- These eight teams have been undervalued betting commodities throughout the year.
- Some, like Kent State and Pitt, could be great bets during the first week.
- Others, like Marquette or UConn, could be good bets in the futures markets.
It’s tournament time. Finally.
Monday morning during the first week of the NCAA Tournament means a lot of things. Most likely, it means you’re ignoring emails from your boss, reaching for the nearest printable NCAA Tournament bracket, and scouring the latest March Madness college basketball odds, hunting for value.
I’ve already gone through several cups of coffee and three different brackets, making notes and researching trends. I’ve done the heavy lifting so you don’t have to!
NCAA Tournament Betting
As you’re likely aware by now, the BetMGM online sportsbook has every possible market you can imagine for all your NCAA Tournament needs. That includes single-round straight bets, Sweet 16 futures, national championship odds, and more.
I’ll have a lot of betting content this week on how to attack these markets. For this article, though, I wanted to highlight a few teams that are classically undervalued in a betting sense heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Every team here has a great ATS record this season, but many of them have additional reasons to bet them beyond just positive ROI in 2023.
March Madness Odds: UConn
I wrote about this a bit last week, but UConn has had a pretty strange season. The Huskies ripped through the first two months of the season, and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. They were a top-tier favorite in the NCAAB championship odds market at one point.
Then, in January, they posted a sub-.500 record. Everyone jumped off the bandwagon, and bettors were left with a lot of losing tickets.
But UConn has returned to form for the most part and is looking at a pretty reasonable path to the Elite Eight. Kansas is a vulnerable No. 1 seed with average guard play and an ailing big man; VCU and Saint Mary’s won’t scare me off. (I live in Richmond and watch a lot of VCU.)
On the season, UConn is 21-11-1 ATS, which is nice. But what really matters is its market value since Feb. 1, when the Huskies started getting back into gear. That mark is 7-3.
March Madness Odds: Kansas State
A No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament ain’t too shabby for a team picked to finish dead last in the Big 12.
Kansas State has been overlooked in a rugged Big 12 all year, which is how it wound up with a very clean 21-11 ATS record in the nation’s best conference.
Montana State is a dangerous team, but the Bobcats were a trendy 14-over-3 upset pick last year against Texas Tech. My gut tells me that this year’s prognosticating could bring a similar result.
I like the Wildcats to continue winning, and I’ll be sure to check them out on a game-by-game basis.
March Madness Odds: Marquette
Marquette has the same thing every team on this list has — a good ATS record. It’s 21-12-1 against the spread this year, so it has been in a great ROI position. Cool.
But Marquette is also a team I’m buying on a broader tournament competition level beyond just individual straight bets. It won a Big East tournament that had a lot of high-level competition at the top. It’s also 14-1 across its last 15 games, with the only loss coming at UConn. Respectable.
Marquette also plays in arguably the most winnable region of the tournament, with clumsy Purdue at the top and non-threatening middle seeds like Tennessee and Kentucky filling out the middle. Kansas State and Duke are the only teams I’m looking at right now that really frighten me.
Marquette is +450 to reach the Final Four and 25-to-1 to win the national championship. These are excellent numbers worth considering, given the path.
March Madness Odds: Kent State
So far, I’ve mostly focused on high-major teams that have defied market expectations in spite of the media and betting attention that success in those conferences often yields.
However, I would be remiss in my duties as your betting analyst if I did not mention Kent State here. The Golden Flashes posted impressive performances in the nonconference schedule against Houston and Gonzaga before winning the conference tournament for an increasingly underrated MAC.
What has the MAC champion done of late? Well, last season, No. 13 seed Akron (+13.5) came very close to knocking UCLA out in the first round, losing 57-53. In 2021, Ohio (+7) upset reigning national champion UVA in the first round, 62-58, before losing to Creighton in the second round.
How about 2019, before the COVID cancellation year? That was Buffalo, which was given a No. 6 seed and rolled past No. 11 Arizona State, 91-74. And the previous year, it was Buffalo again — in that familiar No. 13 seed role — that demolished No. 4 Arizona, 89-68.
The MAC has been a really good bet over the last five years, and Kent State (20-1101 ATS) has been a good individual bet this season.
In a pod featuring two deeply vulnerable high-major teams — Miami and Indiana — Kent State might just find its way to the second week.
I’m buying the Golden Flashes at +4.5 in the spread market and +165 in the moneyline market; I’m also buying Kent State to make the Sweet 16 at +700.
March Madness Odds: UCLA
UCLA is a No. 2 seed that’s spent most of this season in the top half of the AP Top 25. The Bruins have been to the second week (or beyond) in each of the last two NCAA Tournaments. So how can they possibly be underrated?
It’s a good question. My best guess is a little bit of good old-fashioned East Coast bias, but it’s just a guess.
Regardless, the stats on this are clear. UCLA is 20-13-1 ATS this season. The Bruins had to lay points in nearly every game they played this year, yet their ATS record is far better than most other teams that have spent all season with a small little number next to their names.
Much has been made of how difficult the West is in this bracket, but UCLA’s path off the bottom edge is actually pretty manageable. That means UCLA is likely a good buy, both in the Final Four market (+300) and potentially on a game-by-game basis.
March Madness Odds: Florida Atlantic
One of my favorite flavors of March Madness fade is anticipatory bias.
Early on CBS or ESPN, you might hear something like: “Woah! Look at that potential matchup in the Sweet 16!”
But how often does that matchup actually materialize?
It’s unwise to bet first-round games based on the mouth-watering nature of potential future matchups.
One place to watch out for this is in the highly anticipated game between Memphis and Florida Atlantic. Purdue is a known NCAA Tournament underachiever, and bracketologists are salivating at the thought of a hot, athletic Memphis squad rending Purdue in the Round of 32.
That could be a disservice to Florida Atlantic, which is 21-10-1 ATS on the season and continually defies market expectations — even after spending several weeks as a ranked team.
Predictably, early tickets on Memphis outnumber FAU at 2-to-1. There’s also possibly some familiarity bias in play here, as Memphis played (and won!) a near-standalone conference title game against Houston on Sunday.
I’m advancing Memphis to the Sweet 16 (+400) in my bracket based on pure game theory, but I’m strongly considering Florida Atlantic +120 as a first-round game bet.
March Madness Odds: Pittsburgh
The First Four was originally implemented for the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Since that year, when VCU went on its magical run from Dayton to the Final Four, a First Four winner has gone on to win a game in the Round of 64 in 10 of 11 seasons!
And, as seen with the Rams, they often win multiple games. Bettors saw this most recently with 2021 UCLA, which also made a run to the Final Four.
It’s wise to roll the dice with a First Four team once it reaches the official first round of the tournament. From a betting standpoint, Pittsburgh is the team that’s been undervalued by the betting market throughout the season — the Panthers are 22-10-1 ATS.
On top of that, No. 11 seeds are the single best ATS bet since 2005. So consider taking the points with Pitt, both in Dayton and then later in the week if it wins.
March Madness Odds: Texas A&M
Along with UConn, this is another team I wrote about a bit last week, but I continue to be mystified by bettors’ aversion to laying money on the Aggies.
This is the second-place team in a pretty good SEC. It finished its regular-season campaign with an outright win over Alabama, which we now know is the No. 1 overall seed in this tournament.
Still, Texas A&M only entered the AP Top 25 in the final weeks of the regular season, and the Aggies are handicapped very conservatively. That explains the 23-11 ATS record, which is among the very best in Division I.
Even now, pundits are foretelling an early doom for Texas A&M. “Watch out for Penn State!” was heard numerous times through Sunday evening television programs.
It’s interesting to see the dissonance currently in the market around this team. A&M, which is on upset alert nearly everywhere, is understandably just a 2.5-point favorite against Penn State. With tickets nearly split in this matchup and low appetite to bet on the Aggies throughout the season, this point spread makes sense.
However, A&M is also a mere +225 to advance to the Sweet 16, which would presumably involve a win over No. 2 Texas after a win over Penn State. The implied odds of that happening are 30%. For comparison, here are the prices for other No. 7 seeds to make the Sweet 16: Michigan State +300; Northwestern +400; Missouri +650.
Texas A&M should win and cover its first-round game against Penn State, setting up a grudge match between the Aggies and Longhorns. And despite what the pundits are saying, the online sportsbook odds are saying that Texas A&M — undervalued throughout the entire season — is absolutely live for the second week of this tournament.
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How To Bet on College Basketball Futures
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