Filling out your new NCAA Tournament bracket? There’s some bonus prep time for the 2021 men’s college basketball championship.
March Madness bettors may need it for this tricky playing field. Enormous opportunities and betting challenges greet New Jersey online players, along with a new schedule.
All four play-in games are Thursday and the first round begins Friday, one day later than normal. This follows Selection Sunday’s surprise revelations.
Dog bettors lick their chops as two of the No. 1 seeds, Michigan and Baylor, come off conference tournament losses. They were ranked in the AP top five before the setbacks.
Can these teams be trusted deep into the tournament.? There’s an enormous opportunity, both for futures and individual-game betting.
Adding to that pattern, injury-riddled Villanova skidded to a No. 5 seed and appears shaky. The Wildcats lost an 11-point, second-half lead and the game, 72-71 to Georgetown to open the Big East tournament last week.
So how enormous is the betting challenge?
Four favored teams from the Big 10, Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan, and Iowa, are practically interchangeable.
Are they all better, or worse, than undefeated, top-ranked Gonzaga, which plays a softer schedule?
New Jersey bettors filling out NCAA Tournament brackets (including DraftKings’ Millionaire Brackets Challenge) face major decisions regarding upsets.
Here’s an early look at the Big Dance floor.
Villanova heads to Indiana as wounded Wildcats
The Villanova Wildcats the No. 5 seed in the South Region and will play 23-1 Winthrop on Friday.
A victory would propel Villanova into a second-round matchup against No. 4 Purdue or No. 13 North Texas.
Villanova, 16-6, was decimated down the stretch by the loss of star guard Collin Gillespie and got a surprise boost when injured guard Justin Moore did play in the Big East Tournament opener.
Although Villanova opened -7 against Winthrop at DraftKings Sportsbook, CBS analyst Seth Davis predicted a Winthrop win on a recent telecast.
March Madness Cinderella Story: Georgetown Hoyas
Georgetown is the tournament’s first Cinderella Story, a longshot Big East Tournament champ, and will attract a following. The Hoyas face Colorado as a 12 seed in the East after a week for the ages under coach Patrick Ewing.
Four wins in four days, stamping an unlikely post-season ticket.
This time he enjoyed the magic of a No. 8 seed beating a No. 1
Ewing played on the top-seeded 1985 Georgetown team that Villanova, as an 8 seed, beat 66-64 for the national championship. Villanova rode what’s been called a “perfect game” (a Final Four record .786 field-goal percentage) to deny Georgetown consecutive national championships.
Thirty-six years later, Ewing’s eighth-seeded longshot not only turned the tables on top-seeded Villanova but later throttled Seton Hall 66-58 and obliterated second-ranked Creighton 73-48. Obliterated. That included an 18-0 run to end the first half. Georgetown was a nine-point dog.
The three improbable victories followed a first-round 68-49 triumph over Marquette. Georgetown entered 9-12 for the season, left 13-12, and authored sweet satisfaction for Ewing.
Ewing became the first man to win the Big East tournament as a player and a coach. But there was one more hitch. Although Ewing’s uniform hangs from the rafters at Madison Square Garden, retired by the New York Knicks, security didn’t know who he was and made him present credentials early in the week. He was livid.
Patrick Ewing has been getting stopped in the hallways at MSG during the Big East Tournament:
"Everybody in this building should know who the hell I am. Is my number in the rafters or what?" pic.twitter.com/zuTgMhb9dK
— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) March 11, 2021
Is Gonzaga battle-tested?
Only Gonzaga got through the season without a loss. And we won’t know how good the Bulldogs are, most likely, until the Sweet 16 round.
Nonetheless, they will be used on a ton of parlay tickets.
Who is the nearest team to Gonzaga? You could have said Baylor, until the recent 83-74 loss to Oklahoma State. You could say Michigan, until that 68-67 setback to Ohio State.
Regardless of whether bettors can pick the right parlays, these teams will have fascinating betting lines.
🏆 Gonzaga? pic.twitter.com/6K5RmLB1aK
— DraftKings Sportsbook (@DKSportsbook) March 13, 2021
NCAA Tournament underdogs will be bet with confidence
There is precious little talent separating teams. This may result in more moneyline betting on the dogs. There’s enough of a difference in the payoff of +2 or a moneyline that selecting the winner on the nose may be the way to go.
How live are the dogs? The seeding process has been well-done and a good forecaster of winning teams over the years.
Bracket-wise, many upsets occur in the 4-versus-13 and 5-versus -12 matchups.
Some bracketology history in those areas, dating back to 1985:
The No. 13 seed has won three of the last eight games against the No. 4 seed. That’s contrary to the 79% performance of the No. 4 seed in this matchup.
In the 5-versus-12 battle, the dogs barked loudly in 2019. They took three of the four matchups. Although the 5 seed enjoys a 64%-win rate, this is the level of bracketology when parity really sets in.
In the 6-versus-11 class, the 11’s have gone 21-19 over the last 10 years.
In the 7-versus-10 realm, the favorites have a 61%-win rate, but three No. 10’s triumphed in 2019.
The 9’s have toppled the 8’s with a 51%-win rate.
There has been one upset of a No. 1 seed by a No. 16, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, shocking top-ranked Virginia 74-54 in 2018.
There have been eight occasions in which a 15 seed defeated the second. The last was Middle Tennessee topping Michigan State 90-81 in 2016.
Drexel + Rutgers ends NCAA Tournament droughts
The Drexel Dragons are finally getting a taste of March Madness, again.
But looking at the brackets, once the tournament gets underway, their stay in the Hoosier State may not last much longer than a cup of coffee.
However, the Drexel Dragons making the Big Dance for the first time in 25 years is a pretty big deal.
Unfortunately, as the No. 16 seed in the Midwest Region, the Dragons get to face top-seeded Illinois in the first round (1:15 p.m. Friday, TBS).
Here in the Garden State, fans will be rooting for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Just don’t bother looking for odds via your favorite NJ online sportsbook. Taking action on Rutgers or any other New Jersey college remains a big no-no.
Need a solution? Head into Pennsylvania.
Like Drexel, this is the Scarlet Knights first NCAA Tournament appearance in a very long time, 1991 to be exact.
They are the No. 10 seed in the Midwest, and have a reasonable chance to win at least one game. First up is No. 7 Clemson.
Game time is set!
Our NCAA Tournament matchup against Clemson will be at 9:20 pm on Friday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse!
The game will be televised by TBS
— Rutgers Basketball 🏀 (@RutgersMBB) March 15, 2021