How to Bet the First Round of March Madness

Posted by Joe Solari on March 15, 2016 in

The 2016 NCAA Tournament, one of the arguably the basketball betting event in the world, will officially get underway this Tuesday, though the heart of March Madness will truly begin on Thursday with the Round of 64 games. Over a frantic span of span of days entering the weekend, we will have 32 games played across the nation as teams begin their quest to stand tallest for the prestigious college basketball national championship.

How to Bet the First Round of March Madness

Whether you are a veteran with exhaustive knowledge about March Madness, or you are one of the many new faces that are expected to break the duck of betting in the NCAAB lines for heck of it, there’s no doubt that you’ll need a bit (or a lot) of help to bet your way successfully into the NCAA Tournament. And fortunately for you, our March Madness Betting Bible, specially prepared for you below, offers more than enough help to make the right wagers in the first round of this media-frenzied Tourney.

Best Customers for Upset Picks

Typically, the first round of the Tournament is known for its reputation to deliver the most upsets. The following are some of the teams you should consider on your priority list of potential upsets this week.


  • First-timers: Experience counts a lot in the March, a key reason why perennial March Madness contestants tend to have more success. You should thus be careful about teams that are making their first appearance in the Big Dance, as the lack of experience to handle the nerves and pressure of the Tourney often works against them.
  • Teams Coming off Long NCAA Tournament Droughts: Like the first-timers, teams coming off extended droughts (like Yale who are making their first appearance since 1962) have a strong potential to become letdowns. For this category of teams, reaching the Tourney is already a big deal, so they are likely to feel accomplished whether or not they win in the first round.
  • Bubble Teams: The same story of laying an egg in the first round goes for mid-majors and small conference teams that sneaked their way into the Tournament as Cinderellas, probably on the basis of some upset in the Conference Championship games or some late-season run that came courtesy of some opponent’s mistakes down the stretch of the regular season. Yes, I am talking about those teams that weren’t sure of what would happen on Selection Sunday and had to gather at the center of their court or in the locker room and to know if they made the Tournament or not, and probably celebrated wildly when they heard that they made the cut.


Blend the Right Combo of Experience and Talent to Get Best Winners

Heavyweight NCAAB programs like North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky have been successful in March largely due to having the right blend of experience and talent. When comparing two teams, especially those that finished the season with more-or-less the same seeds or win-loss records, your best way to get the best winner is to go for the team with a similar blend of talent and experience. Take Kentucky, for example, who have the second-youngest squad among Major Conference teams, but the team’s seven freshmen are supported by two sophomores, five juniors and one senior in Alex Poythress, with all of these supporting players either going to the national championship in the 2014-15 season and/or the Final Four last season. A team with such a solid blend brings a lot of value to the first round betting, as opposed to teams that lack experience, talent or both.

Coaching is King in Winning

When making your NCAAB picks in the first round of March Madness, or any other round for that matter, handicapping a coach is just as important as studying a team’s players, betting history and current form.

The general rule here is that, a veteran coach, particularly one with tons of experience in college basketball, works best in games that are expected to be tight with premium competition. A rookie tournament coach may, for instance, not know how to react to the intensity of a first round game or be or be sound-minded enough to make key calls need to get a win. This, essentially, is the reason big names in the industry like Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Bill Self (Kansas), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) and Sean Miller (Arizona), seem to always find a way of avoiding upsets in the first round games, irrespective of who they are meeting.

In an instance that you are handicapping some lesser-known NCAA coach, the best advice is to assess the coaching resume of the individual in question and how he may have performed in the past against good/great teams. If there’s nothing to show his capacity to win big games, then be very wary of him. However, if you find some sort of good proof—like winning a Tourney game as an assistant coach for a big-name program or even beating some top-notch opponents this season, then maybe that means he will be able to get the job done in the first round.

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Final Remarks

Needless to say, there is no clear science behind some of the pointers above. In certain occasions, you may find conflicting parameters (like a good coach leading a team that is deprived of good talent) and you will have to make a gut-decision, or find other factors that give a better separation of the teams in question. Simply put, have fun with your bets and don’t take anything too seriously to the point of going Mad with the Marchness. Yes, money is involved so some level-headedness is required, but when things start to look too complicated, maybe sticking to the simplest answer should be the way to go, as I have profitably done with lots of success in my years of March Madness betting.