Gonzaga Bulldogs.

  • Betting on the number one ranked team to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has consistently been a bad bet.
  • Underdog bettors have cashed in big during March Madness.
  • The last time a number one ranked school won the tournament was Kentucky in 2012.

INDIANAPOLIS – Sports bettors who take action on college basketball are likely to get in on early March Madness futures betting.

A lot of bettors tend to lean heavily on high-ranked schools and put a lot of action on the favorite to win, but historically those bets don’t always follow through.

In many years, the early favorite team has an early exit from the tournament, making longshot March Madness betting the best way to go.

The Curse Of The #1 Rank

In the last March Madness Tournament, the Duke Blue Devils were heavily favored to win. The team finished the season with a 32-6 record, was ranked number 1, and had 11/5 odds to win the tournament.

2019 NCAA Tournament Odds

  • Duke 11/5
  • Gonzaga 5/1
  • North Carolina 6/1
  • Virginia 8/1
  • Kentucky 12/1
  • Michigan St. 15/1
  • Tennessee 16/1

Sports bettors were wowed by the team early. The tandem of Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett was dominant early in the season, and analysts even debated if they could beat an NBA team.

All signs pointed to the Zion led Duke Blue Devils to win the entire thing. But unfortunately, the media appointed the best college basketball team ever, didn’t even make it to the Final Four.

Duke was eliminated in the Elite Eight by the Michigan State Spartans in a 67-68 loss. A loss that shocked the sports betting world.

“These guys have been an incredible group for me to coach, especially at this time in my career to be around a group that you love being around every day that have accomplished so much and really have had to lead the whole year with the tension and the schedule and everything else, and they’ve handled things so beautifully,” said Mike Krzyzewski, Head Coach for the Duke Blue Devils.

Duke is not the only team that has suffered an early exit in the tournament after being the favorite to win it all, in fact, it is more common than not.

In 2018 the number one ranked Virginia Caveliers, who had a 31-2 record and was 5/1 favorites to win the tournament were eliminated in the Round of 64.

In 2017, sports bettors were putting early action on Villanova Wildcats to win the tournament. They had 13/2 odds but were eliminated in the round of 32.

This trend goes on every year, with only the Kentucky Wildcats in 2012 winning the tournament after being early favorites at legal sports betting sites. But when Kentucky won, they were the first early favorite team since 2001 to do so.

In fact, since 1985, only four times have the #1 ranked team won the March Madness tournament, making early favorite betting actually a bad bet.

Why Early Favorites Lose

College basketball betting is popular because of the structure of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The one and done structure is designed to lead to upsets. The team who wins it all has to go undefeated through the entire tournament. The concept in itself makes it the perfect sports betting event.

With the concept of having to play perfectly to win in play, the pressure alone can affect teams who are early favorites to win, causing them to be exploited by highly motivated underdogs who catch steam in the tournament.

“So what lessons are to be learned from this? Mainly an affirmation for bracket players: Records — and rankings — don’t matter as much in March,” said Daniel Wilco of the NCAA.

Underdog Bettors Thrive

This makes March Madness the perfect place for underdog bettors. Taking action on a middling team with longshot odds is actually a better bet than taking the favorite.

Current Odds to win 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

  • Gonzaga +450
  • Baylor +800
  • Illinois +1000
  • Iowa +1000
  • Villanova +1200
  • Kansas +1400
  • West Virginia +1600
  • Michigan State +1800
  • Virginia +1800
  • Texas Tech +2000

A team like Illinois Fighting Illini for example. The Fighting Illini is ranked #6 and has a strong starting lineup, including rookie Andre Curbelo who has already wowed his coaching staff with his play in two games.

Early bettors could come out big on the +1000 odds taking a team like Illinois to win the whole thing, and the odds are only expected to shorten as the season progresses making now the perfect time to get in on the action.

College basketball betting is one of the few sports where most bettors lose yearly betting on the favorite. The best way to play is to risk it all with a longshot wager.

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