NCAA Tournament Betting Market Report: Which Upsets Are Being Bet The Most?

Posted By Matt Burke on March 18, 2021

Everyone is on upset alert this time of year, whether it be the higher seeds in the NCAA tournament or the millions of people filling out brackets. March is a great time to be an underdog.

Legal US sportsbooks have been taking bets on first round March Madness games since Sunday night, and we have gotten a feel of which first round games bettors think are ripe for an upset.

West Region 13 seed Ohio (which faces 4 seed Virginia) is being bet hard at DraftKings Sportsbook, PointsBet and BetMGM, as is No. 14 seed Colgate over No. 3 Arkansas in the South.

“Fans are betting against Virginia as the line has dropped from -10.5 to -7,” DraftKings Head of Race and Sportsbook Johnny Avello told TheLines. “The thought is the Cavaliers haven’t been able to practice and may not be finely tuned. That, along with Ohio U winning 9 of their last 10 and the MAC Tournament gives the bettors a legitimate excuse for siding with the dog here.”

Ohio is the longshot team being bet the most to pull off a first round upset at BetMGM and PointsBet. The Bobcats are taking 57% of moneyline bets and 84% of moneyline handle in their first round game at PB.

Over at DraftKings, here are the most bet lower seeds by handle.

Handle rankMatchupOdds
114. Colgate over 3. Arkansas+310
29. St. Bonaventure over 8. LSU+112
310. VCU over 7. Oregon+190
412. Winthrop over 5. Villanova+215
512. Georgetown over 5. Colorado+225
69. Georgia Tech over 8. Loyola Chicago+200
713. Ohio over 4. Virginia+255
810. Virginia Tech over No. 7 Florida-105
912. UC Santa Barbara over 5. Creighton+225
1011. Syracuse over 5. San Diego State+128

First Four and First Round odds

Compare NCAA First Four and first round prices below and click on the odds you like to place a wager.

 

More upset potential

 

This year’s tournament has the potential to be the craziest ever in terms of upsets, given that many of the teams in the field haven’t played nearly as many games as they typically do during the course of a college basketball regular season. COVID-19 wiped out hundreds of games from November through the beginning of this month, and there are many teams that bettors, the books and college basketball analysts just don’t have a good feel for due to the relative small sample size of games played.

Recency bias will likely play a bigger role than ever in how people bet this tournament.

For instance, Georgetown has become a sexy pick to make a run in this year’s Big Dance, coming on the heels of their surprise Big East Tournament victory. Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas are matched up against Colorado in Round 1 in an East Region 5 vs. 12 matchup.

The other 5 vs. 12 matchups are juicy as well, per usual: 5. Creighton vs. 12. UC Santa Barbara, 5. Villanova vs. 12. Winthrop and 5. Tennessee vs. 12. Oregon State.

“Everyone knows about the 12 seeds doing damage to the five seeds in this tournament,” Avello told TheLines. “All four of those games are seeing (a lot of) action. Creighton has dropped from -8.5 to -6.5 over UCSB; Georgetown has 90% of the moneyline but the Buffaloes will see action from the state’s faithful as we get closer to game time. Winthrop is the popular choice on both the side and moneyline – the line has dropped from Villanova as a 6.5 favorite to -6 as their star player Collin Gillespie won’t participate in the tourney. Lastly, Tennessee went from -7 to -8.5 against an Oregon State team that won the Pac-12 Conference and wouldn’t have advanced if they hadn’t done so.”

The 5 Best FREE Bracket Contests for the 2021 NCAA Tournament

Look to the futures

Some bettors even like Georgetown to become the first ever 12 seed to go all the way. At BetMGM, 3.2% of National Championship tickets (8th most) are on the Hoyas at +10000.

East Region 3 seed Texas has also been a relatively popular pick to make a run at the title, but the 1 and 2 seeds in the tourney are unsurprisingly being wagered on the most to win it all.

“Since the bracket dropped, in terms of most actioned teams – Gonzaga certainly stands out, likely due to a perceived easy region and path to the Final Four,” said Wyatt Yearout, Communications Analyst, at PointsBet. “Another team to note is Illinois, who is also in what’s said to be an easy region, and bettors seem to be feeling confident in them after their Big Ten Tournament win. Texas also stands out. Bettors are not as confident in Michigan and Alabama, and thus think the Longhorns can make it out of a weaker East region.

“We have several longshot teams taking a healthy amount of bets. Texas, currently at +3500, absolutely stands out — the Longhorns are the 8th most bet team at PointsBet, and also rank 9th in terms of handle. Oklahoma State (+3500) is another. Alabama, Ohio State and Houston – all sitting at +2200 – have seen solid action as well. They are all sitting in the top 10 as far as bet count.”

Illinois and Gonzaga are the most bet teams to win it all at DraftKings.

“Gonzaga is our biggest hazard and has been wagered on all season long, but Illinois has been the prevalent choice as of late,” Avello said. “I can’t blame the bettors for their latest selection as the Illini appear primed for a run at the title.”

Here are the teams that have been bet the most to win the whole shebang at BetMGM since the brackets were released Sunday night.

TeamTicket %Handle %
Illinois20.6%37.3%
Gonzaga13.6%24.6%
Houston5.3%4.7%
Alabama4.3%3.1%
Texas3.9%3.8%
Baylor3.7%1.6%
Oklahoma State3.6%1.9%
Georgetown3.2%1.3%
Florida State3.1%1.8%
Iowa3.1%4.5%
Michigan2.9%1.4%
Ohio State2.9%1.4%
West Virginia2.0%0.5%
Georgia Tech1.9%0.8%
UConn1.5%1.7%
Michigan State1.5%0.3%
North Carolina1.5%1.3%
Villanova1.5%0.6%
Kansas1.4%0.5%
LSU1.0%0.5%
Purdue1.0%0.8%
Iona0.9%0.2%
Oregon0.9%0.4%
Texas Tech0.9%0.8%

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Matt Burke

Matt Burke is the Sports Editor and Head of Evergreen/SEO Content at TheLines.com. He is the Founder and former Editor-in-Chief of MetroBet, a digital and print sports betting platform, and was the Executive Sports Editor at Metro US Newspapers (New York, Philadelphia, Boston) from 2014-2020. Matt has covered Super Bowls and Final Fours, and his work has appeared for Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, the Eagle Tribune, Gloucester Daily Times and Newburyport Daily News. Matt is a graduate of the University of Connecticut.

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