How to Bet on March Madness 2021

March Madness is three glorious weeks of wall-to-wall college hoops action where betting interest soars compared to the steady action of the college basketball regular season. For perspective, there’s just one event that tops it in total betting action in the US each year, and that’s betting on the Super Bowl.

Estimates suggest that $10 billion is bet annually during March Madness, a number roughly split in half between game-by-game betting and pools/brackets. As more and more states legalize online sports betting, it’s safe to assume that the total amount bet on March Madness will only grow.

The problem for Virginia basketball fans is that they can bet on many March Madness games, but they can’t get action on their favorite teams. The regulations in Virginia stipulate that bettors in Virginia can’t bet on in-state college teams or collegiate sporting events that take place in Virginia. Whether you’re a VCU fan, a Cavaliers die-hard, or a supporter of a good Cinderella story like Norfolk St., you can’t get a wager down at in-state books.

There are plenty of NCAA basketball bets to make on the other teams though. So, we’ll run through everything you need to know to bet on March Madness in VA including the best online sportsbooks & betting apps, what you can and can’t bet on here, and more. Jump to live March Madness odds right here.

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Live March Madness bracket & odds in VA

Legal and regulated online sportsbooks in VA are at the ready with a very full lineup of March Madness bets. Included are:

  • Odds and lines for all individual March Madness games
  • Futures odds on teams to win it all or make the Final Four

Check the bracket below for consensus odds on each game. Then check the feed below the bracket for the latest March Madness odds posted at VA online sportsbooks. Check the second tab for current National Championship and Final Four futures and the first for live game lines after March Madness begins. Click on any odds to go directly to the sportsbook, claim your bonus and get your MM bets in.

How to read March Madness game odds and lines

Each March Madness game line will look something like this:

 SpreadMoneylineTotal
Michigan State+1.5 (-110)+120O 134.5 (-110)
Duke-1.5 (-110)-105U 134.5 (-110)

Next to the two team names are a series of numbers. These are the odds for the three main individual game bet types: point spread, moneyline and totals.

Moving from left to right, this is what those March Madness betting odds say:

  • Duke is favored to win by 1.5 points
  • Duke is also the moneyline favorite, with a bet of $105 required to earn $100 in profit; conversely, a bet on underdog Michigan State will pay out $120 in profit on a bet of $100.
  • Total number of points scored are expected to be around 134-135.

After oddsmakers release the March Madness betting lines, bettors have their say by putting money down on the side they like. The numbers can then change from that point based on betting volume.

For example, if lots of bettors go with Duke -1.5, sportsbooks may tweak the line to -2 or -2.5 or adjust the odds on the spread bet.

Books don’t like being too lopsided on games, as that opens up a liability on their end. To try to make those circumstances few and far between, they’ll actively manage the odds and lines to keep the action as level as possible.

March Madness futures odds

Beyond the game lines themselves, you’ll also find other betting opportunities inside of what’s known as the futures odds market. These are bets you can make on events that will happen down the road.

For the NCAA basketball tournament, some futures odds stay active all year round and can include:

  • Teams to win the National Championship
  • Teams to make the Final Four
  • Tournament Most Outstanding Player

Again, it’s not certain Virginia will post any of these futures odds given their constraints on college sports betting overall. Moreover, the regulations suggest betting is limited to sporting events, which could potentially disqualify betting on things like awards or drafts.

Futures odds are listed in descending order with the favorites on top. Longshots are on the bottom, while all others are in between those two extremes. If you nail a selection at a great price point, the futures market can be very lucrative.

Here’s a sample of how futures odds look:

  • Duke         +250
  • Villanova   +300
  • Michigan   +350

In this example, it would mean a bet of $100 on Duke would pay out $250 plus the return of your original stake.

Bets for March Madness

Just like filling out a bracket for the first time, it helps to start with the basics when it comes to game-by-game betting on March Madness. There are several different ways to bet on March Madness, ranging from the individual games to the tournament as a whole.

Here’s a quick look at the top bet types you have to choose from when betting on the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament:

  • Moneyline betting: A simple bet in which you are just picking the winner of the game.
  • Point spread: Bet on the favorite to cover the spread or take the underdog plus the points.
  • Totals (Over/Under) betting: An Over/Under wager on the total combined points scored in the game.
  • Prop betting: Side bets on specific benchmarks or outcomes in the game.
  • Live betting: Bet along in real-time as the action plays out.
  • Parlays: A bet in which you include multiple outcomes on a single bet.
  • Futures betting (see above): Bets on the tournament as a whole, such as National Champion or which teams will make the Final Four.

March Madness moneyline bets

For a moneyline bet all you need to do is pick which side you think will win. There will be odds for each game, negative for favorites and positive for underdogs, with the range indicating how close the matchup is. A small difference in the numbers could be a tight game, while a large span suggests a potential blowout. An example of a reasonably competitive matchup:

  • North Carolina    +120
  • Michigan              -130

March Madness spread bets

Oddsmakers install a point spread on each game. The number is basically like an estimated margin of victory that needs to be factored into your handicapping. If you take the favorite, they have to win by an amount larger than the spread. Underdogs cover by keeping it closer than that or by winning outright. Eg.:

  • Maryland          +2.5 (-110)
  • West Virginia  – 2.5 (-110)

March Madness totals bets

When you bet on totals, it doesn’t matter which side wins or loses or by how much. The focus is on the total combined points scored in the game. Sportsbooks set the bar, and bettors then get to decide if they expect the final number to be over or under that amount.

Single-game March Madness betting can be a great complement to any brackets you may complete. While filling out the bracket, you’ll learn something about the strengths and weaknesses of each team. That knowledge can then be applied to your bets as well.

Beyond the outcome of the game and how many points will be scored, you’ll have several different opportunities to explore. Here’s a couple of other popular ways to bet on March Madness.

March Madness live betting

Live betting takes the action to a whole new level. As the name implies, these are bets you place in real-time. Odds and offerings will be based on what’s going on, and the market moves fast as the game plays out.

March Madness betting tips

Filling out a solid bracket is tough, and the sheer number of games can make it tough to zero in on potentially profitable betting opportunities. Here are some actionable tips you can use to make some sense out of all of the noise.

1. Respect the seeds

Since the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a top seed has won it all 22 times and made it to the Final Four 57 times. Teams seeded two, three, or four, have made it to the Final Four 29, 17, and 13 times respectively. In short, the top teams are where they are for a reason.

2. Monitor line moves

After oddsmakers release lines, they don’t standstill. There will be movement based on betting action, and it can provide you with valuable clues on which way the money is flowing on the game. While public action isn’t always correct, the strong line moves after the initial release are worth taking the time to research.

3. Stick to stats that matter

You could spend days and days reading reams and reams of NCAAB stats, but it won’t necessarily get you any closer to picking winners. The concept of quality over quantity applies when it comes to research, so stick to what moves the needle, including true shooting percentage, defensive efficiency, and rotation depth.

4. Scout out dangerous underdogs

There are often lower seeds that enter the tournament playing well that are worth taking the time to research further. They could wind up being very live underdogs for you to pounce on. The following seeds beyond the top level have made the Final Four the most times since 1985: five, eight, and 11.

5. Pick your spots

From the First Four to the National Title tilt, there are 67 games in March Madness. While you have to pick them all for bracket competitions, you don’t have to bet on every game with single-game wagers. Instead, pick your spots and only wager on the games that you feel the best about.

As a whole, the tournament can seem like it’s wildly unpredictable. However, if you simply pace yourself and stick to what matters, you can place yourself in a position to have more winners than losers when all is said and done.

Brackets vs. betting on March Madness

March Madness is an incredibly exciting time of the year, and there are three great ways to enhance it even further:

  • Entering a March Madness bracket in a free or paid bracket contest
  • Betting game by game
  • Betting on March Madness futures

Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about both.

What’s a March Madness bracket?

After the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee sets the field for the tournament, the field-of-68 bracket is released to the public.

The bracket is divided up into four regional quadrants: East, South, Midwest, and West. The tournament is single-elimination over several rounds, and there will ultimately be a winner of each region.

Those teams make up what’s known as the Final Four.

There are all kinds of bracket competitions surrounding NCAA March Madness that generally fall into one of three categories.

  1. March Madness pools: This can be as simple as your local office pool. There’s typically a nominal buy-in amount to compete, and the object is to pick the winners of each game through to the National Championship. The person with the highest-scoring bracket is the winner.
  2. Free March Madness bracket contests: Free contests work the same as pools. Users fill out the bracket from the opening round to the champion all at once. As the tournament plays out, they get points for correct picks. Through the years, there have been several free contests online that have paid out great prizes to winners.
  3. Paid March Madness bracket contests: For a step up in competition level, there are also bracket contests that require an entry fee, ranging from small to large. The object is the same, but the field size is generally smaller than in the free contests. As such, there’s more of a realistic chance of winning the top prize.

Betting on March Madness brackets

A good part of the rampant interest in March Madness has to do with filling out brackets. Of course, the fun goes much further than that as a stellar bracket can translate into real prizes of the monetary kind.

Smaller pools aren’t too tough to find around March Madness time. Everyone pays an entry fee which goes into the pot, and the best bracket wins.

On the contest front, there are free and paid versions online, some of which have huge prize pools. Some are winners take all, while others payout multiple places. You earn points for each correct pick, with the amount rising as the rounds of the tournament advance.

What are the chances of winning one of these huge pools? It depends on the number of entrants for an exact answer, but the short story is that it’s tough. No matter how well-versed you may be in NCAA Basketball, you need a lot of things to go your way at once to win a March Madness bracket contest.

But there are ways to enhance your chances. Whether you’ll be filling out your first bracket or have been doing it for years, here are some actionable tips you can use.

  • Go beyond records: A team that has racked up a great win-loss record against inferior competition isn’t necessarily better than a squad with a poorer record while facing tougher foes.
  • Study recent form: Which is better: A program that has entered the tourney winning the last 10 in a row, or one that has dropped its last six? The answer is obvious, but you need to take the time to see what’s what with each team.
  • Assess program strength: Everyone loves the Cinderella small school that looks like the real deal but be realistic when examining the schools. In general, the top programs attract the best talent for a reason.
  • Higher seeds in early rounds: Upsets are going to happen, but when it comes to teams seeded one through four in each region, they have a great overall tournament winning percentage so pick your spots wisely.
  • Find your upsets: To add on to the last point, go in knowing that upsets are going to happen. Your job while filling out the bracket is to find them. If you have a handful you can make a realistic case for, don’t be shy.

March Madness FAQ

Can you bet on March Madness in Virginia?

Yes. It’s legal to bet on college sports in Virginia. But, you can’t place bets on any of the in-state programs.

That means no betting on Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason or James Madison, and so on. While that’s a bummer, let’s not forget that there are several quality programs from surrounding states to cheer on.

The lack of betting on in-state teams can be a good thing, especially if you’re a diehard fan. It’s tough to bet against the teams you love, even when common sense tells you that it’s the right call.

That’s out of the equation for March Madness. You can still root for the Cavaliers or Hokies or whatever team you like, but you won’t have the added stress of money riding on the outcome.

How are teams seeded in March Madness?

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee has the unenviable task of laying out the field for March Madness. Teams are seeded one through 16 in each of four regions, and some teams qualify for play-in games. The eligible teams are weighed out on numerous metrics, including strength of schedule and overall record.

What does NET rating mean for March Madness?

This stands for NCAA Evaluation Tool, and it’s a resource that the Men’s Basketball Selection Committee leans on heavily while sorting through the teams. In a nutshell, it’s a simple rating system for the teams, but there’s a whole lot of complexity behind the scenes. The exact composition for the rating formula is secret, but it leans on things such as the quality of opponents and the net margin of victory.

How many games are played in March Madness?

From start to finish, it’s 67 games. Here’s how it breaks down on a round-by-round basis.

Opening Round: 4
First Round: 32
Second Round: 16
Sweet 16: 8
Elite Eight: 4
Final Four: 2
National Championship: 1

What is the lowest-seeded team to win March Madness?

Since the field was expanded in 1985, top seeds have won it all the most often, followed by two, three and four seeds. The lowest-seeded team to win the tournament was the 1985 Villanova Wildcats, who entered the tournament as an eight seed. The team would go on to a 66-64 upset victory over top-seeded Georgetown in the finals.

What are the odds of having a perfect March Madness bracket?

In layman’s terms, it’s virtually impossible. Picking the correct outcome of 67 games would be a heater for the ages if anyone were able to pull it off. From a math perspective, the numbers have been run and suggest the chances are one in 9.2 quintillions. For perspective, a quintillion has 18 zeros and can be described as a million trillion or a billion, billion.