Whether you’re a die-hard college basketball fan or just a casual observer, you’re undoubtedly aware of March Madness on some level.
Referring to the part of the sports calendar from mid-March to early April when the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament takes place, March Madness is much more than just a way to close out the college basketball postseason. It is a three-week spectacle filled with more tension and drama than anything that is currently waiting on your DVR.
Now that online sportsbooks are legal in a growing number of states, more bettors than ever will be able to wager on the 2023 NCAA Tournament and the seemingly endless number of betting markets that come along with it.
Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about March Madness betting this year.
2023 NCAA Tournament Information | Date, Time, Locations, & Format
The 2023 Men’s Basketball Tournament will contain a 68-team field with 67 games played over 20 days. There’s perhaps nothing more simultaneously chaotic and beautiful than the NCAA tournament, which starts with a massive bang and then slow-drips drama for the better part of a month.
The action begins on March 15 and a champion will be crowned on Monday, April 4 in New Orleans. Here is how each round of the tournament breaks down:
- First Four (68 Teams)
- 1st Round (64 Teams)
- 2nd Round (32 Teams)
- Sweet 16
- Elite Eight
- Final Four
- National Championship Game
The first date to watch for is March 13, also known as Selection Sunday, when the committee announces the 68 teams in addition to their positions on the bracket. This is when you can truly begin to map each team’s matchups and a potential path to the Final Four.
The field is made up of the 32 conference champions in addition to 36 programs receiving at-large bids, determined by a selection committee made up of various athletic directors and conference commissioners from around the country.
Each team is evaluated and seeded based on its resume, which results in plenty of seemingly random and interesting matchups in the first few rounds. Though it would also appear that the committee does seem to take liberties in ranking teams and potentially crafting specific matchups, whether in the opening round or potential matchups down the road.
How To Bet On The 2023 NCAA Tournament
The most popular way for the public to take in March Madness is via an NCAA Tournament bracket pool of some kind, as recent estimates show that about 40 million adults will fill out brackets each year. But with the spread of legalized wagering, more and more Americans have the ability to use online sportsbooks to bet on the games in addition to filling out a bracket.
The odds of winning a bracket pool aren’t so great, plus those similar to futures wagers of sorts. There are also plenty of chances to bet on a game-by-game basis, including with the following bet types:
Seven things to consider before making March Madness bets
These games draw some of the highest ratings of any sporting event each year and will have tons of action on both sides. Here are some things to consider when placing bets on March Madness or building your brackets:
Top Seeds (1 through 3) Are Most Likely To Win
For all its madness, the cream rises to the top by the time we get to early April. The tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 and since then, over 60 percent of the champions have been a No. 1 seed. About 90 percent of champions have been a No. 1, 2, or 3 seed, so pick accordingly when it comes to placing futures bets or filling out a bracket.
History tends to repeat itself, especially when it comes to top seeds winning the big dance. The last time a deeper seep won was UConn as a No. 7 in 2014.
Look For Underdogs In Early Rounds
This tournament is known for its upsets, especially in the early rounds. That means underdogs are live, both on the moneyline and against the spread. The betting public also tends to lean toward favorites, especially when it’s a high-profile program. That could provide extra value on the underdog as well.
The key is to look for reverse line movement, which takes place when the line moves against the side the public is on. It’s usually an indication that sharp (professional) bettors are on the opposite side, and that’s where you’d rather be.
If you’re looking to cash a big ticket and earn bragging rights by calling a first-round upset, spread your money around. This is an unpredictable single-elimination format and we saw how long odds can hit when UMBC rolled Virginia by 20 points.
Teams That Play Well Away From Home
There are plenty of college basketball teams that dominate on their home floor but have trouble replicating that success once they leave their own gym. NCAA Tournament games are played at a neutral site and while that isn’t exactly a true road game, it isn’t a home game either. Teams that can’t win away from their home floor may struggle in the unfamiliar territory of a tournament game.
How did teams perform down the stretch?
Conference tournaments offer a glimpse at how a team performs in a single-elimination format. How do the guards handle the pressure? Can the bigs stay out of foul trouble? Is the coach effective at managing his team to get them ready for a big game with little or no days to rest? Sometimes teams are able to ride the momentum of those conference tournaments into the NCAA tournament, but sometimes their motivation can be exhausted and they could fall flat in “The Big Dance.”
What’s in a name?
There are several obvious “Blue Chip” programs in NCAA Men’s Basketball: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina stand out as annual contenders for a National Championship because of their ability to recruit talent every year.
Yet aside from Duke, those programs have all looked quite beatable this season, and the gap is closing between the top conferences (ACC, SEC, etc.) and the mid-major conferences (America East, Atlantic 10, etc.). Researching mid-major programs with enough athleticism, experience, and good coaching to knock off established programs with name recognition is a great way to go against the grain in both brackets and with your individual game bets.
Defense wins tournament games
Teams that rely on outside shooting are extremely prone to upsets, and targeting those teams with veteran groups that can at least keep it close down the stretch is a great way to cash in on the spread.
Underdogs tend to come out with extreme energy, but might have some nerves that prevent them from hitting too many shots on the other end, which is why first-half Unders have been a profitable bet throughout the early rounds of the tournament.
The first rounds may be exciting, but they are also wildly unpredictable. Upset-hungry underdogs can throw a wrench into game plans and young players can show nerves that lead to shocking results.
In the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, teams have established their system and are much easier to read. Be sure to factor in the location, injuries, coaching matchups, and the individual matchups of each star player when analyzing upcoming games. Value comes to those who wait, especially those who avoid recency bias and are willing to bet against the public in high-profile affairs.