NCAAB March Madness 2009

Updated for NCAA Tournament (March 2009)

March is here and that means it is time for March Madness!  Last year, we highlighted some of the sports marketplace statistics that we study — and came up with a simple-to-use system that has been profitable during March Madness.  Note that the system we highlight below may also be used during Conference Playoffs (as the system is based on all games during March and April).  There is increased public attention as we near the NCAA Tournament — so that Betting Against the Public works particularly well at this time of the college basketball season.


Over the years, SportsInsights has highlighted the fact that “Betting Against the Public” has even more value when there is increased public attention.  The NCAA Tournament — with all of the office pools (!!) — is a prime example of this bias.  We also summarized a simple system that can be used to capture some of this bias (see below).  In this updated article, we include some biases that match up well with SportsInsights’ overall philosophy of finding value in the sports marketplace.

Recent Performance of NCAA Tourney Seeds

With so many people involved in NCAA office pools, we studied recent performance of various seeds “against the spread” (ATS) during the first round of the tournament.  Interestingly, the performance over the past five years agrees with the “value” that SportsInsights often finds on large underdogs.

  • Since 2003, #1 and #2 seeds have gone a sub-par 20-25 (44%) against the spread in the first round of the Tournament.  They have won an overwhelming number of those games, but the large point spreads are difficult to overcome.  Note that this performance meshes well with the simple March Madness system we highlight below (large dogs that the public does NOT like).
  • Another tidbit of information is that # 6 and #7 seeds, in the first round, have gone a combined 37-19 (66%) ATS over the past several years.  In 2008, the #6 and #7 seeds went 6-2.  There seems to be some value in this range of seeds.  Perhaps it has to do with the way the Tournament Committee establishes seedings (records and/or performance that give these teams their seeds, have under-valued the #6 and #7 seeds).

Betting Against the Public and Public Games

Betting Against the Public has proven to work across all of the major sports.  Its consistency is remarkable; we have seen that Betting Against the Public and SportsInsights’ Square Plays have consistently won in the 53%-57% range, on average.  We have also seen that this approach of Betting Against the Public works particularly well in “big games” or “games of national focus.”  The rationale is that with more of the public watching a game, more public biases occur in the sports betting marketplace (such as betting on “favorites” and “overs”).  This leads to an increase in the edge for “sharp bettors.”

Number of Bets

SportsInsights collects and displays numerous sports marketplace indicators, with Betting Percentages being its most popular.  Betting Percentages are very useful at helping to uncover value in the sports marketplace.  We also feel, however, that other indicators – such as the Number of Bets are important as well.

Using a simple system that typically takes College Hoops underdogs, we overlaid a filter that uses only the top 1/3 of games in terms of number of bets.  The winning percentage increased by more than 2%!  This makes sense, because games with public interest will lead to overpriced favorites.  The moral of the story: if you are Betting Against the Public, focus on the games where there is a lot of Public interest.  

March Madness: Putting things Together

The great thing about March Madness is that many of these factors come together to help make SportsInsights’ betting systems and tools even more effective for our Members.  We have the whole country watching the tournament due to all of the office pools.  The increased attention leads to an increased number of bets — and an increase in public biases.  The team at SportsInsights decided to see how our basic sports marketplace indicators performed during this time of “national focus” on “March Madness.” 

Using our College Basketball database that goes back over the past five seasons — and over 12,000 games — we looked at a simple system.

During March and April, betting on a team that has a:

  • Betting Percentage less than 30%
  • and is an Underdog of 11 points or more
  • Has yielded a winning percentage of 56% over the past several seasons.  

Smart Money

An even stronger use of “betting percentages” is to combine it with “line movement.”’s members will recognize this as our Smart Money Betting System.  We won’t go over Smart Money methods since SportsInsights has several good articles (including this one on College Hoops) on that topic.  Suffice it to say that using line moves in combination with betting percentages are a very powerful method of finding out where the Smart Money is going.


College basketball offers sports investors many investment opportunities — and at the same time, many challenges.  We have reviewed some tools that sports investors can use for college hoops.  This includes’s bread-and-butter sports tools such as Betting Percentages and Line Moves.  In addition, we highlighted the Number of Bets — which is often overlooked as an indicator.  Now, let the Madness begin — and let the “sports investing profits” roll in!  Good luck!

We do not guarantee that the trends and biases we’ve found will continue to exist. It is impossible to predict the future. Any serious academic research in the field of “market efficiencies” recognizes that inefficiencies may disappear over time. Once inefficiencies are discovered, it is only a matter of time before the market corrects itself. We do not guarantee our data is error-free. However, we’ve tried our best to make sure every score and percentage is correct.