By Marc Lawrence — While every team that made it to the NCAA Tournament has its eyes on a national championship, just making it to the Final Four is a major accomplishment. Something similar can be said for bettors trying to make some money during March Madness: If you wager on a team to make the Final Four and it gets there, you’ve accomplished at least a little something.
It goes without saying that betting on teams to simply reach the Final Four is “easier” than trying to hit on a national champion or possibly even win your bracket pool, but it’s not always profitable if you cast your net too wide or too narrow.
As with most futures bets, it’s all about balancing value with likelihood. You need to have a strategy if you’re actually trying to profit.
For instance: Sporting News feel the Midwest region is begging for multiple bets because of the potentially difficult Sweet-16 matchup for top-seeded Illinois. The value for Oklahoma St (+600) isn’t quite what you’d expect for a 4-seed, but it’s still a nice payoff if they pull off the upset. Getting fifth-seeded Tennessee at +1100 might actually be more appealing.
Purdue at +850 is probably the best value in the South region. The Boilermakers beat Ohio State twice and took them to overtime in a third game this season.
In the West Region, taking a team from the bottom half of the region and hoping Gonzaga gets upset before the Elite Eight is probably the way to go. Kansas at +1400 is a great number for a 3-seed.
Illinois is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and Big Ten tournament champions and have won seven straight games.
They are the second-closest team in proximity to Indianapolis, the central hub of this year’s bubble-style tournament.
Yet, because they are opening their tournament run in the smallest of the six venues the NCAA is using, and due to COVID capacity reductions, they have almost no tickets for fans.
Welcome to 2021 March Madness, where venue capacity and local COVID ordinances have turned some first round games into can’t-watch events (at least not in person) and have sent ticket prices varying wildly.
In fact, each team playing in Bloomington, was allotted just 204 tickets while all other venues doled out 350 to teams. As No. 8 seed playing in Bloomington on Saturday, LSU will use most of its 204-ticket allotment on players’ and staff members’ families.
A handful of season ticket holders, as few as 50, might get tickets.
This year’s tournament is somewhat of a perfect storm: Demand is high and supply, because of capacity reductions and venue size, is low.
Eight teams are within a 270-mile drive of Indianapolis, including two No. 1 seeds, Illinois (126 miles) and Michigan (266), No. 4 seed Purdue (65) and No. 2 seed Ohio State (175). Fan-favorite Loyola Chicago is 194 miles.
While the drive is short and the team is so good, many Illini faithful will make the journey over just to be in the city.
There might not be an orange sea in the stands, but there certainly will be one washing across the city’s fine steakhouses and watering holes. The end result – you go to the bar.
Grinding Out The Profits
From this week’s Playbook MARCH MADNESS TOURNEY GUIDE: If ever there was a good omen for a No. 12 seed to send a 5-seed packing in could be in this year’s NCAA tournament it could be today.
The NCAA tournament selection committee did a hatchet-job on Big South champion Winthrop. Despite going 23-1, the Eagles officially became the first one-loss team to receive a double-digit seed in NCAA tournament history.
Their opponent, Villanova, isn’t exactly a lock when it comes to Big Dance lid-lifters, either.
In nine tournament appearances since 2010, the Wildcats have won the championship twice (both in the past four tournaments) and failed to escape the first weekend each of the other seven times.
Remember, only three No. 5 seeds have ever reached the title game – Butler (2010), Indiana (2002) and Florida (2000) – and all lost to No. 1 seeds.
With Winthrop still smarting from perhaps the biggest brush-off in this Dance, the Eagles could be flying high at the conclusion of this contest