The Gonzaga Bulldogs aren’t a Cinderella team any more. They’re No. 1 in the college basketball rankings, and they’re No. 1 on the March Madness futures market at Bookmaker. Gonzaga (+657) leads the way at press time, followed very closely by the Kansas Jayhawks (+697) and the North Carolina Tar Heels (+775).
The top team in college hoops rankings isn’t always the favorite to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – especially when it’s a small school like Gonzaga. But the odds at Bookmaker show that the betting market and the sports writers at Associated Press are in agreement. Other books are going with the Duke Blue Devils as their favorite; however, Bookmaker has Duke fifth on their list at +842, and since Bookmaker is the industry leader when it comes to the odds, this is a strong signal that the Blue Devils may be biting off more than they can chew this year.
Word to the Wise
“Follow the money” is a big part of sports betting, and if you’re betting online, you’ll find many of the big-money players at Bookmaker. That’s why Gonzaga is on top there instead of Duke. You can read all about it at Bookmaker Review. Sportsbook Review has the skinny on all the major (and minor) books available online, and Bookmaker stands out as the one location that the others pay close attention to before setting their odds.
Recreational bettors play at Bookmaker, too, drawn by bonuses and promotions that aren’t available to the high-rollers. But the wiseguys play there anyway, in large part because they don’t have to worry about getting cut off if they win too much. Two-factor security and the ability to use Bitcoin help, too. Since there are so many professional bettors at Bookmaker, their odds tend to reflect the actual ability of the teams in question, rather than putting the most popular teams on top.
Looking Out for No. 1
In this case, they’ve got it right with Gonzaga. It’s not just the AP sports writers that agree, either – the USA Today Coaches poll also has the Bulldogs at No.1. So does Ken Pomeroy, the guru of advanced stats for college hoops. According to Pomeroy’s numbers, Gonzaga is over four points better per 100 possessions than the No. 2 team on his list, the defending champion Villanova Wildcats (+857).
Duke, meanwhile, is No. 10 on the AP rankings, No. 11 on the coaches poll, and No. 12 on the Pomeroy charts. The Blue Devils don’t seem like a smart bet to win the Tournament, but they’re one of the most popular (and hated) teams in college basketball, and casual fans tend to bet on the teams they follow. That doesn’t make them wrong for doing so; betting a small amount for entertainment purposes is perfectly reasonable.
That’s not how the wiseguys operate. They’re trying to make a buck, and their profit margin comes from recreational bettors making sub-optimal decisions – like betting on Duke. As more money comes in on the Blue Devils, their odds get shorter, while the odds on the other teams get longer. If you invest in overlooked teams like Gonzaga, or Villanova for that matter, you’ll typically find them at bargain prices compared to the big-name programs.
Not that people aren’t betting on the Bulldogs this year. Being on top of the polls has lifted their profile – so has staying undefeated through 28 games. However, Gonzaga still plays in relative obscurity in the West Coast Conference, and the program doesn’t have the same championship pedigree as Duke. If you happen to love the Blue Devils and you want to bet on them to win March Madness, you’ll probably find your best price at Bookmaker; Duke is +600 at other locations. And if you’re a professional bettor, chances are you’ve already signed up.