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How to Bet on March Madness: Ultimate Betting Strategy

Written by: Grant Mitchell
Updated March 18, 2024
12 min read
  •  March Madness 2024 runs from March 19 to April 8

  •  38 states and Washington D.C. have legalized sports betting

  •  “Selection Sunday” on March 17 sets the bracket

Can you feel it in the air? March Madness is back for its 2024 installment, and it’s just a matter of time until a 68-team field is cut down until one final champion emerges.

The widely loved college basketball tournament is one of the best times of the year to be a sports fan. But beyond that, it’s also one of the best times to get involved in sports betting because of the bevy of betting lines involving players, teams, and future champions.

Our goal is to arm you with as much knowledge as possible ahead of March Madness 2024, whether it be teams to watch for, betting strategies, past trends and precedents, and everything in between. So stick with us, and let’s talk about how to make your March Madness betting experience a resounding success.

March Madness Betting Guide

Sports betting is legal in 38 states and Washington D.C. Several new states, including Florida, Kentucky, Maine, and Vermont, launched sports betting markets after the conclusion of the 2023 NCAA Tournament, meaning that 2024 will be the first time they allow locals to wager on the competition.

Every state has different rules when it comes to sports betting, so consult our state pages to find out what is and isn’t available in your area.

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There is a wide variety of sportsbooks that are available to bettors during March Madness. Market leaders such as FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, and Caesars are well-known faces in sports betting, while newer entities such as ESPN Bet and Fanatics are quickly becoming fan favorites.

There are also exciting opportunities on bet365, BetRivers, and many more sportsbooks, which is why it’s important to weigh your personal preferences with the available features.

States Where Gamblers Can Bet on the NCAA Tournament

As we mentioned, 76% of states have already legalized sports betting. That includes market leaders in New York, New Jersey, and Ohio, among others.

Despite that, the two most-populated states, California and Texas, do not allow locals to engage in the sweet sweat of sports betting. Meanwhile, legislation is floating around in Georgia, Minnesota, and Alabama, though change is not a guarantee.

All of the states that allow sports betting in some form are as follows:

  • Arizona

  • Arkansas

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • Florida

  • Illinois

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Kentucky

  • Louisiana

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan

  • Mississippi

  • Montana

  • Nebraska

  • Nevada

  • New Hampshire

  • New Jersey

  • New Mexico

  • New York

  • North Carolina

  • North Dakota

  • Ohio

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

  • Rhode Island

  • South Dakota

  • Tennessee

  • Vermont

  • Virginia

  • Washington

  • Washington D.C.

  • West Virginia

  • Wisconsin

  • Wyoming

States with In-Person-Only March Madness Betting 

While placing bets from the comfort of your couch, or while you’re out grabbing wings with a few friends, is both simple and convenient, there are several states that require bettors to place their wagers in-person at retail facilities.

Those states include:

  • Delaware

  • Mississippi

  • Montana

  • Nebraska

  • New Mexico

  • North Dakota

  • South Dakota

  • Washington

  • Wisconsin

States Where March Madness Betting is Illegal

Anyone who lives in the following states will have to rely on the excitement of strictly the games to carry them through March Madness:

  • Alabama

  • Alaska

  • California

  • Georgia

  • Hawaii

  • Idaho

  • Minnesota

  • Missouri

  • Oklahoma

  • South Carolina

  • Texas

  • Utah

How to Bet on March Madness Brackets

The March Madness viewership experience just isn’t the same without a bracket.

Don’t worry if yours busts early—there’s a 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 chance of your bracket finishing unblemished. But that only adds to the excitement as you attempt to defy the odds and make friends and rivals with your biggest successes and disappointments.

College basketball fans frequently join bracket groups where they can track each other’s progress and compete to see who can accumulate the most points for each correct game prediction. These brackets can be free or paid, resulting in prize payouts for the top finisher(s).

You can apply the logic from your bracket to a variety of bets at legal sports betting sites. For example, if you’re extremely confident in your projected national champion, then you can navigate to the futures section of a sportsbook and slap down a wager on the team you picked to win it all.

Another example of a way to translate your bracket to betting is by picking a matchup and a team you like and assigning a stake to the outcome. But be careful—they don’t call it March Normality!

Now, let’s talk about how to get your March Madness betting experience started by detailing how to fill out a bracket.

How to Fill Out a March Madness Betting Bracket

60 teams are locked into the bracket, while eight others compete for the final four spots by playing a one-and-done matchup on either the first or second day of the tournament. Some brackets do not lock until the start of the third day’s games, meaning that bettors still have time to adjust their submissions depending on the result of the play-in games, while others count all games.

Every bracket is broken into four regions, each with 16 seeds. Every team in each region will receive a seed ranging from 1-16, and they will compete against each other in inverse order. For example, No. 1 will face No. 16 in the first round, while No. 2 will face No. 15, No. 3 will take on No. 14, and so on.

What makes March Madness brackets so difficult is predicting not just the first-round games but which teams will win matchups later in the bracket. For example, to correctly predict an Elite Eight matchup, you must have already correctly predicted six game results (both teams’ results in the Round of 64, Round of 32, and Sweet 16).

Be very wary of potential upsets, which are plentiful in the tournament.

One bettor risked $100 on the underdog moneyline in every game during the 2023 NCAA Tournament. They finished 24-43 but profited $1,900 by the end of the tournament. 

What Do You Need to Know to Fill Out a March Madness Bracket?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a die-hard college basketball fan or a novice just looking to see what all of the hype is about. Filling out a bracket is like a rite of passage, and nobody will judge you if yours doesn’t perform well.

Bracket-making apps will allow you to view key stats and results from both teams with ease, making it easy to compare them head-to-head. However, we have a few tips that you won’t find on those apps.

One of our favorites is to watch out for streaky teams. Teams play their Round of 64 and Round of 32 matchups on the same weekend and then repeat the process for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, so if an underdog pulls an upset in one of them, there’s a strong chance they’ll carry that momentum into the next game.

This is especially apparent during the first week of games. So if you’re backing a lesser-heralded team in the Round of 64, consider bumping them through the Round of 32 as well.

It’s also important to be aware of which teams, players, and coaches have the most experience in the tournament.

Give a moment to consider the storyline dynamics that are at play. The University of Virginia, for example, became the first No. 1 seed ever to lose in the Round of 64 in 2018, only to come right back and win the whole shebang the next year.

Purdue joined UVA and became the second No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed last year, falling to Fairleigh Dickinson University. We aren’t promising anything, but keep an eye on them.

Has Anyone Predicted a Perfect March Madness Bracket?

No one has ever filled out a perfect March Madness bracket—that is, nobody until you this year!

Look, to call a perfect bracket a long shot would be an understatement. With one in 9.2 quintillion odds (boosted to 1 in 120.2 billion for regular fans, per the NCAA), it’s going to take quite the draw to reach perfection.

In 2014, billionaire Warren Buffet offered $1 billion to anyone who could successfully predict every game. Needless to say, he stayed a rich man.

Gregg Nigl of Columbus, Ohio has the record for the longest (confirmed) steak of perfection. He correctly predicted the first 49 games in 2019 before falling apart on the 50th, beating the previous record (39) set in 2017.

Who Will Win the 2024 March Madness?

Part of the draw of March Madness is the mystery behind who will win. With so many strong teams playing, anybody can win it all.

Let’s take a look at some of the teams that we think have the best shot at winning the National Championship!

1. UConn Huskies

Connecticut won March Madness 2023, winning every game by 13+ points. They lost a couple of key contributors such as Andre Jackson Jr., Jordan Hawkins, and Adama Sanogo, but still returned with a talented lineup and finished the regular season 28-3. College hoops statistics site KenPom ranks UConn as the second-best team in the country thanks to the second-ranked offense and top-ranked defense.

2. Houston Cougars

The Cougars were often criticized and disregarded because they played in a weaker conference. All they did in the first year in the Big 12 was win the regular-season title by also going 28-3 and 5-1 against top 25 teams. They have the best defense in the country by a wide margin, are aggressive on the boards, and have legitimate individual scorers they missed in years past.

3. Purdue Boilermakers

The Boilermakers lost in the Round of 64 last year, which means they’re hungrier than ever. They’re captained by reigning Wooden Award winner and 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, who averaged 24.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks. They also went 28-3 with marquee wins against Tennessee and Arizona en route to a Big Ten title.

4. Arizona Wildcats

The Wildcats went 24-7 and won the Pac-12 thanks to a tremendous balance and dominance on the glass. Transfer guard Caleb Love paced the team with 18.5 points per night, while center Oumar Ballo averaged a double-double. This team plays fearless basketball, and everyone contributes on both ends.

5. Tennessee Volunteers

The Vols went 24-7 and traversed a loaded end-of-year schedule, meaning they are battle-tested and ready to fight for their first Final Four appearance in school history. Transfer Dalton Knecht led them with 21.4 points per night, while their defense regularly smothered opponents and beat them into submission. If there is a concern with this group, it’s that they lost to Purdue, Kansas, and North Carolina in a three-game run early in the season.

Tips for Betting on 2024 March Madness

We’re still trying to figure out how to fill out a perfect bracket, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a few tips to share with you as you prepare to take on the one-in-9.2 quintillion odds. Here are five tips for betting on March Madness.

1. Pick Upsets

As we mentioned earlier, betting on the underdog can be and has been profitable. Whereas the NBA almost always results in the better team winning because of its best-of-seven series, anything can happen in a one-off game. Teams that are objectively better than their opponent will lose, and you don’t want to get caught with your tail between your legs.

2. Check the Numbers

Research will always be key in sports betting. Look into trends, averages, recent performances, experience, rankings, times, location, injuries, and everything else that can possibly give you the edge. 

3. Review Previous Matchups

Let’s pretend there’s a matchup you aren’t sure about. You’re leaning toward Team A, but Team B beat them by 25 points during the conference tournament. It might be a good idea to lean toward them since they already figured out a way to win the matchup.

At the same time, it can be difficult to beat a time multiple times in a row. If Team A beat Team B three times during the regular season and conference tournament, you’ll have to figure out if that will help or hurt them in their fourth meeting of the year.

4. Looks for Stylistic Differences

Everyone’s heard it before, but styles make fights. If there’s one team that has a prolific offense but plays at a breakneck pace, they could easily run into trouble if they play a physical, defensive-minded team that grinds possessions to a halt and forces lots of turnovers.

Conversely, if one team excels at interior defense but is taking on a squad full of three-point shooters, their best quality doesn’t do much for them. It’s these types of differences that can help separate teams that might look similar on paper.

5. Adjust to the Hot Hands

There is at least one, if not multiple, Cinderella stories nearly every year. You might not be able to predict them from the start, but if you notice a “team of destiny,” don’t be afraid to throw the regular season out the window and ride with them on their journey to a deep tournament run.

Best Team to Bet on in March Madness 2024

UConn is the favorite for a reason. They rank first in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency on KenPom and have a tremendous coach in Dan Hurley who led a team to a title just one year ago.

Houston made it to the Final Four in 2021 but has not made the championship game since 1984. They rank first on KenPom and in the NET and are second in shot quality, and their energy and effort levels are truly a sight to behold.

Auburn could be a sleeping giant. Although they’re still near the top of the odds, they’ve been overlooked for UConn, Houston, Purdue, and even other SEC schools such as Tennessee and Kentucky. The Tigers were in the top 10 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency rankings, though they did lose to both UT and UK during the regular season.

Marquette is a dark horse contender to pay attention to. They’re hanging out around 10th in odds but are top 20 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, have two elite players in Kam Jones and Tyler Kolek (both of whom average 15+ points and 40+ percent from three-point territory), and have experience playing against tough teams following a grueling Big East schedule. 

Most Popular March Madness Bets

March Madness Futures

A futures bet is simply a bet that will be decided at a future date. The most common type of March Madness futures bet is the future champion, though bettors can also pick if a team will make the Final Four or championship game, among other options.

  • Odds are constantly changing 

  • Bets can be placed at any time during the regular or postseason all the way until the final game

March Madness Moneylines

This is a straight-up pick on which team will win a single game. Win or go home.

  • Consider the risk-reward ratio of betting odds

  • Don’t be afraid to back the underdog, especially during March Madness

March Madness Spreads

Spreads “spot” points to the perceived lesser of two teams in a matchup, almost like a handicap in golf.

Think about which team is more likely to cover the spread based on styles of play, who’s hot and who isn’t, and how you believe the game will unfold. Remember that teams will play the foul-and-shoot-free-throws game late in the second half if needed, which could introduce a level of variability depending on which team makes their shots.

  • Remember that teams don’t need to win to cover

  • Spreads are more realistic ways to bet on underdogs

March Madness Totals

Bet whether the final score will result in more or less than the predicted amount of points. As we mentioned earlier, be wary that there will be lots of late-game free throws in close games, which makes betting on the under even riskier.

March Madness also features lots of buzzer-beating shots and overtime thrillers, which is also worth considering before placing your bets.

  • Think about late-game dynamics

  • Analyze matchups and styles to predict the final score

March Madness Parlays

State laws will determine how extravagant your parlays can be. While certain states open their doors to college prop betting (more on that in just a moment), others limit bettors to major markets, such as spread, totals, and moneylines.

March Madness parlays are multiple picks combined into one bet that offers a larger potential payout—the only catch is that every pick must hit for the bet to cash.

  • Earn larger prizes by adding more picks to your parlay

  • Lose the entire bet if one or more picks lose

March Madness Props

Props can be based on teams or players. For example, a bettor could predict that UConn will score more than 45.5 points in the first half, or they could wager money on Tyler Kolek to finish with less than 7.5 assists.

State laws determine whether prop betting is allowed on college sports. Even states that allow college prop betting sometimes prohibit player props or props involving in-state schools and universities, so consult our state pages to see what is available to you.

  • Bet on parts of the game not directly related to the final score

  • Rules differ depending on the state you are in

March Madness Live Betting

Live betting involves placing wagers on games that are already in progress. This is a great opportunity for “sharp bettors” who can sense how a game will unfold to make a bit of coin even after tip-off 

The American Gaming Association estimated that 35-40% of the total amount of money wagered on March Madness 2024 will be rooted in live bets. Just don’t get caught chasing losses, which is one of the most effective ways to lose your bankroll.

  • Place bets on games even after they start

  • React to how games are unfolding and bet accordingly

March Madness 2024 FAQ

When is March Madness 2024?

Where is March Madness 2024?

Who Won March Madness in 2023?

Which School Won the Most March Madness Titles?

Has a Team Ever Won March Madness Two Years in a Row?

What is the Highest Seed to Win March Madness?

How Often Does a No. 1 Seed Win March Madness?

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AUTHOR

Grant Mitchell

528 Articles

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.

In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.

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