It’s that time of year again; March Madness is finally back! With Selection Sunday behind us, the field of 68 is set and anticipation is quickly reaching a fever pitch. Men and women of all ages are eagerly running to their printers and filling out their brackets. This is the time of year when square bettors flock to sports betting marketplace, making it an ideal time for sharp bettors to find value.
While our contrarian approach to sports betting has proven to work across all of the major sports, March Madness is a special time of year. Between 2004-2010, we found that when one team garners more than 60% of the bets, and is favored by at least 16 points, the underdog wins against the spread 56.5% of the time.
Although the number of bets on most games are still low, there has been some interesting action across the college basketball marketplace — most specifically at BetOnline. This off-shore book is typically the first to release lines, and there are stark differences between their odds and some of the market-setting sportsbooks. The team here at SportsInsights has circled a handful of these games due to these discrepancies, so let’s take a moment to examine the line movement for these key matchups using our College Basketball Betting Trends.
|New Mexico State||70%||-4.0||6.5||In a bizarre turn, the 13th seeded Aggies actually opened as 4-point favorites over the #4 seed Indiana. Part of this may be due to the season ending injury to Hoosiers G Verdell Jones III. Perhaps most shocking is that BetOnline actually cancelled all bets on this game after taking wagers at two very different numbers.|
|Montana||69%||7.0||9.5||In another 4/13 matchup, the line moved 2.5 points towards Wisconsin despite a majority of spread bets being taken on Montana. Typically, this reverse line movement would indicate sharp money is on Wisconsin.|
|Lehigh||16%||9.5||12.5||As the number two seed in the South bracket, Duke opened at -9.5 at BetOnline even though almost every other book opened with the Blue Devils as 12-point favorites. With the public pounding Duke, the line has moved to 12.5.|
|Alabama||31%||2.5||-1.5||Most 8 vs. 9 matchups are close, but the movement in this game is particularly odd. Creighton opened as the favorite and have received an overwhelming percentage of spread bets. Despite that, the line has moved 4 points in the other direction with the Tide now 1.5-point favorites.|
The most shocking take away from this is the fact that BetOnline would actually cancel bets. Although they only have a $500 limit on each game, they undoubtedly tarnished their reputation with their actions. This book has built their reputation by being the first to post lines, but if they are simply going to void bets when they rush an inaccurate line many bettors will choose to stay away. Still, many of their lines were anomalies such as Syracuse/UNC Asheville where the line opened 5-points off the market average.
The team here as Sports Insights often preaches the importance of shopping the best line. Our research has uncovered that taking a play with an additional 1-2 points can increase your winning percentage by 3-4%, so it is imperative to any sports investor that you are always able to grab the best line available.
* Betting Percentages reflect Sports Insights’ Spread Betting Trends Data
** Opening and Current Lines from BetOnline unless otherwise stated.