Guide To Legal NCAA College Basketball Betting, March Madness Tips And Pool Strategy

For years on end, March Madness has provided college basketball fans with countless incredible memories. Depending on your age, maybe that memory is Jim Valvano’s NC State Wolfpack upsetting the mighty Phi Slama Jama Houston Cougars in 1983. Maybe it’s the epic 1992 regional final in Philadelphia when Christian Laettner caught the inbound, dribbled, turned, and made one of the most iconic jumpers in basketball history. Or maybe it’s Bryce Drew’s famous 1998 buzzer beater that would lift his father’s 13-seeded Valparaiso Crusaders over the Ole Miss Rebels with just 2.5 seconds remaining and the ball on the opposite end of the floor.

If any of these moments are from before your time, your early tournament memories may include Carmelo Anthony leading Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange to the program’s first and only title back in 2003. Or it could be Bruce Weber’s Fighting Illini and their shocking 15-point comeback led by Deron Williams against Arizona in the 2005 Elite Eight. Or maybe it’s the loaded Florida teams, led by Joakim Noah and HC Billy Donovan, that won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. And who could forget those Butler teams that lost the 2010 and 2011 championship games in heartbreaking fashion with Brad Stevens and Gordon Hayward at the helm?!

Most recently, it was Tony Bennett’s miracle Virginia Cavaliers that shocked the sports world by winning the 2019 title after becoming the first team in history to lose to a 16-seed in the previous tournament. Deservedly so, that team would remain the defending champions for nearly two years, after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament. Following the tournament’s much-anticipated return in 2021, Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears delivered one of the most dominant Final Four performances in history and will now look to defend their title as the top seed in this year’s East Region.

If you only pay attention to college basketball a few days before the tournament tips off and pick your bracket based on uniform colors or mascot ferocity, then this guide is for you. If you are a serious hoop-head who spends hours upon hours each week scouting the latest recruits headed to your alma mater, counts down the days until Midnight Madness, and memorizes the latest AP Top-25 Poll within minutes of its release, then this guide is also for you. Let’s explore all there is to know about the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and how to effectively bet on the games at a legal sportsbook near you.

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2022 NCAA Tournament schedule and details

The 2022 NCAA Tournament will be a very special one, as it returns to its usual form for the first time since the 2018-19 college basketball season. After missing the event entirely due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the NCAA Tournament returned in 2021 with a bit of a twist. There were no fans allowed at any of the games and the tournament was strictly held in the state of Indiana as opposed to various locations throughout the United States. The First Four was held on a Thursday night, and the tournament’s opening weekend began on a Friday and ran through Monday. The Elite 8 was even held on a Monday and Tuesday! Looking back, it really is incredible that we made it through those times.

But all of that is now in the rear view as we get set to return to one of the greatest events in all of sports, played exactly how it’s meant to be played. From the First Four in Dayton to the Final Four in New Orleans, we’ve got you covered with all the details. Here is the official 2022 NCAA Tournament schedule:

First Four – Dayton, Ohio

Tuesday, March 15 and Wednesday, March 16 – Dayton also makes its return to the NCAA Tournament, with a packed schedule on tap for the play-in games. Texas A&M-CC will get the action started on Tuesday night at 6:40pm ET against Texas Southern, followed by Indiana taking on Wyoming in a battle of 12-seeds at 9:10pm ET.

On Wednesday, the hometown hero Wright State Raiders will take less than a 20-minute car ride over to UD Arena, where they’ll be taking on hot-shot Peter Kiss and his Bryant Bulldogs at 6:40pm ET. Following Wright State vs. Bryant, it’ll be the Notre Dame Fighting Irish doing battle with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at 9:10pm ET. All four First Four games will be aired on truTV.

First Round – Various Locations

Thursday, March 17 and Friday, March 18 – Perhaps the best part about the NCAA Tournament returning to its original form is all of the different states, sites, and arenas used to host games across the nation. First and second round games will take place in Indianapolis, Buffalo, Portland, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Greenville, San Diego, and Milwaukee. The action will begin on Thursday afternoon at 12:15pm ET with the 11th-seeded Michigan Wolverines taking on the 6th-seeded Colorado State Rams.

Second Round – Various Locations

Saturday, March 19 and Sunday, March 20 – The Round of 32 will take place in the same eight cities listed above and will tip off around noon on Saturday, March 19.

Sweet 16 – San Antonio, San Francisco, Chicago, & Philadelphia

Thursday, March 24 and Friday, March 25 – Both the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight are set to take place in four of our country’s greatest cities: San Antonio, Texas, San Francisco, California, Chicago, Illinois, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Elite Eight – San Antonio, San Francisco, Chicago, & Philadelphia 

Saturday, March 26 and Sunday, March 27 The arenas selected for each host city are as follows: AT&T Center in San Antonio, Chase Center in San Francisco, United Center in Chicago, and Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Final Four – New Orleans, Louisiana

Saturday, April 2 – The Final Four will take place at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, marking the venue’s sixth time hosting the event. The city’s sixth Final Four is tied with Louisville, Kentucky for the third-most in tournament history. Kansas City holds the record with nine, while New York City isn’t too far behind with seven under its belt.

Championship Game – New Orleans, Louisiana

Monday, April 4 – The National Championship is set to tip off at 9:20pm ET, per usual.

First-round preview, sleeper picks, and bracket strategy

Now that you know the schedule, let’s go over a few intriguing first-round matchups. After that, we will pick three teams (no 1-seeds, of course) that could win it all, or at least make it to the Final Four. Finally, we will discuss a few strategies to win your bracket pool.

3 intriguing first-round matchups

The first round may not feature the highest level of performance, but it certainly features the most overall excitement. From the first tip of the day to the end of the last game over 12 hours later, the first two days of the tournament are always exciting. Some games are better than others, though. Only die-hard fans of a 1-seed or those who bet on them to cover the spread stick around to see if their team wins by 24 or 27 against the 16 seed. And yes, a 16-seed did beat a 1-seed in 2018, but most of the time the game is nothing short of a blowout. Here are the three best first-round games, in our humble opinion:

Midwest – (4) Providence vs. (13) South Dakota StateGetting things started during the early window of Thursday’s slate is an incredible matchup between Ed Cooley’s overachieving Providence Friars and Eric Henderson’s scorching-hot South Dakota State Jackrabbits. Hailing out of the Summit League, the Jackrabbits are amidst a 21-game winning streak after finishing the season undefeated in conference play. Led by superstar sophomore Baylor Scheierman and senior forward Douglas Wilson, South Dakota State seeks their first tournament win since 2013 and their first under Henderson. Providence returns to the dance for the first time since 2017-18, led by senior center Nate Watson, Al ‘The Closer’ Durham, and super-sub Jared Bynum off the bench. This phenomenal group achieved new heights by securing Providence’s first ever regular season Big East title and will now look to keep the magic going in the postseason. But unfortunately for Cooley and company, this matchup marks just the third instance in tournament history in which a 4-seed is favored by 3 points or less against a 13-seed in the first round. Both times this occurred, the 13-seed won the game outright. Providence opened at -1.5 for Thursday’s game and is now listed at -2 at most sportsbooks.

West – (7) Michigan State vs. (10) Davidson If there’s one thing the NCAA Tournament committee loves, it’s a good storyline. This matchup between Bob McKillop’s Davidson Wildcats and Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans is exactly that and then some, thanks to Davidson guard and former MSU team captain Foster Loyer. Loyer played for Izzo’s Spartans from 2018-21 before entering the transfer portal this past offseason following Tyson Walker’s arrival in East Lansing. Loyer needed a new home badly and it appears he made the right choice, as the junior guard reached career highs in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game while starting 27 games for a well-oiled Davidson team that finished atop the Atlantic 10 standings. As for Michigan State, they’ll look to spoil their former captain’s potential revenge game after failing to advance in last year’s tournament. Sparty’s loss to UCLA in the play-in game marked their first season without a tournament win since 2015-16, when they lost to Middle Tennessee in the first round as a 2-seed. Vegas is predicting a classic in this one, as Michigan State opened as a short 1.5-point favorite and has since moved down to a pick ‘em game, with both sides listed at -110 on the moneyline.

South – (7) Ohio State vs. (10) Loyola-ChicagoAt this point, Sister Jean and her beloved Loyola Chicago Ramblers are synonymous with March and the NCAA Tournament. After reaching the Final Four in 2018 through one of the greatest and most exciting runs in tournament history, the Ramblers returned last season and won two more games, upsetting 1-seed Illinois in the process. Led by new HC Drew Valentine after Porter Moser’s departure to Oklahoma, the Ramblers are back in action for the third time in the last four tournaments. Super-senior Lucas Williamson is the team’s leading scoring and only player featured in all three trips to the dance, Sister Jean excluded. The Ramblers’ opposite number will be none other than the Ohio State Buckeyes, who desperately would like to turn the page on last year’s tournament after becoming the 9th team in history to fall to a 15-seed in the first round. But no need to fear for Chris Holtmann’s squad, as Max Abmas and Oral Roberts will be watching from home after failing to defend their Summit League title. For Holtmann, the 2022 tournament marks his fourth appearance in four possible attempts since becoming the head man in Columbus, however Ohio State has yet to make it out of the opening weekend alive during that span. After a pair of second round losses in 2018 and 2019 followed by last year’s Oral Roberts fiasco, it’s time to put up or shut up for the Buckeyes. Loyola Chicago is currently set as a 1-point favorite at most sportsbooks.

Three other great first-round matchups:

  • West – (8) Boise State vs. (9) Memphis
  • East – (7) Murray State vs. (10) San Francisco
  • Midwest – (7) USC vs. (10) Miami (FL)

Three sleeper picks

The #1 seeds are the top teams for a reason. They played the best during the regular season and are the most likely teams to win it all. But every team in the Tournament could have an off day and end up losing. That’s why the Tournament is so exciting. Here are three non-1 seed teams that have the best chances to make it to the Final Four:

(4) Illinois Let’s face it, Illinois was doomed from the start after drawing Sister Jean’s Loyola Chicago Ramblers as the 8-seed in the Midwest Region of last year’s bracket. After failing to advance past the opening weekend as a 1-seed, the pressure is now on for Brad Underwood and his 4th-seeded Fighting Illini to make a deep run this time around. Their path to the Final Four isn’t going to be an easy one, but the possibility is definitely there. 

If Illinois manages to get past the defensive-minded Chattanooga Mocs in their tournament opener, they’ll face yet another defensive-stalwart in the following round: the Houston Cougars. Kelvin Sampson’s group reached the Final Four last season, leaving the door wide open for an early-round upset this year. Illinois definitely has the offensive firepower to match Houston’s defensive tenacity, led by a strong senior guard rotation of Trent Frazier, Jacob Grandison, Da’Monte Williams, and Utah transfer Alfonso Plummer. That’s not to mention the great Kofi Cockburn, a dominant big whose 7-foot frame towers over every player on Houston’s roster outside of the 6-11 senior forward and UConn transfer Josh Carlton. If Illinois can get the most out of the flashy sophomore tandem of Andre Curbelo and Coleman Hawkins in this matchup, look out.

If Illinois can take care of the Cougars, their path to the Final Four becomes a lot more realistic. The mighty Arizona Wildcats would likely await them in the Sweet 16 in a rematch from December, a game that Arizona won 83-79 in Champaign. Illinois led by as many as 13 points before the wheels fell off to end the half and the rest of the game, showing that they are more than capable of running it with the Wildcats. If they get the chance to play them once again, expect the effort of a lifetime.

Illinois was the only Big Ten team other than Wisconsin to finish with a road record above .500 (7-4), giving hope to Illini fans everywhere that their current team is built to make a run.

(6) Texas – HC Chris Beard shocked the college basketball world when he left Texas Tech during the offseason for the in-state rival Longhorns after building up the program and leading the Red Raiders to the 2019 NCAA Championship Game. In making the move to Austin, Beard returned to his alma mater and brought a slew of talented transfers with him. Timmy Allen (Utah), Marcus Carr (Minnesota), Christian Bishop (Creighton), Dylan Disu (Vanderbilt), and Devin Askew (Kentucky) headline the star-studded group that was added to an already-sound roster featuring longtime Longhorn guards Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey, Jase Febres, and forward Brock Cunningham. This group has taken quite some time to mesh, but will now have a valuable opportunity to prove they can work as a team and make a run. UMass transfer Tre Mitchell left the team towards the end of the regular season over concerns with his playing time, leaving the current group with a bit less size but a lot more grit and tenacity.

Among the NCAA’s team leaders in points allowed per game, Texas is the only high-major program in the tournament to crack the Top 10. San Diego State, Houston, and Vermont were the other tournament teams featured in the Top 10, with Beard’s former team creeping in at the 11 spot. With that being said, Texas is allowing just 59.6 points per game on the season, and is doing so against the top competition in the country. Defense wins championships, or at least first round games – and Texas should have no problem taking care of the likely-gassed Virginia Tech Hokies in Round 1, who rallied to win the ACC Tournament by winning four games in four days. If Texas manages to advance, they’ll likely face off with the Purdue Boilermakers, another big-name program that has struggled in the tournament despite having strong success in the regular season. Purdue is by no means a roadblock for the Longhorns and if they play to the best of their ability, they should have no issues getting by Matt Painter’s bunch, who fell in the first round to the North Texas Mean Green in last year’s tournament.

Speaking of early exits, Texas was also bounced in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, falling to Abilene Christian after a pair of last-second free throws by Joe Pleasant. But that was Shaka Smart’s Longhorns, and now Chris Beard and his impressive tournament resume hold the reigns. Based on last year’s results alone, expect Texas to bounce back and do some damage this time around.

(11) Michigan – There’s always that one program that sneaks into the tournament, gets publicly criticized for making it when they probably shouldn’t have, and follows it all up by making a deep run. This year, that team in none other than the scrappy Michigan Wolverines. Michigan shocked the world on Selection Sunday by not only receiving an automatic bid, but also getting to avoid the First Four in Dayton. At just 17-14 on the season, many believed the Wolverines were destined for a play-in game, if they made the cut at all. Instead, fellow Big Ten bubble teams Indiana and Rutgers were sentenced to the very fate Michigan managed to avoid.

On paper, Michigan has a quality roster. They’ve experienced injury, illness, and even suspension issues throughout the regular season, which is likely why the committee cut them some slack in regards to their poor overall record. Big man Hunter Dickinson is the face of HC Juwan Howard’s operation, with longtime senior guard Eli Brooks and Coastal Carolina transfer DeVante Jones doing most of the Wolverines’ ball-handling. But perhaps the most important part of the Wolverines’ success is freshman forward Caleb Houstan, the unsung spark plug that can elevate Michigan to another level when he’s hitting his shots. Houstan has eclipsed double-digits in scoring 16 times this season. Over those 16 games, Michigan has a record of 11-5. In games where Houstan is held under 10 points, the Wolverines are 6-9. Both Houstan and fellow freshman forward Moussa Diabate can provide the Wolverines with an extra boost and possibly do some serious damage as an 11-seed.

Their journey begins on Thursday at 12:15pm ET against an undersized Colorado State Rams unit that features the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, David Roddy. At 6’5, Roddy and his co-star Isaiah Stevens (6’0) may lack the size to compete with a Michigan team that boasts five players at least 6’7 or taller among their top-seven leading scorers. Since 2010, the 6 vs. 11 matchup has been just as much of a toss up as any other pairing, with 11-seeds actually holding a winning record over that span (23-21 vs. 6-seeds). As if this matchup wasn’t already tough enough for CSU, the 6-seeded Rams opened as 2.5-point underdogs against the 11-seeded Wolverines. In the tournament’s history, 11-seeds that are favored by at least 2 or more points hold a perfect 5-0 record, both straight up and against the spread, winning each instance by seven or more. It’s a nightmare scenario for the Rams, and one that Michigan must take advantage of.

If Michigan manages to get by the opening round, they’re likely staring Tennessee in the face, followed by either Villanova, Loyola Chicago, or longtime rival Ohio State. Michigan faced both Villanova and Loyola Chicago in the 2018 Final Four, setting up what could be a juicy rematch if they cross paths with either team yet again. If the Wolverines can dig in and make it past Colorado State and Tennessee to the Sweet 16, the sky is the limit for Juwan Howard’s young bunch.

Three other potential sleeper teams:

  • (3) Tennessee
  • (5) UConn
  • (8) San Diego State

March Madness bracket strategy

Here are a few strategies to dominate your office bracket contest and win some cash:

  • Pick some upsets during the first weekend, but know that the elite teams will rise to the top once we get to the Sweet 16. A team from a major conference (or Gonzaga) will likely win the championship.
  • In the first round, pick a 12-seed to beat a 5-seed. Since the NCAA Tournament’s expansion to 64 teams in 1985, there have been just five instances (1988, 2000, 2007, 2015, & 2018) of all four 12-seeds going winless in the first round. Incredibly enough, we’ve actually seen THREE 12-seeds collectively advance in five different tournaments (2002, 2009, 2013, 2014, & 2019), meaning they are just as likely to nearly sweep the board than they are to completely flop on opening weekend.
  • When in doubt, pick the better seed (2 vs. 3, 1 vs. 4, etc.). If you pick the better seed in every game, your bracket will do statistically better than someone who picks randomly or uses their own strategy. According to an analysis by NCAA.com, a bracket that only picks the better seed would have performed above average in each of the past nine Tournaments.
  • Defense wins championships. The majority of teams that can win six games in a row will have an off shooting night at some point and will need to survive and advance using their defense. One way to figure out if a team has a good defense is to look at how many points they allow per game, on average. Among this year’s field, San Diego State leads the charge with just 57.7 allowed per game. Houston, Texas, and Vermont were the only other participating teams to crack the Top 10.
  • Each team has weaknesses and could have a down day. A team that has upperclassmen with Tournament experience and/or a veteran coach may be able to navigate the pressure of the later rounds better than a team with talented freshmen.

States where you can legally bet on college basketball

Now that we’ve gone through all of the details regarding this year’s tournament and given you some tasty info nuggets, let’s go over what you need to know to place some bets and win some money. Understanding the sports betting landscape and betting terminology specific to college basketball and the NCAA tournament is the key to success when navigating your local sportsbook or, more likely, the sports betting app of your choice on your smartphone. The NCAA Tournament is second only in betting volume to the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. Sharps and the public alike lay down bets of all types and sizes during the Tournament, and even more people participate in a March Madness pool.

While many states have legal online sports betting or allow wagering at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, you can’t bet on college basketball in every state just yet. This page includes a map of where things stand across the U.S. Scroll over your state to see the latest information.

In the table below, wagering on college basketball is allowed, or will soon be allowed, in each state on the left. However, in some states there are small limitations, including not being able to make a wager on a team that’s located within the state. For example, if you’re betting in New Jersey, you can’t bet on Rutgers University games. A number of states have adopted the same policy, including New York, Illinois, Virginia, Washington and Connecticut. While players in New York still can’t bet on local college teams like Colgate, they will be permitted to wager on tournament games taking place in Buffalo as long as they don’t involve a team from The Empire State. Residents of Illinois can bet on their favorite college teams at any physical sportsbook, just not through mobile. For players in Connecticut, odds for your beloved UConn Huskies won’t be offered on an individual-game basis, however futures for Dan Hurley’s bunch to make the Final Four or win the National Championship are available at most CT sportsbooks.

StateLegal and Live?
ArizonaYes
ArkansasYes
Colorado
Yes
ConnecticutYes
DelawareYes
FloridaLegal, not live and legal challenges expected
IllinoisYes
IndianaYes
IowaYes
LouisianaYes
MarylandLegal, not live
MichiganYes
MississippiYes
MontanaYes
New HampshireYes
New JerseyYes
New MexicoYes
NevadaYes
New YorkYes
OhioLegal, not live
OregonYes
PennsylvaniaYes
Rhode IslandYes
South DakotaYes
TennesseeYes
VirginiaYes
WashingtonYes
Washington, D.C.Yes
West VirginiaYes
WyomingYes

Popular college basketball bets

Moneyline

A moneyline or a “straight-up bet” is a single bet where you are betting on the team that you think is going to win the game. If you are betting the favorite, you will see a (-) symbol, and if you are betting the underdog you will see a (+) symbol. For example, you could see a line of -200. This means a $200 bet would win $100 if you took the favorite and the favorite won the game. Conversely, if you bet $100 on the underdog at +200 and that team won, you would win $200. When you bet on an underdog, the sportsbook rewards you, or gives you better odds, because you are taking a chance betting against the favorite, or better team.

Point spread

A bet on the point spread allows betters the opportunity to place a wager on how much a team wins or loses by. For example, if North Carolina is playing Marquette and North Carolina is favored by three points, the line would show North Carolina -3 and Marquette +3. To win, or “cover” the point spread, North Carolina would need to win by four or more points. On the flip side, Marquette could lose the game by two or fewer and still cover the spread, thus winning the bet. If North Carolina won by exactly three points, it would be considered a “push” or a “tie.” In this scenario, all bettors would receive their money back. If you are wondering why you often see a half-point line like -3.5, you are right that there are no half-points in basketball. The half-point exists to eliminate pushes/ties. A team will either win by 4 or they will not. This is easier and a lot less confusing than a push at -3.

Totals (Over/Under)

A bet on the total means you are making a wager on the total number of combined points scored in a game. This bet type is also known as an over/under. For example, if the total of a college basketball game is 145.5 you can bet on whether the two teams will have a combined total score of over 145.5 or under 145.5 points. You can also bet on first half or second half totals, as well as on individual team totals, which is the same concept, but it’s just betting on whether an individual team is going to go over or under its predicted total. It might be something like 73.5, depending on how much the team typically scores and the quality of their opponent.

Parlay

Parlays are very popular among sports bettors due to the potential of a large payout. A parlay is when you bet on multiple games and you need to win every game to win. The majority of sportsbooks will allow you to play a parlay with moneyline, point spread and a totals bet. It’s a challenge to consistently hit parlays because you have to win every game in every wager.

Teaser

A teaser is also a multi-game wager. The difference with a teaser is you can move a point spread up or down — on either the favorite or the underdog. For example, if you like the favorite and they are laying eight points (Illinois -8) and you want to bring that down a bit, you can tease the game down four points to -4, which could drastically change the outcome of your wager. If you really like an underdog and they are +2, you could tease them up to +6 which would give you a bigger cushion, obviously, especially if there’s a streak of free throws at the end of the game. Teasers in college basketball can range anywhere from 3 added points to 14 added points, however options will vary depending on the operator.

It should also be noted that the payout from a teaser is much less than a similar parlay. A 4-team parlay pays out 10/1 on a -110 standard bet, whereas a 4-team teaser getting 4 points per game pays out 3/1 at most sportsbooks. A parlay is riskier with a greater potential reward.

In-Game wagering

This innovative type of betting option has become popular among mobile bettors. In the past, if you missed the opening tip of a basketball game, you missed the opportunity to bet on the game. Now, you can make an in-game wager or a “live bet” during the game. You can make moneyline, point spread and total game bets with in-game wagering options that are updated on the app or website in real time. Live bets are a great opportunity to take advantage of potentially mispriced lines, but they are also a quick way to lose money on just a few plays. Play carefully.

Player props

Some of the more popular prop bets are individual-focused, such as which player will score the most points, how many points an individual player will score, who will have the most rebounds or which player will hit the most three point shots. College player props are restricted in some states, including Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

Futures

The majority of future bets in college basketball involve which teams will make the Final Four or win the championship. Some of the less common futures that are offered by most sportsbooks include whether a team will their conference tournament, earn a 1-seed in the Tournament, or which player will win the Wooden Award (Player of the Year).

Maximizing value

Line comparisons

Shopping for line value is a strategy that takes time but is very important for a serious handicapper. Before you make a bet, it’s important to check with multiple sportsbooks to see which one has the best odds for your game. Opening multiple sportsbook accounts may not appeal to everyone, but shopping around to get even a 1-point spread advantage (-4 vs. -5) could be the difference between winning or losing a bet. Finding an improved line can make all the difference. Do it.

Betting in-game lines

As we discussed above, it is important to be locked into a game and have the ability to make a bet in a very short period of time through in-game wagers. One strategy is if a favorite gets down early, you will find much better odds than you had before the game began. For example, if you have a ticket on Gonzaga at -9 and they get down late in the first half you will find much better odds on them to win or cover with a live wager due to the current score of the game. In many cases, the favorite will turn into the underdog and offer a ton of value if you still believe they can come back and win the game outright.

NCAA Tournament details

Who gets into the NCAA Tourney?

Selection Sunday is a magical day in the beginning of March that awards 36 at-large bids to the top teams in the nation that did not already receive an automatic bid by winning their respective conference tournament. After the 32 conference tournament champions have punched their tickets, a group known as the Selection Committee get into a room and decide which teams will be invited to the Big Dance. 

The Selection Committee is made up of twelve NCAA Commissioners and Athletic Directors, broken down by the following criteria: one member from each of the five autonomy conferences (ACC, B10, B12, Pac-12, & SEC), three members from the seven highest-ranked nonautonomy conferences, and four members from the remaining 20 conferences. This year’s committee featured representatives from Bradley, Toledo, Iowa State, North Carolina, Minnesota, UCLA, Alabama, Butler, the Southland Conference, the Atlantic 10 Conference, the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and the Sun Belt Conference. Each committee group is set to last five years before a new board is selected. And to no surprise, most at-large teams are usually selected from the top conferences in college basketball: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and Pac-12.

NCAA Tournament bracket

There are four separate regions that make up the tournament bracket. They are the East, South, Midwest and West. The selection committee attempts to make each region as balanced as possible. This can lead to more enticing matchups as the tournament moves forward. Each region contains 16 teams, with the No. 1 seed playing the 16-seed, the No. 2 seed playing the 15-seed, and so on. The 1-seeds have the easiest matchups, but upsets can still occur at any point of the tournament. In 2018, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) shocked Virginia to become the first 16-seed in tournament history to take down a 1-seed. The Cavaliers were 20.5-point favorites but fell apart in the second half, as the Retrievers rolled to a blowout victory. Don’t feel too bad for the Cavs, though. The very next year they returned to the tournament as a top seed and ended up winning the entire thing. Historically speaking, the games that produce the most frequent upsets are the 7 vs. 10, 6 vs. 11, and 5 vs. 12 matchups.

NCAA Tournament teams by conference

Below you will find all the conferences that make up the NCAA Tournament and their respective representatives. Since 1990, the ACC has won 12 titles followed by the Big East with six (current ACC member Syracuse was in the Big East when it won its title, while UConn was a member of the AAC for its 4th title), and the SEC with six.

  • American Athletic Conference: Houston, Memphis
  • Atlantic Coast Conference: Duke, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech
  • American East Conference: Vermont
  • Atlantic 10 Conference: Davidson, Richmond
  • Atlantic Sun Conference: Jacksonville State
  • Big 12 Conference: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech
  • Big East Conference: Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, UConn
  • Big Sky Conference: Montana State
  • Big South Conference: Longwood
  • Big Ten Conference: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan St., Ohio St., Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin
  • Big West Conference: Cal State Fullerton
  • Colonial Athletic Association: Delaware
  • Conference USA: UAB
  • Horizon League: Wright State
  • Ivy League: Yale 
  • Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference: Saint Peter’s
  • Mid-American Conference: Akron
  • Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference: Norfolk State
  • Missouri Valley Conference: Loyola-Chicago
  • Mountain West Conference: Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Wyoming
  • Northeast Conference: Bryant
  • Ohio Valley Conference: Murray State
  • Pac-12 Conference: Arizona, UCLA, USC
  • Patriot League: Colgate
  • Southeastern Conference: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee
  • Southern Conference: Chattanooga
  • Southland Conference: Texas A&M-CC
  • Southwestern Athletic Conference: Texas Southern
  • Summit League: South Dakota State
  • Sun Belt Conference: Georgia State
  • Western Athletic Conference: New Mexico State
  • West Coast Conference: Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco
Michael Sciangula

Michael Sciangula

Michael is a New Jersey-based sports writer who recently began working in the online gaming industry. He now contributes to various online publications for Better Collective. He is an alumnus of Rutgers University and avidly follows Rutgers basketball and the New York Mets.

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