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March Madness Championship Game: Betting Lines on College Basketball’s Final Tip-OffBy Kurt Boyer
As most FanDuel readers are aware, the 2020 NCAA tourney has been cancelled due to fears of the spreading Coronavirus. But if the sadly-shortened college hoops season has you pining for the hardwood, it’s not too early to get a jump on 2021.
Scroll ahead for a course on betting the final showdown of the NCAA’s annual college basketball tournament.
In a sense, the Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship Game is an event all its own, separate from the NCAA Tournament. Not in a bad way. Just the same as a World Series is removed from the pageantry of a pennant, or how the final Men’s Ice Hockey match at a Winter Olympics is played while everyone else is packing to leave town.
All of the successful teams in the tourney have been celebrated as of the Final Four. Realizing there are close to 400 Division 1 basketball teams competing in the NCAA, fans and pundits alike drop their negative banter and hail the schools which have proven to be among the top 16 or 8 or 4 out of the whole hoops landscape.
But there’s a small bit of unfinished business. Who’s going to win the darn thing? Who’ll cut down the nets and sing the fight song with a victorious student section, as the great Jim Valvano and his NC State Wolfpack once did?
March Madness championship games are not always classics. However, it’s the prospect of another great title game flashing before our eyes that brings viewers back every time. Everyone likes to gather for the championship game. But if people are paying too much attention to the fried shrimp and guacamole, it’s because they’ve seen it turn into a blow-out or a low-scoring dud far too many times.
That’s where betting on the title tilt comes in. Those who have wagered on the odds are just as likely to be rooting for a blow-out as cheering for a close finish. About half of Over/Under bettors are likely to be hoping shots miss instead of go in. When your science is predicting the outcome, the hardwood shines in a whole new light.
Let’s look at some common betting markets and odds on college basketball’s championship tip-off…and glance at how fortunes have been won (and bets unluckily lost) on March Madness finales of the past.
March Madness Championship Game: Betting Options at the Sportsbook
You can expect to find hundreds, even thousands of unique betting and bracket-sweepstakes opportunities at FanDuel and other providers throughout March. Proposition, or “prop” betting boards will switch from pre-tournament Most Outstanding Player odds and funky “mascot” prop bets to questions surrounding the final game in April.
Will the fearsome power-forward from Basketball U. dominate with another double-double in the championship game? You can gamble on that. You can also select “no” in the proposition, at similar odds, and cheer for the same player to get in foul trouble.
Non-hoops fans will indulge in betting games and “squares” contests based on the Final Four, just as casual viewers do on a different weekend in February. But for serious hardwood junkies, there’s nothing like predicting the outcome of the contest.
That’s what the basic gambling odds are for. Armchair pundits can speculate on the moneyline odds, the point-spread line, or the O/U total of an NCAA championship game. Scroll further for some history of successful speculating and betting on March Madness championship games, or check below for a refresher course on the main betting lines.
March Madness Championship Game Moneylines, Point Spreads, and Totals
Moneyline odds offer a risk and reward on a team to win a game straight-up. The moneyline is always expressed in a number relative to $100.
If NC State carries (-150) moneyline odds to win, that means for every $150 wagered on the Wolfpack, the house will pay out $100 if the team wins the game. On the underdog side, moneyline odds represent the amount paid out on won $100 bets if the ‘dog prevails. (+180) odds equal a $180 payout on $100, (+310) odds represent $310 payout on the same risk, and so on.
Point spreads are another popular NCAA basketball betting market, displayed with a “line” representing the expected margin-of-victory for the favorites. A favorite’s point spread will be shown with a “minus” symbol next to a whole number or a halved fraction, such as (-4) or (-4.5), while an underdog in the NCAA Tournament championship game would be represented (+4) or (+4.5) on the other side of the market, with the underdog’s gamblers spotted 4 or (almost) 5 points before the game begins.
March Madness bracketology is complicated. But the O/U line is easy to understand. Over/Under or “O/U” bets are the simplest sports betting market available, asking whether the total amount of points scored in the contest will exceed or fall short of the O/U number. NCAA Tournament gamblers find Over/Unders displayed as whole numbers or halved fractions, like (143.5) or (143 ½), the latter style of O/U line preventing a “push” outcome if the final score tallies exactly 143 or 144 points. Once again, payoff odds are listed next to the “O” and the “U” in an Over/Under, usually (-110) odds or a similar number.
Great Betting “Wins” From the NCAA D1 Championship Game
Experienced sports gamblers speak in terms of “wins” and “beats.” The slang term “bad beat” refers to a scenario in which a bet seemed to be winning…until it didn’t.
Butler faithful and “Over” bettors alike suffered a “bad beat” in 2011, when the Bulldogs faced the UConn Huskies for a national title in Houston. As Connecticut played solid, unremarkable basketball in the 1st half, those who expected Butler to keep producing on offense waited patiently for the Bulldogs to warm up and start scoring. Except it never happened. Brad Stevens’ squad was clearly affected by the stadium setting and couldn’t hit a jump shot, going less than 20% from the field and losing 53-41.
The outcome of the 2011 March Madness championship game was so clearly affected by Reliant Stadium that it inspired a whole new style of “Under” betting on the Final Four.
But the NCAA’s flagship tournament also heralds the coming of spring, and in spring, optimism rules the day. There have been plenty of great wins for savvy gamblers throughout the history of the D1 championship game.
Winning college hoops gamblers know to “fade the public,” or bet against any movement in the odds caused by a fan base caught-up in the hype. The publicity machine of NCAA basketball allows casual fans to get the wrong impression and think an NCAAM title is “in the bag” when the championship game can actually go either way.
Betting against iconic programs can be a ticket to profits. UCLA collected a fair share of moneyline bets for the 2006 NCAA championship game, as the basketball-focused campus had claimed a Men’s D1 title as recently as 1995, while opposing Florida had never won the hardware and was far-better known for its exploits on the gridiron. But the Gators romped 73-57 and won the national title. Duke had already disappointed “sure thing” bettors in a similar way in 1994, losing the championship game to Arkansas after inspiring countless “legacy” bets at the sportsbook on the Blue Devils to win.
Everyone’s favorite March Madness upset is North Carolina State beating the “Phi Slama Jama” Houston Cougars in 1983. But think about the NC State vs Houston championship game in betting terms for a moment. “Phi Slama Jama” was a national sensation, while most fans knew the Wolfpack as an undersized Cinderella team of the sort that never goes 2-0 in the Final Four. Houston was a (-7.5) point spread favorite and carried moneyline odds of (-350). Gamblers who had considered all the angles – including the fatigue element for a fast-break team at The Pit in Albuquerque – were more likely to have chosen NC State’s odds to win and cashed-in on a 3-to-1 moneyline ticket.
Imagine what live-betting on the 1983 championship would have been like with the technology available at sportsbooks today! Without a shot clock or a 3-point line to worry about, and since Valvano had tricked the media into reporting that NC State was going to stall the ball against Houston, the O/U line would have sunk in the opening minutes. Then the “Over” markets would have experienced a gold-rush of bets as future All-Star professionals like Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon began running up and down in a faster-paced game than pundits had expected. Finally, as Olajuwon grew ill playing in the thin atmosphere of ABQ, “Over” bettors who had bought-into a sky-high line would have felt a little queasy themselves.
Sometimes, though, it pays off to handicap the betting favorite as the true favorite. Villanova’s 2018 squad may not have been full of players who would become immediate household names in pro basketball. But the Wildcat coaching staff had a fantastic March Madness record under Jay Wright, and ‘Nova possessed a forward in Omari Spellman who could close-out NCAA tourney wins with 15+ “trash collector” points on the offensive glass. Michigan, a sympathetic underdog ever since the Fab Five called its fatal time-out in the 1993 Final Four, was considered a solid pick to hold the Wildcats close at (+6.5) on the spread. Sympathy was no match for dynamic offense in the championship game, and favorites-to-cover gamblers celebrated an easy win before the nets were clipped. Spellman snagged 11 rebounds while unheralded Donte DiVincenzo dominated the score sheet for Villanova in a graceful 79-62 win to claim the national championship.
Remember that a percentage of all bets taken is swayed by media coverage and emotion. Follow shifting March Madness betting lines at FanDuel Sportsbook from day to day, not week to week, even if you only plan to bet once a week. Timing is key when making that cool-headed pick on a favorite to prevail in the Final Four. Get the best price you can on the best team taking the court.
Betting Odds on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game in 2020
FanDuel will be happy to preview the Division 1 title game when 2 opponents are booked to play at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on April 6th. But in a way, the betting odds on the title game are already out there – we just don’t know which teams will necessarily play in it.
That’s what NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship futures odds are – odds on every contending team to reach the championship game and win it.
As conference tournaments get rolling across the United States, proven Top 10 powerhouse Kansas (+600) rules the championship futures odds board. Big 12 rival Baylor is also a popular pick at (+1000), but not without Gonzaga (+900) of the West Coast Conference sitting in-between at 9-to-1 odds to cut down the nets. Dayton (+1300) of the Atlantic 10 and San Diego State (+1900) join Gonzaga as regular-season champions of modest conferences on which lots of futures dollars are being staked.
There will always be a push-and-pull between bettors who value “power” conference schools to win the March Madness championship game, and those willing to wager on an upstart from a lesser league. Since 1977, the representatives of 5 total conferences have won every NCAA tourney crown. Heck, the Big Ten hasn’t won it in 20 years. Yet at the same time it’s hard to look at Gonzaga in 2020 and not think the FIBA-style squad can hang with the big shots in April, should the Bulldogs get that far.
More on March Madness Betting at FanDuel Sportsbook
The NCAA Men’s Basketball title will be decided soon enough. But more than half the fun is getting there!
Click around FanDuel’s NCAA Tournament blog to discover tips, touts, and information on the upcoming big dance. Be prepared when it’s time to fill-out a bracket, and relish the ease of predicting match-ups between teams who already look familiar.
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