Current March Madness Lines
Below are the latest 2013-2014 March Madness betting lines from BetOnline.com and Bovada.lv, our favorite sportsbooks for NCAA basketball. BetOnline posts their lines earlier than Bovada, and often charges a lower vig on money line bets. Both sites accept US bettors and credit card deposits.
How to Read the Lines
If you’re new to sports betting or reading American odds (money lines), it’s easier to understand than you might think. First, lets talk about how to calculate potential profit.
Since most wagering on March Madness games are located in the United States, most people who bet on the games prefer American odds. American odds use $100 as the basis point for calculating profit, but there are positive and negative odds (money lines), and they are calculated differently.
Negative odds indicate the favored team in a money line bet. Positive odds indicate the underdog. In point spread and over/under bets, it simply shows us the amount of money we need to wager, with the spread or total listed in front.
Negative odds show us how much we would need to wager in order to win $100 in profit. So, (-170) means we would have to bet $170 to win $100 more, or $17 to win $10.
In money line bets, it’s possible for both basketball teams to have negative money lines. This happens when two teams are very closely matched, usually close enough for a 1 point spread. In this situation, you’ll usually see a money line of -105 for one team and -115 for the slight favorite, or -110 for each team (a pick’em game).
As mentioned above, positive odds indicate the underdog in a game, and they show us how much would be won from a $100 wager. So, +170 means that we would need to wager $100 to win $170, or $10 to win $17.
The most popular way to bet on March Madness basketball is on the point spread. Point spreads are a handicap given to each team with the intention of creating even betting on both sides of the wager. When a sportsbook can generate 50% of the betting volume on each team, they have nothing to risk, and make guaranteed money on vig (juice or commission). This is the ideal situation for any sportsbook, and this is why the betting lines move so much.
Contrary to what many people realize, March Madness betting lines are not intended to represent ‘true odds’. What they really represent is the public view of the teams, so they adjust based on where the money is going. If one team is generating most of the betting, the odds will get shorter on that team because the sportsbook is trying to generate more betting action on the opposing team.
This can create extra value for one team, helping sharp handicappers to get an edge on a game. This situation is common, especially on games when one team has a large following or the hype has generated too much interest on one team. This is very common in March Madness because there seems to be a ‘Cinderella story’ or two every year. This also happens when a well-known team is going up against a team that rarely makes it into March Madness. In either of these types of situations, the favored team might have true odds of -6.5 points, but bettors can only find -4.5 at the sportsbooks. In this case, the underdog is a good bet because they can lose by more points and still create winning bets.
Money line bets are straight-up wagers with no handicap (point spread). Pick your team, hope they win – it’s that simple. However, March Madness money lines are also affected by the betting public, creating or losing value on teams based on which teams are generating the most betting volume.
When linemakers create a March Madness money line (say that 10 times fast), they may think team A should be listed at -160. However, if that team is generating most of the betting volume, they could move to -170 or worse. Of course this also means that the underdog is gaining value, making them a better bet.
During March Madness, over/under bets are extremely popular. These are wagers based on the total, combined score of both teams. So, if the final game score is 75-68, the total is 143. If the score is 82-75, the total is 157. People usually refer to these as over/under bets, because the bettor is wagering on the actual score being ‘over’ or ‘under’ the posted total.
- Over: 163 (-105)
- Under: 163 (-115)
In this over/under example, bettors can wager that the final score will be more than 163, and pay -105 for it. Or they can bet the under, paying -115.
Like every type of wager, over/under bets are also affected by the public. If the over/under is opens at 156, but the majority of the betting is on the over, the total will go up. As the total goes up, there becomes more value on the under.
Finding Value in the Lines
Sharp bettors time their bets based on where the money is going, and when. Since most casual bettors place their bets late (within a few hours of the start of a game), sharps look for early value (before the lines move), or late to bet against the public. Every game is different, but when you pay attention to how the March Madness betting lines are moving, you can figure out where the value is.
Although every game has to be looked at independently, the best betting lines on favorites can often be found early, soon after they’ve been posted. The reason is because the public tends to bet on favorites regardless of the point spread or odds. For example, if team A opens at -7.5 (-110) and starts to get most of the betting action, the books will give them a larger spread to beat. The more popular the favorite, the more likely this is to happen.
The opposite can often be said for underdogs, where betting late is often the best idea.
Wagering on Your Favorite Team
If you’re partial to a team because your a fan or alumnus, keep your heart out of it. If you aren’t capable of betting against your favorite team, you probably shouldn’t bet at all. Any type of bias is going to skew your idea of how good your team really is, and potentially cost you money.
Personally, I learned a long time ago to separate my betting from my heart. When I bet, I do my research, then make my bets based on nothing but the value – regardless of which team it is. Then, I watch the game as a fan only and forget I made a bet. This way I can enjoy the game without rooting against my team, or without additional pressure for them to win.