forced to adjust their lines based on an influx of “square” or “public” money. These artificially inflated lines create value for anybody willing to take the unpopular side of a game. For example; would the public bet Ball St +8.5 to beat UCLA? Probably not. Would the public be inclined to wager on Michigan -18 against San Diego St? Most definitely! Contrary to popular belief. The oddsmakers do not attempt to balance their book by attracting 50 percent of the action on each side. Instead, they shade their opening lines to capitalize on public perception. They take it in account prior to releasing the point spreads. Over the course of the day, market-setting sportsbooks allow their sharpest bettors to shape the line. It’s only in the most heavily bet games (where sportsbooks have high levels of potential liability) that public money can affect the spread. Sharp bettors get the advantage from knowing the public’s side without the penalty of any line movement. The public rarely will move the betting number.
Oddsmakers Advantage with Lines

 Public bettors overwhelmingly take favorites and overs, which makes perfect sense from a psychological standpoint. It’s human nature to ROOT for winners and scoring, and the media’s propensity to overhype these teams only exasperates this tendency. The sharpest Vegas bettors certainly take advantage of this ongoing betting style. Sportsbooks understand this and shade their lines to exploit the tendencies of casual bettors. Since the “beginning” of time, the majority of public bettors have taken the underdog in just 22.65% of all college basketball games. That number is fairly consistent, regardless of how many bets are placed on each game. But what happens in the rare instances where the majority of public bettors are taking the underdog? Is there still value betting against the public? In those cases, the sharps could lay off that game. Again, if a game has 70% on the same side whether it’s the favorite or the underdog, since we don’t have to bet every game; we analyze, decide and move on. We’re not in the Madness for action, TV games or betting our favorite teams and alma mater. We’re in it to WIN. Our entertainment is always about WINNING. 
Let the Madness begin.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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