March Madness Betting: William Hill NJ Prepares For The NCAA Tournament

The final countdown to Selection Sunday is down to its last days. So, it means it’s extremely busy inside the William Hill US offices.

Call it preparation for when the NCAA Tournament brackets are announced on TBS (6 p.m. EST, March 15).

Of course, William Hill NJ (Caesars NJ) set its March Madness betting field months ago.

Sure, the odds to win it all have shifted since the start of the 2019-20 season has gotten underway. But the fun part is just getting started.

Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill US director of trading, is gearing up for what is one of the biggest events on the NJ sports betting calendar.

From an oddsmaker standpoint, the difficult work is done. Once the brackets are released, Bogdanovich said it’s pretty easy to make the numbers.

The majority of the teams play on neutral courts. If blue bloods, like Kansas or North Carolina, end up playing near home, Bogdanovich said the line tends to move a point or two.

First- and second-round games are taking place in both states this year.

“We use some raw power numbers, put it up there and let the bettors take it from there,” said Bogdanovich. 

“It’s more fun than anything. March Madness is a pleasure to work.”

No NJ sports betting on Seton Hall

Here in the Garden StateSeton Hall will not be part of the March Madness wagering conversation. It doesn’t matter if they win the Big East Tournament (March 11-14 at Madison Square Garden).

The fact that the Pirates are ranked No. 13 in the AP Top 25 poll carries no weight. NJ sports betting rules prohibit wagering on New Jersey-based college teams.

Last year’s tournament field included Seton Hall and Fairleigh Dickinson, but neither team advanced out of Round 64.

Bogdanovich calls the potential scenario a minor inconvenience for the bookmaker.

“For the people in New Jersey that want to back their home team, I would imagine it bothers them quite a bit that they are not able to put a $20 bill on their favorite team.”  

Is Villanova a good bet?

The same rule does not apply to the Villanova Wildcats, who call the Philadelphia side of the Delaware River home. Nova Nation was a hot topic among the Atlantic City crowd around this time last year.

The team won national championship titles in ’16 and ’18. The ‘Cats may not be one of the favorites to win it this time around, but they were ranked No. 12 in last week’s poll with a 21-6 record.

William Hill currently has them at 30-1 to win it all. Call it the middle of the betting pack with the likes of:

  • Arizona
  • Michigan
  • Penn State

Bogdanovich said there is no question there is more money on Villanova in the New Jersey market. Call it the hometown favoritism similar to that of the Hawkeye State, where Iowa and Iowa State attract a large percentage of the handle.

As far as how much is wagered on Nova, time will tell.

“I haven’t really seen an overwhelming amount of Villanova money, but if they were to go in a deep run in the tournament for sure, we would see it,” said Bogdanovich. 

“Let’s face it, (30-1) is a price that is very, very high compared to what they’ve been in the last five years. So [bettors] might flip that switch, thinking I am getting some value here. They are starting to play a little better now.” 

Nova enters Wednesday night’s game against Seton Hall, riding the momentum of six-straight wins. The Pirates won Feb. 8 contest, 70-64.

March Madness is wide open

A couple of weeks from now, people across the country will be filling out brackets for company office pools. But in terms of which teams are standing out in the pack right now, the answer is not as clear cut as previous years

The William Hill futures market has KansasDuke and Gonzaga at +800, or 8-to-1, to be crowned national champion. Then there is Dayton, a mid-majorat +900.

Bogdanovich said it’s a crazy year because the field has never been this wide open. 

“At this point of the year they are maybe eight to 10 teams that maybe can win it,” said Bogdanovich. “This year, I think there (are) 20 to 22.”

“The only blue blood that is stepping up right now is Kansas. They look like they’re the team to beat right now.” 

He noted that the mid-majors such as Wichita State (+7500), Dayton, and San Diego State (+1500) have all been bet down from higher numbers.

“They are played out, no sense jumping in now. You missed all the good numbers,” said Bogdanovich.

“… I would say there is more value in the blue bloods right now than the long shots.” 

About the Author

Bill Gelman

Bill Gelman is a veteran sports writer based just outside of Philadelphia and not too far from the Jersey Shore. Bill spends time in Atlantic City writing about casino openings and expansions, special events and world championship boxing at Boardwalk Hall. He is now adding NJ sports betting and online gambling to the mix.