The March Madness basketball tournament makes March the biggest month for betting in America; this series will tell you everything you need to know.
When most people think of American sports two things are likely to pop into their minds first: endless, boring baseball games and the Super Bowl. Especially the Super Bowl, which is the single most-watched television event in America and in terms of cultural significance is on par with Christmas and Thanksgiving. But how many of you know that the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) annual basketball tournament is the most bet-on sporting event in the country?
The event, which is called “March Madness” in popular speech, covers 63 games over a span of three weeks. 68 teams compete in a single-elimination tournament for the coveted trophy and title of National Champion. This March 2014 will feature thrilling upsets, magical comebacks and crushing collapses. Nobodies will become celebrities overnight, and the next generation of professional basketball stars will be born.
The country will be captivated by basketball. Every year employers and managers complain that workplace productivity falls significantly during the last two weeks of March and the first week of April. Time Magazine reported that productivity losses due to employees checking scores and watching live streams during work hours costs businesses hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Most importantly, March Madness dwarfs the Super Bowl and all other sporting events in terms of money wagered, much of which to go to online sportsbooks in Canada and Britain.
History of March Madness
The first ever NCAA basketball tournament was held in 1939 and featured only eight teams. Since then it has continually grown in popularity and size, with the field expanding from 64 to 68 teams in 2011. The University of California-Los Angeles has emerged as champion a record 11 times, followed by Kentucky with 8 championships and Indiana and North Carolina with 5 each.
• The first-ever NCAA basketball tournament was held in 1939 and featured only eight teams; it has since grown to 68 teams playing 63 games total
• In 2011 $12 billion were bet on March Madness, double the total wager on the Super Bowl
• Most bettors fill out a complete 63-game bracket prior to the beginning of the tournament, then live-or-die with their initial predictions
Some thrilling upsets have occurred throughout the event’s rich history, including little-known Lehigh’s victory over hegemon Duke University in 2012. However, a #16 (lowest-possible) seed has never beaten a #1 (highest-possible) seed. So, it’s usually a good bet to choose the high seeds to win, upsets be damned.
The tournament has even played an important role for social progress in America. In 1966 Texas Western University, which featured a team of all black players, beat all-white Kentucky (which did not even allow black students to attend, let alone play basketball) to win the national championship in one of the biggest upsets in history. The game was seen as a symbolic victory for racial inclusion, and the integration of universities.
How to bet on March Madness
Interested bettors can place wagers on March Madness in three ways: filling out a complete bracket, betting on single-events or parlay betting, and making prop bets on in-game events not related to the outcome. Far away the most common is to fill out a complete bracket prior to the start of the tournament. You select winners for all 63 games in one go, then watch your bracket rise to the top, or turn into dust.
While there is some science involved, the results of the tournament are notoriously difficult to predict. No amount of research will give you a likely chance of winning. My annual ritual is to fill out the bracket in a manner of minutes while relying on instinct rather than reason to make each choice, and I’ve been pretty successful. For the most part, you just have to hope that the favor of the basketball (and betting) gods shine upon you.
To prep you for March Madness 2014 we’ve compiled an endless database of information and analyses on the “undisputed biggest betting month of the year,” covering topics ranging everywhere from sportsbetting laws in Delaware to major betting scandals to Barack Obama’s bracket selections. We hope this brief rundown of each article will whet your appetite:
Larger than Life: March Madness is Bigger than the Super Bowl
March Madness takes in roughly twice as much in wagers as the Super Bowl in any given year, topping $12 billion in 2011. Part of the reason is the excitement of filling out a complete tournament bracket in one go, another reason is the universal appeal of basketball which American football cannot hope to match.
A Beginner’s Guide: How to Bet on March Madness
The majority of wagers are placed on complete brackets filled out on the day before the tournament begins. However, bettors can also place bets on single events and ever-popular prop bets. While sportsbetting is a game of skill, choosing the outcomes of 67 games requires a tremendous amount of luck. Painstaking research in preparation for filling out your bracket is most likely a waste of time.
A Beginner’s Guide: Where to Legally Place Bets on March Madness 2014
While the games will be held in the US, American gambling laws are notoriously strict. Nevada is the only state in which sportsbooks can legally take bets on basketball events. There are not many options for Americans to legally bet on March Madness. However, countless international bookies take wagers from players worldwide.
A National Obsession: Are March Madness Office Pools Legal?
Everyone and their mother enters an informal “office pool,” putting down small amounts of cash to compete against co-workers and friends. An estimated $3 billion was bet this way in 2011, utterly dwarfing the $100 million bet legally in Vegas.
Aside from enjoying the games, it’s important to give yourself a decent chance at winning. Oddsmakers are currently favoring Florida, Syracuse, Kansas and Duke to as the top teams. Despite being likely to receive a #1 seed, Wichita State is not getting much attention from oddsmakers.
The Teams Who Came in From the Cold: March Madness Bubble Teams to Bet On
March 16th is Selection Sunday, the fateful day on which the selection committee will decide who qualifies and who cries into their popcorn while watching the tournament from home. “Bubble teams” are those on the fence, who could conceivably be in or out of the tournament.
The Fantastic Seven: Betting on this year’s Most Outstanding Player
Young players appear to be the favorites when betting on the March Madness MOP 2014. While most of them come from high-profile schools, there a few diamonds in the rough as well.
Foreign Imports to Make a Splash at March Madness
One of the most beautiful things about basketball is its universal appeal, and the NCAA has always brought in great players from around the world. The top international players in March Madness 2014 include Joel Embiid of Cameroon and Andrew Wiggins of Canada.
Filling out a bracket is thrilling enough. But there is nothing wrong with mixing in a few prop bets to maximize the fun. These are the bets we’d love to make this March.
The Quest for Perfection and $1 Billion of Warren Buffet’s Money
Billionaire tycoon Warren Buffet has announced he will give $1 billion to anyone who fills out a flawless bracket. The chances of someone doing so are less than microscopic. A perfect March Madness bracket has never been chosen, but some people have come damn close.
Every year audiences watch a televised broadcast of the President picking his winners for the tournament. Barack Obama is a renowned basketball fan, so his picks receive special attention. Ol’ Barry has made some interesting choices in the past, and fans are excited to see who he chooses this year.
Delaware’s Quest to Become a March Madness Betting Hub
1992 federal law prohibited sportsbetting in all but four states: Delaware, Nevada, Montana and Illinois. But because of a legal quirk, Nevada can takes bets this March while Delaware cannot. Delaware has recently appealed the federal government for the right to hold sportsbetting, including legal March Madness betting.
Beware the Ides of March: Why March Madness Gambling Addiction Could be a Bigger Problem in 2014
All of the glorious madness of March comes with a price: the madness of gambling addiction. There are some indications that March Madness gambling addiction could be more harmful than other forms of problem gambling.
While clean in recent decades, betting on March Madness has been wrought with controversy in the past. Numerous point-shaving and match-fixing scandals have tarnished the reputation of America’s most popular sporting event.
A big part of the fun every March are the unexpected upset games, like the abovementioned Lehigh victory over Duke in 2012. When betting on March Madness one big upset can make or break your entire bracket. Some cases have meant big money for bookmakers.