As the saying goes: “everyone has a bet on a March Madness Bracket,” which isn’t too far from the truth, as the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament is one of the most highly-anticipated events on the US sporting calendar. Although a college sports tournament, March Madness competes for the spotlight with US pro sports when it comes to following, fan attention, and betting.
The event features 68 of the nation’s best college basketball programs facing off against each other in 67 thrilling games for fans and bettors. Read our full guide to the best March Madness betting sites. Our college basketball and sports betting experts joined forces to tell you everything you need to know about the tournament and betting. We’ll also cover whether your state permits March Madness sport gambling and a few of the most popular bet types with US players
College Sports Betting in the US
Whether you can bet on March Madness and the types of bets you can place varies from state to state. Some jurisdictions allow every kind of bet on all collegiate programs, some restrict wagering on in-state schools, and some prohibit collegiate bets altogether. Read below for an overview of where you can bet on sports and what restrictions exist for March Madness sport gambling.
Where is Sports Betting Legal in the US?
Since the US Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), allowing states to pass sports betting legislation, many US states have legalized sports betting in one form or another.
The majority of legal betting states permit in-person and online sports betting. Others have entered expanded gaming compacts with tribal authorities, like North Carolina, while others have legalized retail sports betting but not online or the other way around.
See below for a list of the legal US betting states, the legal betting age, launch dates, and whether you can bet in-person, online, or both.
|State||Legal betting age||Launch date||Retail||Online|
|New Hampshire||18||December 2019||Y||Y|
|New Jersey||21||August 2018||Y||Y|
|New Mexico||21||October 2018||Y||N|
|New York||21||January 2022||Y||Y|
|North Carolina||21||July 2019||Y||N|
|Rhode Island||18||September 2019||Y||Y|
|South Dakota||21||March 2021||Y||N|
|Washington, D.C||18||June 2020||Y||Y|
|West Virginia||21||August 2019||Y||Y|
States with No College Betting Regulations
While some states heavily restrict collegiate sports betting, many states allow you to place bets on March Madness with no restrictions. Check out our complete list of states with no college betting restrictions and whether you can bet in-person, online, or both below.
How March Madness Works
With hundreds of NCAA Division I men’s basketball programs competing for the 68 available places throughout the college basketball season, March Madness is the culmination of a year’s work for college basketball players nationwide. To newcomers, March Madness can be overwhelming, so below, we’ve provided a guide to some of the basics of the tournament, including the selection process, how the bracket is decided, and how 68 teams become one national champion.
The Selection Process
College basketball fans often have one event circled on their calendars at the beginning of the NCAAB season, Selection Sunday, when the NCAA’s Basketball Committee, or selection committee, sets the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament bracket. Selection Sunday kicks off March Madness, the bonanza of college basketball that ends with the crowning of the national college basketball champion.
March Madness brings together 68 teams nationwide for a single-elimination tournament in four regions. There are two ways to earn a berth in this jamboree of college hoops.
Each of the 32 NCAA Division I conferences receives an “automatic bid,” given to the winner of its conference tournament, regardless of the school’s regular season record. These schools are collectively known as the “automatic qualifiers.”
The second method to receive an invite is through an “at-large bid,” which the selection committee allocates. The committee, comprised of school and conference administrators from across college basketball, selected for a five-year term, choose the final 36 teams based on overall record, the strength of schedule, and other metrics and stats. The 32 automatic qualifiers and 36 at-large berths comprise the entirety of the 68-team tournament.
Once the selection committee has decided on the field, it ranks the 68 teams from 1 to 68 based on its assessment of the team’s quality. The team with the best regular season and conference tournament performance will be ranked No. 1, the second-best No. 2, and so on.
The teams are divided into four regional brackets, with those ranked 1-4 occupying the No. 1 seed in each regional bracket. Then, the four overall lowest-ranked teams and the four lowest-ranked at-large teams meet in a play-in round called the First Four. The winners of these games join the main March Madness bracket, and the 64-team field is set.
Each region’s teams are seeded 1-16 by the 10-man selection committee. The first-round matchups pit the top team in a region against the lowest team to reward teams with a better ranking. The next highest goes against the next lowest, and so on. In theory, the higher your ranking, the easier your path to the championship.
After the first and second rounds, the nation’s sixteen best teams meet in regional semi-finals, dubbed the “Sweet Sixteen.” The winners will play in the Regional Finals, known as the “Elite Eight.” Finally, the four winners of the regional tournaments will meet for the “Final Four,” the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament semi-finals and finals. The winner of the tournament final is crowned the College Basketball national champion.
March Madness Bet Types
Placing your first bet on March Madness can be daunting. So, to help you get started, read our guide to some common bet types available at most March Madness betting sites below.
A moneyline is a simple market that involves bettors predicting who will win a matchup. Moneyline bets are simple and easy to place. If you select an underdog, moneyline bets can offer some excellent payouts, especially if a Cinderella team wins and you correctly predict it.
A point-spread bet requires the favorite to overcome an imaginary points deficit, called a handicap, to ‘cover the spread.’ When you bet on the points-spread favorite, you need them to win by more than the handicap to win the bet. Alternatively, when you bet on the underdog, your wager will payout if the team loses within its handicap or wins.
Another popular wager among basketball bettors is the total points bet, where your sportsbook will set a total for a particular statistic. To win the bet, you must correctly predict whether the total will be over or under the total set. Total points, rebounds, and assists for individuals and the team are usually available for wagering on most US sportsbooks for March Madness.
Proposition bets, often called props, are not made on the game’s score but on an individual player or event. For example, will a player be ejected, will a player score a slam dunk in the second quarter, or will a team foul out in the first half? Player props on college games are restricted in some states, so check the sports betting law to see if props are permitted.
A future bet is a wager on a significant event in the future. When betting on March Madness, top US sportsbooks will offer future bets on the winners of each regional tournament and teams to make the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four. The earlier you place your bets, the better odds you’ll receive.