And they’re off! The 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament began this past Thursday. With the play in games games out of the way, we’re down to the 64 teams who will compete for the top prize in college hoops. It will take 63 more games to decide who wins, giving us hundreds of March Madness betting opportunities. Here’s a quick guide to help you get ready for the Big Dance.

March Madness Tournament Structure

Before jumping into the college basketball betting market, make sure you know what you’re betting on. March Madness is a single-elimination tournament featuring the best teams from Division I; some are conference champions who earned automatic bids, while others are “at-large” teams who were invited by the NCAA selection committee based on their body of work. The First Four round featured four play-in games to complete the field of 64. The official First Round begins today, followed by the Second Round on Saturday, and all the way through to the National Championship Game on April 2 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Navigating the March Madness Odds Board

When you visit the Basketball menu at Bovada Sportsbook, you’ll see a category for College Basketball betting – this is where we post the March Madness betting lines for each game on the upcoming schedule, along with game props and player props. If you want to bet on who will win the Tournament, look on the menu for College Basketball, and you’ll find the NCAAB futures market; the Virginia Cavaliers and Villanova Wildcats are the +600 favorites at press time, meaning you’ll win $600 for every $100 wagered if the Cavs or ‘Cats can pull it off. Odds are also available for who will win each of the four Regions (East, Midwest, South and West) on the March Madness bracket.

For single-game betting, you’ll find the “Big Three” straight bets under the Game Lines section: point spread, moneyline, and total. Point spread and moneyline betting involve picking the winner of a game, but there’s one key difference. With the point spread, the favored team must win by a pre-determined number of points. The underdog can lose by a certain number of points and still cover the spread, thus paying out their backers. With the moneyline, there’s no win margin to cover; simply pick who you think will win straight up. The total doesn’t involve picking the winner of a game at all. Oddsmakers attempt to predict the total number points that will be scored in the game, and you guess if the real number will be over or under the number presented by oddsmakers.

To the right of these odds, you’ll see a link for the full menu of betting options for the game in question, including alternate lines, first-half lines, and game and player props. Live betting is also available for every game – tap or click the LIVE button once the action begins, and you’ll be taken to a special Live Betting page with the game odds updated in real time. You can find out more about each of these individual bet types by consulting our expanded March Madness betting guide, as well as our Sports FAQ and our Help sections.

How to Bet on March Madness Brackets

The other popular way to bet on March Madness is to play a bracket contest. This is where you pick the winners of all 63 games in advance, and whoever has the most correct picks wins – with many contests giving more weight to later-round picks. Filling out these brackets has become a tradition in offices across the country; you can download yours right here at Bovada.

For the best chance of winning your office’s bracket contest, make sure you know the rules in play; if more points are awarded for getting the late-round picks correct, start by picking a likely winner (Virginia, for example), and move backwards from there. Also, consult the March Madness odds at Bovada to see which teams are the biggest favorites in the First Round, and give those teams more priority. Nobody on record has ever filled out a perfect March Madness bracket, so don’t worry if yours gets busted – it’s all about getting the most picks right and having fun while you do it.


*Odds as of March 22, 2021