2023 NCAA March Madness: 5 Betting Lessons After the First Two Rounds

profile image of Rainman

Top sportsbooks have been taking in a lot of action on the 2023 NCAA Tournament games. Of course, you want to be part of the betting crowd that is making money. 

With two rounds of NCAA Tournament action now in the books, let’s reflect on what happened and on how, going forward, we can profit. Let’s keep these lessons in mind not only as the rest of the tournament plays out but also for future tournaments so you can always stay ahead of the game for your top NCAAB picks moving forward. 

Out of state? No problem. Check out the best US betting sites available in order to make secure wagers in your own home state.

1. Fade Virginia and Purdue  

Every year, betting against Virginia and Purdue turns out to be a gift. As long as Tony Bennett is UVA’s head coach and Matt Painter is Purdue’s, let’s consider their respective opponents to be no-brainers. 

Now, Tony Bennett has had success in NCAA Tournament play. But his successful teams were stacked with NBA talent — his title-winning team in 2019 featured two first-rounders in Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter and another borderline NBA-caliber talent in Kyle Guy. 

Those three players — Jerome, Hunter, and Guy — helped their team be highly efficient and versatile offensively. They could shoot, so a zone defense was ineffective, but Jerome and Hunter could also attack inside. 

Efficiency is crucial for Virginia because its slow tempo results in lower-scoring games, which puts added pressure on each possession. In order to cover the spread in lower-scoring games, UVA’s scorers have to be highly efficient, and thus it was crucial in 2019 that they had multiple guys who were excellent scorers. 

Tournament Savvy?

Since 2019, Virginia is 0-2 SU and ATS in the NCAA Tournament, losing to 13-seed Ohio and, most recently, to 13-seed Furman. 

Now, Virginia did have some NBA talent when it lost to Ohio. But the Hoos always underperform in March. People say that Tony Bennett’s system doesn’t work in March. The 2019 team has, strictly speaking, disproven that theory, but it hasn’t invalidated it. There is simply a lower margin of error because, in a game with fewer possessions, there are fewer opportunities for the more talented team to show its talent and prevail. 

In Virginia’s case, there is also a personality problem. UVA’s head coach preaches humility and self-denial. His players do not embrace the spotlight.  March Madness is thus an uncomfortable time for them psychologically. In the same vein, they have an awful record when ESPN’s College GameDay team visits Charlottesville. 

As for Purdue, it is not a coincidence that the Boilermakers, too, play at a slow tempo. If you want to rely on a slow-tempo favorite, it better be a highly efficient one. 

For example, Baylor’s title-winning 2021 squad ranked 213th in adjusted tempo but also seventh in effective field goal percentage. Virginia’s 2019 team ranked 19th in effective field goal percentage. Villanova’s 2016 and 2018 championship teams ranked eighth and first, respectively, in the category. 

Purdue, largely due to inefficient offense, is 0-3 SU and ATS in its last three NCAA Tournament games, all coming against a 13 seed or lower.

2. Guards Matter More  

Purdue’s recent loss to a 16 seed highlights another important fact relevant to bettors: don’t trust teams with unreliable guard play

Now, Purdue did have a highly talented guard last year in Jaden Ivey. But his potential effectivity was always undermined by the offense he was playing in. Ivey primarily liked to drive inside, but his driving space was narrowed by the presence of a center disinclined to stretch the floor. 

Having strong center play is helpful in the more physical Big Ten, but impeding one’s own guard play is deleterious to a team’s March endeavors. 

Consider the big upsets this year. The Boilermakers lost to a 16 seed while their starting guards were freshmen and they relied heavily on their center. 

An Arizona reliant primarily on its frontcourt players and held back by the injury sustained by its point guard lost to a 15 seed. A Tennessee team learning to play without its starting point guard (Zakai Zeigler) failed to cover the spread and almost lost to a 14 seed. 

3. Don’t Worry About Betting Percentages  

People are too concerned about so-called trap lines and about what other people are betting on. You need to stop having these concerns and just worry about betting what you like. 

A good example is the last UConn game. A Husky team whom many are taking to win it all was favored by only four points against a low-profile Saint Mary’s team that many people do not know much about. People thought that the line looked fishy and that a significant portion of the bettors’ money was on the Huskies. 

But games are not decided at the betting window. They are decided on the basketball court. On the court, UConn crushed Saint Mary’s, easily covering the spread. If you didn’t play the Huskies, because you didn’t want to be too “public,” then you are probably feeling regret.  

4. Stop Betting Against Alabama 

If every team always plays its best, then Alabama will win it all. The Crimson Tide are just too stacked offensively to ever distrust. 

For example, on paper, one might have said that they matched up poorly against a Terrapin team that guards the perimeter well, which should have been important because the Crimson Tide loves to shoot threes. 

But the Tide still exceeded 70 points in a blowout win because they can also score in other ways. Plus, they play great defense. Even with a below-average shooting performance, they easily covered the spread. 

Expect more of the same going forward: just do not mistrust Alabama, and if you think that oddsmakers are favoring them by too many points at the current NCAAB odds, then stick the ‘Bama ML in a parlay. 

5. Head Coaches Matter  

Bettors are typically inclined to focus on the player matchups. But also consider who is coaching the teams. 

I talked about fading Virginia and Purdue because their head coaches implement a slow-tempo style of play that is not favorable in March Madness. 

But other coaches are also worth fading simply because of their track record in March. Shaka Smart, who now coaches Marquette, is a prime example: he had suffered seven straight NCAA Tournament losses before beating 15-seed Vermont. Rick Barnes is another prime example — possibly no coach does less with his players’ talent than Barnes does in March. Look for his Volunteers to lose soon. 

Spartans, Bruins, and Razorbacks Solid Choices in March

On the contrary, Tom Izzo is a Hall of Fame coach who should be trusted. Consider backing his Michigan State Spartans to advance. UCLA’s Mick Cronin also repeatedly has his Bruins going far. He has the Bruins embodying his tough personality and is a solid defensive coach. 

Likewise, Arkansas’ Eric Musselman annually has his Razorbacks going farther than one thinks they would given their regular season resume. Beating UConn seems possible especially after they just took down Kansas. 

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.