NCAA Basketball Betting: Best Tips To Win Your March Madness Office Pool

Kevin Stott

Saturday, March 5, 2016 8:39 PM UTC

Saturday, Mar. 5, 2016 8:39 PM UTC

Some Conference Tournaments are already underway and March Madness is coming and coming fast, and today we've got the best NCAA Basketball odds for you. 

Before you know it, you will be entering your office pool or an online bracket contest and talking and thinking about seeds and Stephen F. Austin and meaningless Play-In games and all of a sudden Alice in Wonderland will seem sane to you. The Ides of March have become more like the The Wizard of Oz with only four schools making it down that Yellow Brick Road and to the Final Four. Let’s prepare ourselves for the coming Madness, with some aged and fresh strategies for attacking the Brackets and trying to rack up points and make a passel of picks now for schools who could realistically cut down the nets in the Lone Star State at NRG Stadium in Houston on April 4.


Introduction: Rust Never Sleeps and Now's the Best Time to Weed Out the Worthless
Last year it was more like the Kentucky Invitational but this year, the Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament—aka The Big Dance, El Gran Baile or March Madness—looks like it could be pretty wide open from this distance and it does honestly seem that there are about 15 teams which could win it all this time around. Several Conference Tournaments are already underway and Selection Sunday (March 13) and the coming 78th edition of the NCAA Tournament itself (March 15-April 4) will be here before you know it.

Best stock up on chips, bruh. And if you plan on entering your own office pool or one of the bigger, high-paying NCAA Basketball Bracket Contests around these days, now’s the perfect time to come up with an intelligent Plan of Attack (or Attacks) and get ahead of the collegiate hardwood curve. Rust never sleeps. Here are some simple as well as some Modern things to think about if you are planning on entering your Office Pools or one of these numerous NCAA Tournament Bracket Contests.


There Are 68 Teams Wearing Dancing Shoes But Only the Highest-Seeds Really Know How to Dance
Looking at the L10 years in the Men’s Basketball Tournament, we can see that the ACC, Big East and ACC have all won three championships while the Big 12 took home the other one (Kansas, 2008). In that decade span (2006-2015), there have been no Big Ten Champions—4 Big Ten schools have lost in the Championship game in the L10 and no Pac-12 champions—only UCLA made the Championship Game (against Florida in 2006). And Butler (twice, in the Horizon League before joining the Big East in 2014) and Memphis (in Conference USA then) were the only two perceived Small Schools who even made it to the Championship game.

So, only two teams outside those larger six major Men’s Basketball conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12) have even made it to the Championship Game in the L10 years. When filling out your Brackets, remember that. This is also good advice for Futures Book bettors. And only the highest-seeds have fared well of late in the Big Dance with just two double-digit (#11 VCU in 2011 and #11 George Mason in 2006) making the L10 Final Fours from 40 teams. That’s 5%. Here are the L10 Final Four teams with their respective seeds (Champions in Bold):

2015—1, 1, 7, 1  (Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Duke)
2014—1, 7, 2, 8  (Florida, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Kentucky)
2013—1, 4, 4, 9  (Louisville, Syracuse, Michigan, Wichita State)
2012—1, 2, 2, 4  (Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State, Louisville)
2011—3, 4, 8, 11  (Connecticut, Kentucky, Butler, VCU)
2010—1, 2, 5, 5  (Duke, West Virginia, Butler, Michigan State)
2009—1, 1, 2, 3  (North Carolina, Connecticut, Michigan State, Villanova)
2008—1, 1, 1, 1  (Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina, UCLA)
2007—1, 1, 2, 2  (Florida, Ohio State, Georgetown, UCLA)
2006—2, 3, 4, 11  (UCLA, Florida, LSU, George Mason)

So, perhaps 4 normal Tourney years followed by a Freaky one is the new holding pattern? If so, we’re in for a Freaky one, but conventional wisdom says this season that with Big East down and the Big Ten having no championships in the L10, this could be a battle between the Big 12, the SEC and the ACC this time around. We shall see. And always remember the funky “West of the Mississippi River Rule.” Only one school west of the Mississippi River in the L18 years has won the Men’s Division 1 championship—Kansas in 2008.

And 26 of the L28 schools to make the Final Four have been from East of Old Man River, with only Wichita State (2013) and that aforementioned Jayhawks team that won it all (2008) making it that far down the Yellow Brick Road. So if you are going to go with a NCAA basketball pick, then pick a school from west of the Mississippi River to put your money on, best look to the Sunflower State. And there couldn’t be a better year to do just that as #1-ranked Kansas (25-4) and Head Coach Barry Hinson and unranked Wichita State (23-7) have legitimate chances to win it all coming from west of the Mississippi.


Do Some of Your Own Homework If You Want To, There’s More Information Out There Than Ever Now
Check out the actual NCAA basketball odds boards for teams which you may be uncertain about. Casinos in Las Vegas and Offshore and European sportsbooks offer Futures Books odds—a marketplace where one can select a team or teams and bet on them with specific odds to win a specific sports championship or event—and websites like Oddschecker, Odds Shark and are among some of the excellent online resources available to see what the people who actually bet the on these teams and their games think (through the changing odds, like a Hardwood Stock Market of sorts) about any given team.

And a wonderful resource to utilize when planning all of this is ESPN's Bracketology, a web page from Joe Lunardi, the network’s lead Bracketologist, and the man who invented Bracketology—deemed by the 55-year-old Philadelphia native as the “art and science” of predicting the teams which are annually selected for the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament each March. There you will find up-to-the-minute projections from Lunardi on what he thinks the tournament will look like at any given moment.


Who’s Up, Who’s Down and Who May Be Worth Putting a Saddle On this Time around Heading Into March Madness
Many schools have name-brand recognition because of their College Basketball programs and many of this schools are down this season, as is College Basketball in general which will unfortunately have a number of really weak teams in the Tournament this year by virtue of the nature of the beast. One needn’t look any farther than the rotating “On The Bubble” teams this year and think about how they have been playing. Usually, a couple (or more) schools don’t make the Big Dance whereas this year, there may be a couple who make it who really shouldn’t.

This could be a byproduct of a long-term trend in which (perceived elite) College Basketball players go to these colleges for only one year and then leave for the NBA and the big money. In the end, this isn’t good for the lopsided NBA or College Basketball. Anyway, among the many down big-name schools this season are defending champions Duke, Arizona, Butler, UCLA, Connecticut, Wisconsin, North Carolina State and Georgetown as well as Gonzaga and UNLV whose only route to the tournament will be in winning their respective Conference tournaments. So, maybe the Madness has finally caught up with the Marchness.

Some teams to watch and work with in your Tournament Brackets who are actually playing good basketball right now, have passed the eyeball test and can beat almost any team on a neutral site are heavies (AP) #1 Kansas, #2 Michigan State and #4 Virginia, who could all very well make the Final Four. But looking at picking the Final Four backward from a “Who should be there and who needs to fight to make it?” point-of-view, it seems that Perry Ellis and the Jayhawks and Denzel Valentine and the Spartans can nail down two of the spots (theoretically), meaning that the other 66 teams are basically fighting for the remaining two Final Four berths.

Kansas (8/1 to win National Championship, PaddyPower) and Michigan State (10/1, Coral) are that good and there seems to be a small chasm between them and the rest of the Field. But the Cavaliers (16/1, Ladbrokes) are up there also. The teams to watch and work with to try to win your Office Pool this year should be Big 12-heavy in my mind as that particular Conference seems to be better en masse than the others with an amazing 6 teams now in the AP Top 25.

With #1 (Kansas), #6 Oklahoma (16/1, William Hill), #10 West Virginia (33/1, Coral), #19 Baylor (80/1, Coral), #21 Texas (66/1, Ladbrokes) and #23 Iowa State (40/1, Paddy Power), the talented schools in the the Big 12 have all been banging on each other for two months, so it seems that backing this bunch is a great start as most should make it to the 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament and even unranked Texas Tech (18-11, 300/1, Coral) could make make the Big Dance and win a game.

As far as some others to ride, Texas A&M (51/1, Netbet UK) and Kentucky (16/1, William Hill) from the Southeastern Conference (SEC); Maryland (26/1, 10Red) from the overrated Big Ten Conference; Oregon (33/1, Coral) from the Pacific-12 Conference; aforementioned Wichita State (66/1, Coral) and maybe Northern Iowa (1,000/1, Ladbrokes) from the Missouri Valley Conference; VCU (250/1, Ladbrokes) from the Atlantic-10 Conference; and, last but certainly not least, Akron (1,000/1, Netbet UK) from the Mid-American Conference (MAC).

None of these teams may ultimately win the title, but all could help you win your Bracket Contest and will be tough outs for whomever draws them down the line this month. And it’s also fun to be able to say “Terrapins,” “Ducks, “ “Shockers” and “Zips” for awhile. We seldom ever get to use those words otherwise. Only in March. The month of Brackets, Pollen and Blue Devils.


Some State-Based Conclusions and Who Seems a Little Bit Overrated in the Coming Skinny Jumping Teenfest ‘16
Having faith in schools from the states of Virginia (Virginia, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, VCU), Kentucky (Kentucky and Louisville) and Kansas (Kansas, Wichita State and Kansas State if it makes it) seems like the best Fortune Cookie advice from The Lab this year. Some simple tenets: 1—When in doubt (when picking Brackets), always lean to the teams from the Stronger and Larger Conferences; 2—Don’t be afraid to Throw Out Teams who seem Overrated.

That’s where some valuable Points can be earned and/or saved in an NCAA Tournament Bracket Contest. 3—Avoid picking any #15 and #16 seeds as they never win and won’t, even in a year pundits are saying that it’s wide open. It is, but it really isn’t. And, getting by Kansas or Michigan State the way they’re both playing right now will be no easy task for anyone, anywhere.

And, #4—Make a List before you start and have a Plan of Attack if it matters that much to you. And have Fun with it and there’s nothing wrong with picking your team with your Heart over a better team, but beware that points are often lost in doing that Heart over Head stuff. Romeo knows. But for Free or $10 contests, it really doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things.

And who’s overrated? Several Big Ten schools like Indiana (#12), Purdue (#15) and Iowa (#16) seem to be and if you need some proof the Hawkeyes may be overrated, simply watch the 1st Half of the game against Rutgers from Piscataway this season. Both Cal (#25) and Saint Mary’s are also overrated right now and are lucky they play in the West. When mediocre teams beat up on mediocre teams—no matter what the silly rankings look like—mediocrity is the only byproduct.

And the West is really, really down this year and may be for years to come and an NCAA Tournament without Gonzaga in it may be a bad omen for the Future. And tossing out #3 Villanova (Big East), who is always ranked-high but never gets anywhere (see above list), #5 Xavier (Big East), which I’ve had Futures Book tickets on to win it all in like 7 of the L15 years and, who also, in the end, never get anywhere (see above list), #8 North Carolina and #13 Utah is something that just has to be done as the Utes played so poorly for too long and are too far west of the Mississippi and would cave against any of those Big 12 heavies. But simply tossing out #7 Miami-Florida (33/1 to win NCAA Championship, Paddy Power) seems hasty and the Hurricanes could be Sweet Sixteen material this season but unlikely in the Final Four. 

In short, Kansas looks like the team to beat and Michigan State seems like one of the few who could do so on a neutral site, but this is a year where a Virginia, a West Virginia, a Texas A&M or a maybe an Oklahoma could very well shock (some of) the world and make their schools, sports bettors and Bracket players all very happy along the way. So here’s the best muscle to work with in your Bracket from this distance below. Enjoy and best of Luck.


NCAAB FINAL FOUR PICKS: Kansas, Michigan State, Virginia, West Virginia
DARK HORSES: Texas A&M, Iowa State, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami-Florida, Oregon
NCAAB LONGSHOT PICKS (66/1 and up): Wichita State, VCU, Akron, Northern Iowa
PREDICTED CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Kansas Jayhawks over Michigan State Spartans

NCAAB CHAMPIONSHIP CURRENT VALUE PICKS: Michigan State (10/1, Coral), West Virginia (33/1, Coral), Texas A&M (51/1, Netbet UK), Maryland (26/1, 10Red)

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