NCAA Basketball Tournament Betting Primer

Players of the Arizona Wildcats pose with the championship trophy and a ceremonial NCAA tournament ticket. Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

The field of 68 is set for the NCAA Tournament and now the work begins. What are the best ways to win your bracket pool, make a few future bets to win the tournament and assemble selections?

Let’s start by attacking the first two elements, filling out a bracket, and trying to figure out what teams can win it all because they are related.

Top Tips on Brackets and Future Bets

When filling out a bracket, the smartest method is the – Completion Backward Principle. What you need to do is determine your Final Four picks. Next is who wins those two matchups and picking the winner.

Learn More: How Do I Know Which NCAA Basketball Games to Target?

From here you work backward. You want to determine who your Final Four picks will beat along the way and start going game by game with matching opponents. The benefit of this methodology is most people pick the first round, have somewhat of an idea for the second round and take the higher seeds thereafter.

That fact is, most years there are no more than six teams (sometimes less) seemingly capable of winning six straight games and if you can identify them, that’s a great starting point.

But How Do You Determine Those Squads?

Obviously, most years seeding plays a large part. We all remember the lower seeds that reach the Final Four and Cinderella stories, but by and large, the Top 4 seeds are who wins most tournaments and for two reasons. First, they earned their seed, thus, though some might lose in the first two rounds, the fact is they don’t face really strong competition until the Sweet 16.

While every year we hear the television commentators talk about the importance of “guard play” that alone is not enough. Talent matters as much or more than having strong guards.

Learn More: Start Prepping for the NCAA Basketball Tournament Now

When looking at backcourt players, the point guard should be at least 6’3 and have NBA talent. This does not mean he will be an NBA star or even be a really good NBA player, rather, at the college level he has the skill and ability that makes him better than his peers.

Next from a talent perspective is a big man, at least 6’8 and he too needs NBA ability. Why does this matter? Because no team is going to win six straight times without a big guy(s) who can score in the paint, rebound and play defense. Again, not a star, just with NBA talent.

Winning your conference tournament is not tantamount, but it helps build that late-season confidence in a pressure-packed situation when the tension builds.

Learn More: Why NCAA Basketball Conference Play Changes Betting Dynamics

Finally, a 10-game or more winning streak during the regular season. What makes this matter is knowing you can win a half dozen games. Experience is a great teacher and if you’ve never won more than five or six games during the regular part of the schedule, you have a flaw that can be exposed at some juncture.

Winning is often believing and having the confidence and needed arrogance to think you cannot be beaten, that is very helpful when the game is on the line in the last two minutes. Knowing, instead of hoping can be all the difference.

Teams that win the championship typically have two of these qualities and sometimes more. Do your homework to know who these teams are.

Betting Games Round by Round

The very first aspect I track is how a team has played the last month. If a club is 3-4 and lost their first game in their conference tournament and is facing an opponent who was 7-1, was second in their league and won the conference tournament, that has my attention in the first game for both teams.

Always look closely at 5 vs 12 matchups. The five-seed is nearly always moving down, while a 12-seed is often a conference champion, making the lower seed the more inviting play.

In the round of 32, a No. 2 vs. No. 10 matchup is always worth a look for the lower seed. The underdog feels good about the likely upset they just pulled off, taking on a favored No. 2 seed who more than once is already looking ahead to Sweet 16.

Learn More: How to Shop for the Best Lines

Next, add in a possible contrast of styles and not a great deal of time can be used for practice to focus on this opponent, the underdog can and will cover spreads.

Once we get to the Sweet 16, lower seeds as underdogs of three points or less or more than nine are often good bets. It is always wise to know how the numbers are playing out, year to year, and consider the trends. You can seek out all kinds of trends that work to show a profit and they are available when doing research.

And remember to check back for more betting strategy at the OddsTrader blog. Happy betting! is your sports betting command center. Read featured betting strategy compiled from a panel of leading sports betting experts.

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