March Madness Betting: Sportsbooks Reveal Eye-Opening Underdog Info

Written By Eli Hershkovich on March 16, 2023
March Madness Picks

Less than a decade ago, there’s a high probability that the 12-seed Drake Bulldogs would’ve been a two-possession underdog on the March Madness odds board. Don’t just take my word for it. Below, sportsbook operators — at a pair of prominent Las Vegas outlets — reveal how you’re unlikely to nab as much “value” for your March Madness upset picks against the spread in 2023.

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March Madness Picks: What’s Changed Of Late?

After the 2018 NCAA tournament delivered no upsets by the No. 12 seeds, 2019 nearly set a March Madness record. A trio of them manufactured outright victories, and the fourth, New Mexico State, still wound up covering the point spread. NMSU fell short of delivering the final blow when Terrell Brown converted just one of three free throws with one second left in regulation.

Moreover, five No. 13 seeds have accomplished the same feat since 2018. There were no upsets last season, yet there was plenty of drama, as a trio of them covered. As a result of these occurrences, along with the public interest of March Madness upset picks in general, John Murray — the director of race and sports at Westgate SuperBook — voiced that his bookmakers have been forced to shorten some their opening lines for double-digit (often mid-major) seeds.

Related: Arkansas Mispriced In West Region?

You’re Getting Fewer Points On March Madness Underdogs Than You Used To

Take the 2010-11 VCU Rams, then led by current Marquette head coach Shaka Smart, advanced all the way to the Final Four. Bradford Burgess & Co. were initially +5 against USC in the play-in game. Believe it not, that was the first NCAA Tournament that included First Four odds. The No. 11 seed Rams were then tagged with the same spread versus six-seed Georgetown before it was +9 against No. 3 Purdue. The market briefly adjusted, pricing them at +4 against 10-seed FSU before a 10.5-point line versus No. 1 Kansas appeared.

“The (VCU-USC Round of 64) line would definitely be shaved a point or more if that game was played this week,” Murray said.

Keep in mind, many of the metric-driven projections – KenPom, Haslametrics, Bart Torvik and ShotQuality – have also stamped their footprint on the market as their products have become more normalized.

Circa Sports sportsbook director Matt Metcalf, who began his journey as a professional sports bettor, acknowledged that his property operates a little differently than most nationwide sportsbooks. For instance, he shortened the Memphis March Madness odds from Tigers -2.5 to -2 — just to see if Circa would finally take any Memphis money. This game is the 8-9 matchup among East Region odds.

Despite pounding 1-seed Houston in the AAC title game, the Owls’ perimeter-happy mid-major squad is getting betting respect. Florida Atlantic — a member of Conference USA — knocked off UAB, which was backed by its fair share of sharp money in that game, to earn a bid. The market has quickly corrected itself, though, betting down FAU from the +3 soft opener.

“In recent years, as people have gotten to understand sports betting better, it speaks to the job the committee’s done — not in a good way,” Metcalf said. “They haven’t properly seeded teams. People are just paying more attention. Anybody can really beat anybody.

“As an oddsmaker, I’m adjusting my ratings every day. When a result happens, it’s factored into my line. What’s occurred over the years is that the public doesn’t come in blindly on the favorites anymore.”

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Don’t Listen To Ticket And Handle Percentage

Another potential 5-12 upset stems from South Region odds, featuring Duke versus Oral Roberts. If the Golden Eagles didn’t make a Sweet 16 run with Max Abmas in 2021, this line () is hovering around double figures.

According to Murray, the Golden Eagles may receive a higher ticket volume than the ACC tournament champs. But that doesn’t guarantee that Abmas & Co. will represent the bigger liability. That’s on behalf of the parlay tickets that comprise Duke moneyline as of the legs.

“At the end of the day, the ticket (count) and money (splits) are useless,” Murray said. “It’s just for entertainment value. There are a lot of people that get worked up about that kind of stuff, but it doesn’t bother me. It’s meant for entertainment (and not to help structure your bets).”

Keep all of this in mind as you handicap the bracket and lock in your March Madness picks.

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