With all the talk about the impending Supreme Court decision about sports betting, and with the imminent start of the annual NCAA college basketball tournament, fondly known as March Madness, it’s appropriate to explain the tournament and the sports betting opportunities it presents.
Gambling opportunities are prevalent in the US from land based casinos to online casinos with hundreds of casino games, to racing, lotteries and many other ways Americans have to gamble. But this tournament attracts attention from people who don’t even follow college basketball during the season; they only follow college basketball when this tournament comes around every March. Estimates are that billions will be bet this year. Will it be trillions next year?
This tournament covers the entire US. It begins with 64 college basketball teams. The winning team has to win six straight games against the best college basketball teams in the country.
The initial rounds are divided by region. Each team is set in a bracket based as closely as possible upon its location in the country. Some time ago, a clever person came up with the term “bracketology” which is not really a study but simply how teams fit into the four brackets for midwest, south, east, and west.
Underdogs and Cinderella Teams
One of the reasons so many sports fans follow the NCAA college basketball tournament is because every year a team that is ranked low in its bracket and is considered a big long shot to win the tournament wins its first game in a big upset and then wins its next game in another big upset and becomes the darling of those fans who either simply love the so-called Cinderella teams or bet on that team because the odds were so enticing.
The selection procedure is very subjective. The 36 best teams are chosen and then the next 30 teams are chosen either in conference tournaments in which the winner gets a place in the March Madness tournament or by secret ballot among the expert voters. The secret ballot is needed because college teams’ fanbases are as fanatic as they come. In 2011, in order to somewhat mollify fans whose teams didn’t earn a spot among the top 62 teams, a play-in tournament among the last four teams was introduced. The winners of the two games in the paly-in round become the 63rd and 64th teams in bracketology.
Why March Madness
Three reasons why this entire tournament is called March Madness.
- The teams are all college teams meaning some players are as young as 17 years old and the oldest player may be 23 years old. The majority of the fans are college students. The entire month is given over to collegiate antics that border on madness.
- There are many conference tournaments to determine which teams from each conference get to the big tournament. Tournament upon tournament turns even the most subdued college student into a bit of a madperson.
- It all takes place in March.
Television sports reporters all went to college too and their allegiance to their alma mater comes through even in supposedly dispassionate reporting. March Madness pervades offices all over the country.
Starts on March 13
The first four teams play on March 13 and 14. Then the real tournament gets going on March 15 and 16 with the first round games. The second round follows on March 17 and 18.
The first two rounds, over four days, eliminate 48 teams. The remaining teams are called the Sweet 16 and for their fans the madness intensifies. The Cinderella team or teams become national news. Craziness abounds. The professional football season is long over, baseball is in the final stages of the games that don’t count, and hockey is mostly important at this stage to fans of teams that may or may not make the playoffs.
These teams get a short break and play on March 22 and 23 leaving eight teams called the Elite Eight. They play on March 24 and 25 leaving the Final Four who play on March 31 and the National Championship game will be two days later on April 2.
Betting on March Madness
Here are some of the bets people can make on this tournament:
- Office pools. This is one of the most popular ways to bet the tournament. Everyone interested in joining the pool puts in some money and chooses a team. Some sports betting venues also offer pools of this sort.
- As in most sports, it is possible to bet on the spread in individual games. There are a lot of games leading to the chance to make many spread bets.
- Many bettors simply like to bet on which team will win the game.
- Over-under is a bet that predicts whether the combined score will be over or under the bar set by the betting site.
- Some people like to bet on specific but ancillary outcomes like who will be the Most Valuable Player and many other permutations of this type of bet.
- You can bet on two or more games as a parley bet.
- Some sites also accept in-game bets.
Wait ‘til Next Year
This is the annual mantra of the fans of teams that lose in a tournament or simply don’t perform well during the regular season. Chicago Cubs fans said, “…wait ‘til next year” for 108 years in a row until the team finally won the World Series in 2016.
The term has special meaning this year as sports betting may be legal and up and running in many American states by this time next year.
March Madness would then rise to an entirely new level of madness.