When sportsbooks look into the crystal ball, some March Madness futures become clearer than others.
Gonzaga was the prohibitive favorite to win March Madness before the pairings were revealed Sunday. That certainly didn’t change once the matchups were unveiled live on CBS.
But line adjustments can give basketball fans an idea of which teams got the gold mine and which ones got the shaft.
PlayIA took note of NCAA champion futures at FanDuel both before and after the Selection Show.
John Sheeran, FanDuel’s director of risk and trading, took us through the process as odds adjusted on Sunday.
“We obviously have a core rating for every team at the start of the season. That’s based off all of the variables you can imagine in terms of personnel, coaching changes. … Then you rate that on a game-to-game basis in terms of their performance and output. So we end up getting into the tournament with a rating for every team. And we compare them in terms of top-to-bottom.”
Understanding futures odds
Iowa introduced online sportsbook registration at the start of 2021, so an influx of new bettors may not understand what the “+” numbers mean.
We have a page dedicated to helping you, but we’ll use Iowa as an example. The Hawkeyes were listed at +1700 Thursday, which is essentially 17-to-1 odds. So if you bet $1 on Iowa, you would win $17. (The +1700 assumes a $100 bet.)
Drake played Thursday night and the Bulldogs were listed at +25000, or 250-to-1 odds to win the national championship. If you bet $100 and Drake cuts down the nets, you’d win $25,000.
Sportsbooks have most odds ready before bracket show
Sheeran’s core rating, the season’s game-by-game adjustments and other variables feed into FanDuel’s point spreads for Friday and Saturday’s 32 matchups.
In normal years, a Kansas team placed in Omaha as a tournament site might get shorter odds because of a strong J-Hawk following. Sheeran said the process is different this year, with all the NCAA Tournament games in Indiana.
“Normally, you’re considering travel and … home court advantage for basketball. That’s not in play here, so we kind of lean more on some subjective stuff around variables — like how the coaches have performed and prepared their teams in the past.”
Sportsbooks do adjust to each other to create a market consensus, according to Sheeran:
“We understand that their information has worked in this game and then we let the money guide us from there — in terms of where we see money in sharp play. That helps inform and tell us where our lines are maybe not as accurate as they should be.”
Did long-shot futures change after the Selection Show?
We’ll take futures region-by-region, but let’s get some of the long-shot odds out of the way first.
The following teams had +20000 odds at FanDuel before pairings were announced. They grew to +25000 after the matchups were known. Iowa‘s opponent, Grand Canyon, falls into this category.
Others who went from +20000 to +250000 are:
- Appalachian State
- UC-Santa Barbara
- Cleveland State
- Morehead State
- Mount St. Mary’s
- Oral Roberts
- Texas Southern
Also, Abilene Christian had the tournament’s longest odds at +25000 before the Selection Show. The Wildcats stayed on that line once the pairings were announced.
West region futures odds
Most futures odds grew longer after the NCAA Selection Committee announced its bracket. As you might expect, tournament betting front-runner Gonzaga was an exception. The top-ranked and undefeated Bulldogs went from +220 to +200 on the futures market.
The second-seeded Hawkeyes also saw shorter odds — as we told you earlier, they moved from +1800 to +1700. Other futures (from before the Selection Show broadcast to Wednesday night at FanDuel) were:
- 3. Kansas — +3000 to +4500
- 4. Virginia — +3200 to +5000
- 5. Creighton — +2600 to +6000
- 6. USC — Stayed at +5500
- 7. Oregon — +5500 to +10000
- 8. Oklahoma — +3500 to +15000
- 9. Missouri — +6500 to +18000
- 10. Virginia Commonwealth — +11000 to +18000
- 11. Drake — +11000 to +25000 or Wichita State — +13000 to +25000
- 14. Eastern Washington — +12000 to +25000
- 16. Norfolk State — Played Appalachian State; no line at FanDuel
East region futures odds
Michigan added the longest odds among the four No. 1 seeds. The Wolverines went from +600 to +800 to win the national championship. Alabama was one of seven teams in the tournament field to see its futures market shorten between Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night. The Tide went from +2300 to +2100.
- 3. Texas — +2800 to +3500
- 4. Florida State — +2000 to +4000
- 5. Colorado — +5500 to +6000
- 6. BYU — Stayed at +8000
- 7. UConn — +3200 to +5500
- 8. LSU — +7500 to +10000
- 9. St. Bonaventure — +18000 Wednesday night (was not listed before selections on Sunday)
- 10. Maryland — +12000 to +15000
- 11. Michigan State and UCLA — Both +7500 to +15000
- 12. Georgetown — +20000 to +18000
- 15. Iona — +25000 Wednesday night (was not listed before selections on Sunday)
South region futures odds
Baylor had a great season, but the Bears odds got longer after pairings were released on Sunday. The Waco, Texas squad went from +450 at FanDuel to +600.
“We call Selection Sunday ‘March Mayhem,’ because there’s a lot of pressure on the (FanDuel) team to get all of the lines off as quickly as we possibly can. Obviously, everybody’s got the draw. That’s fresh in their mind and the bettors want that product there. We only make a few minor adjustments on our ratings. By that stage, we have a good feel for every team involved.”
The South’s No. 2 seed, Ohio State, used a strong performance in the Big Ten Championship game Sunday to shorten its national championship odds — a little — from +2500 to +2100.
“There’s the last couple of games on the Sunday before Selection Sunday. And realistically, win, lose or draw in those games, the adjustments for those teams is relatively minor. So we’re ready to go by Sunday.”
Purdue joined Iowa, Illinois and Ohio State as one of four Big Ten teams to have shorter odds after the tournament selections were announced.
- 3. Arkansas — +5000 to +5500
- 4. Purdue — +6000 to +5000
- 5. Villanova — +4400 to +8000
- 6. Texas Tech — +3000 to +6500
- 7. Florida — +9000 to +15000
- 8. North Carolina — +6500 to +8000
- 9. Wisconsin — +4000 to +10000
- 10. Virginia Tech — +8000 to +15000
- 11. Utah State — +11000 to +18000
- 13. North Texas — +18000 to +25000
- 14. Colgate — +15000 to +25000
Midwest region futures odds
Bettors who locked in Illinois at +800 before Sunday’s Selection Show will get a better payout than people who waited until after the bracket reveal. Wednesday night, the line was +600, but less than 24 hours later, the futures line for the Illini is +500.
“We saw a really good performance from Illinois in their conference tournament, going to overtime (in the final) when they probably shouldn’t have. … They’re probably the biggest mover entirely in the championship, and particularly over the last two weeks where they look to have gotten very hot very late.”
Houston is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest. Their odds to win the national championship went from 18-to-1 (+1800) Sunday to 21-to-1 (+2100) Wednesday night.
- 3. West Virginia — +2000 to +5000
- 4. Oklahoma State — +2300 to +3500
- 5. Tennessee — +4500 to +5500
- 6. San Diego State — +6000 to +7000
- 7. Clemson — +8000 to +15000
- 8. Loyola Chicago — +5500 to +7000
- 9. Georgia Tech — +9000 to +10000
- 10. Rutgers — +8000 to +15000
- 11. Syracuse — +20000 to +15000
- 12. Oregon State — Stayed at +18000
- 13. Liberty — No Line at FanDuel
There’s still time to take advantage of March Madness promotions and contests at top sportsbooks in Iowa. Just make sure to read contest rules.