No More Waiting: The 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Tips Off Today

March Madness betting season is back! New Jersey online sportsbooks, Garden State bettors, and the college basketball world issue thanks as the 2021 NCAA Tournament begins today.

The championship tournament, sorely missed last year, has been greeted like a returning long-lost friend.

Here are some significant betting aspects.

It’s a Rainmaker

Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told NJ Gambling Sites this is “the biggest event we have when you consider it takes place over three weeks and that you have several days each week.”

“I think going back about three years, just when it was brick-and-mortar casinos and no online betting, Las Vegas did about $325-$350 million for the tournament. [Avello would come to work at 6 a.m. to see the sportsbook packed and gamblers lined up to bet.]  I read somewhere recently that if all 50 states carried sports betting, March Madness would generate something like $16 billion.”

Billion, with a B.

“We have a lot of different types of customers now,” Avello said. “We have casual players and huge players. It will not be unusual for us to take six-figure bets in the first round.”

Wildcat strike, Villanova bettors abandon ship

The Villanova Wildcats opened at -7 for their first-round game versus Winthrop across the major sportsbooks, but the gamblers are taking the other side. DraftKings Sportsbook had the line at -6.5 on Wednesday night as bettors assessed the spate of injuries hurting Villanova’s campaign.

A season-ending injury to star guard Collin Gillespie and a less-than-100% Justin Moore has derailed Villanova. It lost to Georgetown, a sub-.500 team, in the first round of the Big East Tournament, and hits the Big Dance in a tailspin.

As of Wednesday afternoon, DraftKings had Winthrop at 75% of the spread handle and 64% on the moneyline at +215.

Villanova is not feeling the March Madness betting love.

Gonzaga, Michigan lead NCAA Tournament betting money trail

When it comes to liabilities, Avello said Michigan and Gonzaga are the big ones “on the future line” for DraftKings.

“With Michigan, you could have taken them, and a good number of bettors did when they were more than 20-1 a few weeks back,” said Avello.

“Gonzaga has never gone too high on the price, but they never had a cooling-off period. They were 26-0 and kept getting bet along the way.”

Michigan was sliding at the end of the season and could get knocked out. If Gonzaga loses, it would produce the sportsbooks’ exhilaration to match one of its historic triumphs, the 74-54 surprise by 16th-seeded University of Maryland Baltimore County over defending national champion Virginia in 2018.

Virginia not only took the most money but was tied in with numerous parlay tickets, which were torched. Advantage: book.

The beauty of early-rounds March Madness? Uncertainty all the way.

Opening weekend NCAA Tournament excitement

Avello sees a few different avenues bettors will use.

“They will take the moneyline favorites and use those teams in parlays,” he said, “and then they will look at our 20% parlay boosts. After that, they are going to tease some of these teams down, taking alternate lines.

“I don’t think it’s worth it to take a team giving 25 points and take that down to 20, but if you have a team like Kansas, it might be worth considering teasing them down to 5 or 6 (from 10.5) against Eastern Washington.”

Avello said he has good vibes regarding two other teams in the first round. One is No. 4 Florida State, which plays University North Carolina Greensboro and then would play the Georgetown-Colorado winner. The schedule could set up well for Florida State.

The other, New Jersey online bettors, is No. 10 Rutgers. Although the Scarlet Knights can’t be wagered upon in New Jersey, Avello said moving across state lines to bet the Scarlet Knights in Pennsylvania is “easy enough to do.” He gives them a good shot against Clemson because “the Big 10 is tournament tested.”

Note: With the First Four games occurring Thursday, the first weekend of March Madness runs five straight days, through Monday.

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Bet MGM and the sharp moves

Over at BetMGM sportsbook, there have been plenty of line movements heading into the First Four and first-round games taking place on Friday and Saturday.

Move for the favorite:

  • Mount St. Mary’s +2 to -1 vs. Texas southern
  • San Diego State -2 to -3 vs. Syracuse
  • West Virginia -12 to -13 vs. Morehead State
  • Illinois -22 to -22.5 vs. Drexel

Move for the underdog:

  • Ohio +9.5 to +7.5 vs. Virginia
  • Liberty +9.5 to +7.5 vs. Oklahoma State
  • Colgate +9.5 to +8.5 vs. Arkansas
  • Drake +2 to pick’em vs. Wichita State

Move for the over:

  • Villanova-Winthrop total 138.5 to 142.5
  • Arkansas-Colgate total 157.5 to 161.5
  • Kansas-Eastern Washington total 142.5 to 145.5
  • Alabama-Iona total 145.5 to 146.5

Move for the under:

  • Oklahoma State-Liberty total 146.5 to 140.5
  • Florida-Virginia Tech total 137.5 to 135.5
  • Creighton-UCSB total 140.5 to 138.5
  • UCLA-Michigan State total 136.5 to 135.5

William Hill’s NCAA Tournament betting bonanza

The 12-versus-5 argument gains additional credence this year. William Hill (Caesars) highlighted it with a high return for a 12-seed sweep of the 5’s, paying +12,500.

Will all four No. 12 seeds prevail in the first round?

OK, it never happens.

But all the dogs are between +5 and +7 .5 at William Hill. Viable enough to win.

It creates an angle. Even if taking all four No 12’s to win is a pipe dream, what about taking two, or three?

Who are the 12’s? Georgetown, which plays Colorado; Winthrop, which opposes Villanova; Oregon State, which battles Tennessee, and the University of California Santa Barbara, which faces Creighton.

Georgetown is red-hot, winning the Big East Tournament with four wins in four days last week.  Creighton and Villanova, two of the No. 5 seeds, both lost to Georgetown in the Big East. What if they are vulnerable?

Take any two of the 12 seeds to prevail in a parlay and your odds exceed +800. Triumph with three and the numbers go above +3000. If Georgetown is for real, taking the Hoyas with one other successful team is an exceptional return.

Or make a different team a key. Either way, parlaying some victorious 12’s will pay big.

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.