In comedy, timing is, as they say, everything.

As it turns out, timing is pretty important for betting on March Madness, too.

For those unaware of this year’s timeframe, March Madness is set to kick off March 17 with Selection Sunday.

After that, the First Four games will occur on March 19-20 in Dayton, Ohio.

The winners of those four games will receive seedings in the tournament proper. The actual tournament games begin March 21.

So, in theory, New Jersey sports betting fans could start making their selections as early as Sunday evening.

Doing so does have some inherent advantages. However, waiting until the tournament is closer at hand carries some positives, too.

Reasons to bet early on March Madness

Better odds for favorites

The first reason a bettor might want to hurry to the teller window is if he or she wants to bet on favorites. Lines for the team expected to win will be more favorable early in the process.

The reason is quite simple. The more bettors wager on the favorite, the worse the odds will become for that side of the bet.

For instance, generally speaking, everyone is going to wager on the No. 1 seeds against the No. 16 seeds. Even with UMBC’s historic win over Virginia last year, it’s the first time that a No. 16 has won such a game.

Early lines are more prone to pricing mismatches

NJ sportsbooks are going to be rushing to try and get March Madness lines published as soon as they can.

With any kind of time pressure, the risk of a pricing mismatch escalates.

So, there may be opportunities to grab lines that are extra favorable in the early going. Even if the book changes them later, a savvy bettor can take advantage and lock in a more profitable position for themselves.

Early wagering may open the possibility of middling

The third reason to bet early correlates strongly with the first two reasons. A bet before the line moves significantly may open up an opportunity to bet the middle.

Middling means that a bettor uses shifting lines to wager on both the favorite and underdog. In some cases, this kind of betting could result in the player winning both bets for the same game.

For instance, imagine that a team is favored by 5 points at FanDuel Sportsbook. So, the bettor wagers that the team will win by more than that.

Then, the line shifts and the team is now a 10-point favorite. In theory, the bettor could then bet that the underdog team will cover.

In that scenario, the player would win both bets if the favorite wins by 6-9 points. The favorite exceeded its 5-point margin, but the underdog covered its final 10-point margin.

This zone is known as the middle — hence the name middling.

Reasons to bet later on March Madness

Better odds for underdogs

Betting later is advantageous for underdog bettors for the same exact reason that early betting favors favorite bettors. The increased action on the favorite will drive the line farther away from even.

That line movement translates into a widening of the underdog’s required margin for covering.

However, it takes some patience for this shift to occur, as the favorite bettors have to get their bets down in order to unbalance the sportsbook’s ledger.

More time to prepare

March Madness is, at its heart, a series of games between 64 different teams. Except for the most hardcore of fans, formulating opinions on each team is a difficult process.

A March Madness bracket, therefore, will always involve using incomplete information. However, a later betting timeframe will allow players to negate the magnitude of things that they don’t know.

That need for extra time is especially true for considering and judging mid-major and small conference teams. These squads likely haven’t received much national attention, so it can be difficult to judge whether they are a worthy team on the big stage.

Ability to react to lineup changes

Finally, a later bettor can make sure that they are betting on the same team that won its way into the conference. A reserved approach can give a player time to incorporate injury news or rumors of trouble into their predictions.

So, if Player A on a favorite blows out his knee during practice or succumbs to a broken shoe, the dynamic of the upcoming game may have radically shifted.

Waiting almost until game time means that there hopefully won’t be many surprises.

More March Madness betting tips

This year’s edition of March Madness should have more betting volume than in previous years.

The growth of legal sports betting across the US has opened opportunities for many millions of potential bettors. NJ gambling sites are doing their part to get in on the action.

However, the influx of new money does not mean that the winning formula changes. Remember to stick mostly with the favorites, and don’t be seduced by Cinderella teams until they string a few games together.

Good luck!

Bart Shirley


Bart Shirley is a writer who covers the NJ online gambling industry as well as a poker player from Houston, Texas. He has a master's degree in business administration from Texas Christian University and a degree in English from Texas A&M. In his spare time, Bart teaches math and business at Memorial High School in Houston.