2019 March Madness Odds: ‘Nova Wins, But Duke’s Favored For Next Year
The Villanova Wildcats have done it. They swept all six of their games straight up and against the spread at this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, an epic run capped off by Monday’s 79-62 win over the Michigan Wolverines. The top-seeded Wildcats were 7-point favorites on the 2018 March Madness odds board, playing one of the best defensive teams in the nation, but Villanova beat the spread by holding Michigan to 28 points in the first half.
The Wildcats also had their Weapon X: sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo. He came off the bench to lead all scorers with 31 points, canning five of his seven 3-pointers and earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the Final Four. Thanks to DiVincenzo’s barrage, Villanova became just the fourth team in tournament history to win all six games by double digits en route to the championship. The college basketball odds never had a chance.
Duke in Familiar Territory on NCAAB Men’s Championship Odds Board
Despite their performance, Villanova is not the favorite to win next year’s tournament. That honor goes to the Duke Blue Devils, who opened at +450 on the 2019 March Madness futures market. The Kansas Jayhawks, who fell to ‘Nova at the Final Four, are next at +700. The Wildcats are +850 third favorites, tied with their namesakes, the Kentucky Wildcats.
This is old hat for Villanova. They’re a perennially under-rated program in Division I college hoops, and they remained under-rated during this year’s tournament – until they destroyed Kansas 95-79 as 5-point favorites on the March Madness betting lines. That was enough of an eye-opener to make the ‘Cats one of the biggest National Championship favorites in March Madness history. But here we are once again with Villanova playing third fiddle to Duke and Kansas. What gives?
Villanova’s March Madness Odds Hinge on Brunson
The Wildcats may be a proven commodity under head coach Jay Wright, but they’re still only as good as the players on the floor – and at least one of those players won’t be back next year. Junior guard Mikal Bridges (22.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per 40 minutes) is expected to enter the NBA Draft, where he will likely be selected early in the first round. And he could be joined by junior guard Jalen Brunson (23.8 points and 5.8 assists/40), who has yet to declare his intentions at press time.
The good news for Villanova: Just about everyone else will be back next year, including DiVincenzo (18.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists/40). They’ll also welcome blue-chipper Jahvon Quinerly to campus; he’s a supremely gifted point guard, although a bit small at 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds. Classic Villanova, in other words. Quinerly, like Brunson, isn’t one-and-done material. He could anchor this program for another three years – and maybe deliver a title or two along the way.
Draft Decisions Could Shake Up March Madness Futures
Even if Brunson does return, there are reasons why Duke is back on top of the college basketball betting odds board, and it isn’t just because they’re Duke. Mike Krzyzewski and his crack staff have assembled yet another outstanding freshman class, led by arguably the top three prospects in the country: SF R.J. Barrett, PF Zion Williamson, and SF Cam Reddish. However, the 2018-19 Blue Devils will have little to no experience to back up those youngsters, with senior guard Grayson Allen (17.4 points and 5.2 assists per game) on his way towards an uncertain future in pro basketball.
Kansas could end up leap-frogging both Duke and Villanova in the talent department. However, sophomore guard Malik Newman (17.9 points and 6.4 rebounds/40) declared for the NBA Draft on Wednesday. Too bad; if Newman had returned to Lawrence, he would have played alongside a bumper crop of prospects, including guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes. On top of that, head coach Bill Self has a number of transfers coming in who will be eligible to play right away, led by former Memphis sophomore swingman K.J. Lawson (14.6 points and 9.6 rebounds/40).
Anytime you talk about recruiting, you have to talk about John Calipari. His Kentucky program thrives on one-and-done talent, and the Wildcats made the Sweet 16 this year on a roster filled with underclassmen. Next year’s team will add SF Keldon Johnson and PG Immanuel Quickley on the perimeter, and if freshman forward Kevin Knox (19.3 points and 6.7 assists/40) returns to Lexington, these ‘Cats could make some noise at next year’s tournament. Knox is expected to announce his decision on Friday. But even if he comes back for one more year, is Kentucky really in the same league as a Villanova team that has won two of the last three National Championships?
How to Bet on March Madness
Betting on March Madness is big business. It’s a feeding frenzy when the first NCAA Championship odds hit the board. Betting handle on basketball hit new records in Nevada last March, with a massive total of $430 million in wagers – almost twice as much as 10 years ago. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what’s happening online. Want to get in on the action? Here’s a look at what you can expect for this year’s tournament, and how you can get the most value out of the college basketball betting lines.
March Madness Spread Betting
The most popular form of March Madness betting is the point spread. Before every game, a list of NCAA Tournament lines will be posted, with a spread attached. One team will be considered the favorite; to cash in, they’ll have to win by a certain number of points (known as the point spread). For the underdog to cash in, they’ll have to either win the game or lose by fewer points than the spread. For example, North Carolina was a 1.5-point favorite at last year’s National Championship Game, meaning they had to win by at least 2 points to cover – which they did.
Usually, one team or the other will win a basketball game against the spread (ATS), but not always. If the spread for a game is a “flat” number, i.e. a whole number, and the favorite wins by exactly that number of points, it’s called a push, and all monies wagered are returned to the bettors.
There’s an extra feature with point spread betting called buying points, where you have the option of moving the spread a half-point in either direction. You can only make this move onto a flat number; at last year’s final, you could have taken Gonzaga at +2 instead of +1.5, or North Carolina at –1 instead of –1.5. Buying points will help you turn some losses into pushes.
March Madness Betting the Moneyline
The moneyline is the old-school way of expressing the March Madness odds. Instead of betting against the spread, you simply bet on one team to win the game straight-up (SU). The Tar Heels were –125 favorites on the moneyline against Gonzaga, meaning you would have to bet $125 to win $100 (smaller and larger bets are allowed). The Bulldogs were +105 underdogs, and would have paid out $105 for every $100 wagered if they had won the championship. If you like an underdog to pull off the upset and beat the favorite SU, you’ll make more money by placing a moneyline bet, provided your team comes through for you.
March Madness Over Under Betting
Also known as the total, the over/under continues to grow in popularity on the March Madness lines. All you need to do here is bet on whether the combined final score of the game will go over or under the posted total. The over/under for last year’s title game was 155 points, so the Under was the winning bet. If North Carolina and Gonzaga had combined for exactly 155 points, it would have been a push – all monies returned, just like in spread betting.
March Madness Futures Betting
Don’t want to wait until the tournament to start betting? You can pick a winner right now. Odds to win NCAA Championship glory are available year-round in the futures section of Bovada Sportsbook. A futures bet is a bet on the winner of a major event placed before the event comes. At press time, the Michigan State Spartans and Villanova Wildcats are tied as +500 co-favorites to win the championship. Futures odds will be available all the way up until the tournament boils down to the last two teams.
March Madness Prop Bets
Proposition bets, or prop bets for short, ask you to wager on something aside from the outcome of a specific game. These bets usually fall into two categories: team props, and player props. A team prop could be as simple as how far the Spartans will advance in the Tournament, while player props will ask you to wager on a specific individual performance, like how many points Michigan State guard Miles Bridges will score in a particular game. March Madness prop betting has become increasingly popular over the years, and you can expect to find more and more props on the NCAAB odds board as the tournament gets closer to the National Championship Game.
March Madness Parlay Betting
If you plan on making multiple straight bets (spread, moneyline or total) on the college basketball betting lines, you can increase your potential payout by combining up to 12 of those lines in a single bet known as a parlay. Your payout will rise exponentially if you get all your picks right – you can win over 2,300 times your original bet with a 12-team parlay. But you have to get every pick correct for your parlay to pay out. It’s all about managing risk versus reward; many bettors will stick to 2-team parlays, often combining the spread and total from the same game. Teams, in this case, refers to the Over or Under as well as the teams on the basketball court.
March Madness Teaser Betting
A teaser is a special kind of parlay that lets you move every single line by a certain number of points. When you’re dealing with NCAA Tournament lines, you can tease by 4, 4.5, 5, or 6 points. The more points you tease by, the smaller the payout gets; in return, you have a greater likelihood of winning. For example, if you had a 2-team teaser for last year’s Championship Game with Gonzaga at +6.5 instead of +1.5, and Under 160 instead of 155, you would have been paid out at –120. The maximum number of teams you can put in a teaser is 10, down from 12 for a standard parlay.
In addition to these teasers, there are special sweetheart teasers where you can move the lines by 10 points, or even 13 points. Added restrictions apply here; a 10-point sweetheart teaser must contain a minimum of three teams, while a 13-point sweetheart teaser requires at least four teams. Once again, the payouts get smaller the more points you tease by.
March Madness Live Betting
All the betting options we’ve mentioned thus far have to be made before the game in question starts, but you can also take advantage of the March Madness odds while a game is in progress. You can bet live on March Madness by clicking the LIVE MODE button at the top right of the odds page for the game you want to bet on; a separate window will appear, showing you the running point spread, moneyline and total. These lines will be updated throughout the game as play continues. Other prop bets may be available as well, like what the next point will be (a free throw, a 2-pointer or a 3-pointer), or whether a certain player will make his next shot.
March Madness Betting Tips
It takes a certain amount of cunning and strategy to beat the March Madness lines and make yourself a little money during the Tournament, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist – you only have to do better than the average person. And at this time of year, there are countless recreational bettors who just want to put a few dollars on their favorite teams, without putting too much effort into strategy. There will be more of these bettors as you get deeper into the tournament and the games get more important; the Elite Eight odds will be easier to beat than the Sweet 16 odds, and the Final Four odds will be softer still.
The most important thing to remember with March Madness betting is that it’s not you against the sportsbook. Your competition is the other bettors in the marketplace; if they put too much money on one team, the book will move the odds in order to get more bets on the other team, hoping to balance the action and make it easier to pay the winners, no matter what the final score is. As a general rule, recreational bettors tend to overvalue favorites, so the betting value is often with the underdogs.
There are a number of ways you can take advantage of these tendencies. If you’re thinking about making a bet on the March Madness futures market, your best value won’t be with the teams at the top like Michigan State; look further down the NCAAB championship odds list for a quality team with a little less brand-name recognition – maybe even a team like Gonzaga, who almost won the championship last year.
Once the tournament rolls around, you can usually find some betting value in the same games that smart basketball fans circle as “upset specials” on their March Madness brackets. These are usually games between the 4-seeds and the 13-seeds, 5 vs. 12, and 6 vs. 11. The teams with the higher-numbered seeds are usually the champions of smaller conferences that don’t get a lot of publicity, while the lower-numbered seeds are often “at-large” teams from the big-name conferences like the ACC and the Big Ten. Those at-large teams aren’t necessarily that good, and they may lack motivation at the Big Dance if they had bigger expectations for themselves coming into the new season.
That covers everything you need to get started with betting on the NCAA Tournament. You now know about the structure of the Tournament itself, the different ways you can bet on March Madness, and the betting fundamentals that will help you with your March Madness picks. For more information, make sure to consult the ever-growing treasure trove of college basketball articles and analysis here at Bovada, and best of luck on the hardcourt this year.
*Odds as of April 6, 2018