With Selection Sunday now in the books, we’re just a day away from First Four play kicking off March Madness season, that annual celebratory period replete with significant diminished workplace productivity, plenty of friendly rivalry and no shortage of imbibing.
Yes, beginning late Sunday night, “bracketology” underwent its annual elevation to official springtime religion for millions of sports fans across the globe.
While brackets are furiously completed in conventional fashion over the early part of this week, TheLines wanted to change up the paradigm just a tad. We completed a bracket of our own, but took a slightly different approach.
For the purposes of this article, we utilized sportsbooks as our exclusive guide for navigating the 68-team tournament. In other words, we went with the assumption that the oddsmakers have each of the first-round matchups pegged correctly in terms of the spread/straight-up winners. All favored teams automatically advance to the second round.
Then, we continue determining winners in each matchup in subsequent rounds based on each team’s futures odds as currently set on DraftKings Sportsbook. We used FanDuel Sportsbook odds as a tiebreaker wherever needed.[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.thelines.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/TheLines2019NCAAbracket-final-1-1.pdf” title=”Bracket”]
The point spread for each favored first-round team appears in parenthesis next to that team on the bracket with a “-” preceding it.
Moving on to the second round and beyond, futures odds appear in parenthesis next to each team with a “+” preceding it.
Point spreads represent the oddsmakers’ prediction on the projected margin of victory for the favored team.
Bettors placing a point-spread bet on the favorite need that team to win by more than the predicted margin of victory to cash in. If the favored team wins by less than that amount or loses outright, the bettor fails to cash.
Bettors placing a point-spread bet on the underdog need that team to lose by less than the projected margin of victory for the favorite or win the game outright to cash in.
Futures odds represent the oddsmakers’ prediction on the team’s chances of winning the entire tournament. The smaller the number listed as the team futures odds, the greater the chance of that team winning the entire tournament.
Fittingly, Duke has the smallest futures odds at +220. Gonzaga checks in second at +575, Virginia is listed at +650 and North Carolina has +750 odds. Each of those teams opens March Madness seeded at the top of each of their respective regional brackets.
As per our approach to this bracket, they would also ultimately make up our Final Four.
The number constituting a team’s futures odds represents the amount a bettor stands to win on a standard wager of $100 if that team ultimately is crowned national champion.
Where are oddsmakers and the selection committee diverging?
One major takeaway from this sports betting-centered approach to filling out a bracket is unearthing potential sleepers along the way.
A rather revealing practice involves comparing how oddsmakers view a team as compared to how the selection committee slotted them within their regional bracket to open March Madness. In the cases we’re about to cite, there appear to be extenuating circumstances regarding the sportsbooks’ optimism with respect to each team, which we’ve noted in each instance.
Keep the following four teams in mind when attempting to prognosticate this year’s tournament:
Virginia Tech (+3000) ranked No. 4 in East Region below No. 3 LSU (+5000)
- Four-year starting guard Justin Roberts (13.7 PPG, 5.2 APG) returns from a 12-game absence to give the Hokies an all-around boost.
Villanova (+3300) ranked No. 6 in South Region below No. 4 Kansas State (+6000) and No. 5 Wisconsin (+7000)
- Fresh off an unprecedented third straight Big East Tournament title and a 25-9 regular season record,the Wildcats seem somewhat undervalued by the selection committee as they begin their national title defense.
Iowa State (+4000) ranked No. 6 in Midwest Region below No. 4 Kansas (+6000) and same odds as No. 3 Houston and No. 5 Auburn.
- Cyclones strive to maintain late-season momentum that ultimately netted them improbable Big 12 crown.
Louisville (+8000) ranked No. 7 in East Region below No. 5 Mississippi State (+10000) and No. 6 Maryland (+15000)
- Following a one-year tournament hiatus, Cardinals look to make noise under first-year coach Chris Mack after 20-13 regular season.
The Final Four and their journey
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 NC Central/N. Dakota State
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 VCU
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 4 Virginia Tech
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Michigan State
- Final Four: Defeats No. 1 Gonzaga
- Wins Championship over No. 1 Virginia
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 Gardner-Webb
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 Ole Miss
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 4 Kansas State
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Tennessee
- Final Four: Defeats No. 1 North Carolina
- Loses Championship to No. 1 Duke
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 Farleigh-Dickinson/Prairie View A&M
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 Syracuse
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 4 Florida State
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Michigan
- Final Four: Loses to No. 1 Duke
North Carolina (+750):
- 1st round: Defeats No. 16 Iona
- 2nd round: Defeats No. 8 Utah State
- Sweet Sixteen: Defeats No. 5 Auburn
- Elite Eight: Defeats No. 2 Kentucky
- Final Four: Loses to No. 1 Virginia