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March Madness Tournament Bracket Simulation

Last Updated: Mar 20, 2024

It’s time for the Madness to begin.

We’re only days away from the NCAA Tournament tipoff, and we know you want to join the fun with some betting action.

But you’re smart. You don’t just want to bet blindly. Instead, you want a reason to bet on a specific team to win the championship. You’re looking for a legitimate edge that will have you bragging to your friends for weeks.

Therefore, we’ve put together a 2024 March Madness simulation that looks at odds and their discrepancies to find the best value on the NCAAB futures board.

How The March Madness Simulator Works

To start the simulation, I looked at futures odds on five legal books in the United States. The five books we used were FanDuel, Caesars, Bet365, DraftKings, and BetMGM.

By using five different sportsbooks, I was able to find the average of each team’s odds to win the National Championship between all five legal books. By doing this, I had an idea of where each team is priced to win the NCAA Championship on the legal books.

Find The Average On Legal Books

I used the top 25 teams in the nation per Championship odds. With those 25 teams, I plugged in the odds of each team on each book.

For example, the UConn Huskies are +370 on FanDuel but +400 on the other four books. Therefore, the average for the Huskies on the five books combined was +394.

Add Pinnacle’s NCAAB Futures Lines

After finding the average of each team’s odds for the five legal books, I went over to an offshore site called Pinnacle to check their odds. As a reminder, you can’t bet on Pinnacle in the United States.

The offshore operator Pinnacle is known to be the sharpest sportsbook in the world. This is because Pinnacle doesn’t limit winners nearly as much as the other sportsbooks. Instead, Pinnacle uses the sharp bets on the site to determine their odds more accurately than any other bookmaker. Beyond that, Pinnacle also doesn’t include high vig. They’re a low-margin book. In other words, Pinnacle charges the lowest juice and offers the highest limits.

Most books can’t do that, or they’d go broke. Pinnacle can because they’re extra sharp.

That said, I added Pinnacle’s NCAAB futures lines into a spreadsheet to compare with the average of the five legal books.

Find the Discrepancies

With the average from the five legal books and the Pinnacle futures lines, I found the difference between the two lines for each of the top 25 teams.

If the difference was a large positive number, it meant that there was value on the legal books for that certain team. However, if the difference was a negative number, it was a sign to stay away from betting on that team with the legal sportsbook.

March Madness Simulation: NCAA Tournament Winner Results

SchoolProb DiffAVGAVG ProbFDPinn LinePinn ProbCZR365DKMGM
Houston1.44%57014.93%60051116.37%550600500600
Tennessee0.78%16005.88%170014026.66%1400180016001500
St. Mary's0.74%65201.51%600043542.25%7000600070006600
Illinois0.54%30003.23%350025523.77%2500250035003000
Alabama0.33%37602.59%350033262.92%4000330040004000
Gonzaga0.06%56001.75%500054141.81%5000600060006000
Purdue0.03%68012.82%70067812.85%750650650650
Iowa State-0.01%18205.21%200018225.20%1600220020001300
Wisconsin-0.07%66001.49%600069351.42%7000500070008000
Marquette-0.08%26403.65%250027003.57%3000220030002500
Kansas-0.08%43002.27%450044722.19%5000300050004000
SDSU-0.12%85001.16%750095441.04%80008000900010000
Florida-0.13%61001.61%650066641.48%6000600060006000
North Carolina-0.20%14406.49%170014896.29%1400140014001300
Creighton-0.22%24803.88%250026343.66%3000220030001700
Auburn-0.26%18005.26%220019025.00%1600180016001800
Michigan State-0.28%83001.19%6500109280.91%900060001000010000
Texas Tech-0.31%93001.06%7500132520.75%1000010000900010000
BYU-0.34%59201.66%500074761.32%6000500070006600
Duke-0.39%30003.23%300034152.84%2500300035003000
Baylor-0.40%34602.81%350040482.41%4000330030003500
New Mexico -0.41%101000.98%7500175680.57%1250080001000012500
UConn-0.44%39420.24%37040519.80%400400400400
Arizona-0.47%12407.46%130013306.99%1000160012001100
Kentucky-0.64%25603.76%300031093.12%2000280025002500

Key:

  • Prob Diff = Probability Differential
  • AVG Prob = Average Probability To Win
  • AVG = Average Odds For Our 5 Sportsbooks
  • Pinn Prob = Pinnacle Average Probability To Win
  • Pinn Line = Pinnacle Line
  • FD = FanDuel
  • CZR = Caesars
  • 365 = bet365
  • DK = DraftKings
  • MGM = BetMGM

With this analysis, we’re trusting Pinnacle. For example, Pinnacle’s line for the UConn Huskies is +405, while the average of the five books is +394. The best price for the Huskies would be on Pinnacle, meaning if you bet the Huskies with a legal book, you’d be getting negative value.

Why would you back the Huskies at +394 when a sharp book has them at +405? Pinnacle, which is regarded as the sharpest book in the world, gives the Huskies a lower probability of winning the NCAA Tournament than the legal books.

You shouldn’t be betting UConn, knowing there’s a -.44% difference between the five legal books and Pinnacle. Pinnacle doesn’t like the Huskies as much as the legal books and we’re doing this whole simulation based off Pinnacle’s lines.

As you’ve likely already guessed, the odds highlighted in green and red are major discrepancies that I will be paying attention to.

Let’s use Houston as another example. You can bet the Cougars at +600 with three books. The average between all five books is at +570. However, Pinnacle has Houston to win the NCAA Tournament at +511.

Houston’s a bet that you might want to consider. For example, the sharpest book in the world has given Houston a 16.37% chance of winning the NCAA Tournament with +511 odds. However, you can buy Houston at +600 on FanDuel, Bet365, or BetMGM at +600 odds.

These legal books combined believe Houston has a 14.93% chance of winning the NCAA Tournament. But Pinnacle believes Houston has more than a 16% chance of winning. Therefore, you’d want to bet the Cougars at +600 when comparing Houston’s odds to Pinnacle.

If you haven’t downloaded all of the sportsbook apps mentioned above, use these March Madness betting promos before depositing money.

Best NCAA Tournament Teams To Bet

1. Houston Cougars (+600)

While we have useful data from Pinnacle, we also want to back that Pinnacle information with other metrics that help our thinking.

Every NCAA champion since 2004 has had a Top 25 defensive efficiency and a Top 40 offensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Heading into the NCAA Tournament, Houston has the No. 2 defensive efficiency and No. 17 offensive efficiency.

Plus, every championship team in the last 14 years has had two upperclassmen who have led the team. Houston’s most highly regarded players are Jamal Shead and LJ Cryer, both seniors.

Complete your March Madness bracket and pencil in Houston to win it all.

2. Tennessee Volunteers (+1800)

Tennessee is just +1402 at Pinnacle. However, the average of the five legal books is +1600. Pinnacle gives Tennessee a 6.66% chance of winning it all, while the average of the five legal books believes Tennessee only has a 5.88% chance of winning the NCAA Tournament.

However, since I trust Pinnacle, I can take Tennessee at +1700 via FanDuel. That’s the best price on the market. FanDuel only has Tennessee winning the NCAA Tournament 5.56% of the time. Pinnacle believes Tennessee has a 1% more chance of winning the NCAA Tournament than FanDuel does.

Tennessee fits into the same KenPom metrics as Houston. The Volunteers have the 29th offensive efficiency and the third-best defensive efficiency in the nation.

The Volunteers are also led by many upperclassmen, including Dalton Knecht, who won the SEC Player of the Year this season.

Another metric to consider is a head coach’s winning percentage. The majority of coaches that win the NCAA Tournament have over 500 career victories and a lifelong winning percentage of 64%.

Barnes has coached since 1987 and has a career-winning percentage of .660 as a head coach.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide

While trends are cool and fun sometimes, there are instances where these trends don’t follow through.

Pinnacle likes Alabama a whole lot more than the legal books in the United States. The average for Alabama at the legal books is +3760, but at Pinnacle, Alabama’s odds are at +3326.

Per the legal books, Alabama only has a 2.59% chance of winning the NCAA Tournament. However, Pinnacle is giving Alabama a 2.92% chance. It might not seem like a whole lot, but in a tournament of 68 teams, even a .33% edge is significant.

You can find Alabama at +4000, while Pinnacle only has the Crimson Tide at +3326.

4. Illinois Fighting Illini

It’s been a rough go for Big Ten Champions recently. The Big Ten Champion hasn’t gotten out of the first round in multiple years.

However, the sharpest book in the world doesn’t see it that way. Pinnacle is giving Illinois a +2552, while the average of the five legal books has Illinois at +3000.

Illinois can be found at +3500 at FanDuel and DraftKings, which is significant value compared to Pinnacle’s +2552.

5. Saint Mary’s Gaels

The best longshot on the board is St. Mary’s. The Pinnacle line for St. Mary’s to win the NCAA Tournament is +4354. Meanwhile, the five legal books average is +6520.

You can get St. Mary’s at +7000 at a couple of legal sportsbooks, while the sharpest book in the world has St. Mary’s at only +4354.

It’s still a long shot to win, and it’s still unlikely to win. But betting on St. Mary’s would be an intriguing longshot play that has an edge.

The Pinnacle line has given St. Mary’s a 2.25% probability of winning the NCAA Tournament. However, some books only think St. Mary’s has a 1.41% chance of winning the Tournament. That’s significant value.

Remember, with these types of bets, you can always hedge out at a later time. If the Gaels get into the Sweet 16, you can find ways to hedge your bet and earn some guaranteed cash at that point.

While these five teams hold the most value, you can check out our other writers’ best bets and March Madness predictions to see their thoughts as well.

Worst NCAA Tournament Teams To Bet

1. Arizona Wildcats (+1600)

Although Bet365 has Arizona priced at +1600, the average of the five books has the Wildcats at +1240 odds.

Caesars even has Arizona at +1000, while Pinnacle is sitting at +1330. I’d trust Pinnacle more than I’d trust Caesars.

While the Wildcats have tremendous senior talent on the roster, it looks like the sharp bettors don’t trust Tommy Lloyd. Lloyd came over to Arizona in 2021. He’s won two Pac-12 Tournaments and 2 Pac-12 Regular Season Titles. However, Arizona hasn’t made it past the Sweet 16 in his first two tries.

We talked about coaching experience being a major factor in the NCAA Tournament. Lloyd doesn’t have that experience and hasn’t even made it to the Elite Eight in his first two seasons with Arizona.

2. Kentucky Wildcats (+3000)

Pinnacle is not a fan of Kentucky. Pinnacle has given Kentucky a +3109 line, while the average at the five legal sportsbooks is at +2560.

The sharpest sportsbook in the world isn’t high on Kentucky. We shouldn’t be either.

Pinnacle has given Kentucky a 3.12% chance of winning the NCAA Tournament, despite the legal books’ implied odds of 3.76%.

Kentucky is a notable blue blood that has one of the best coaches in America. With Kentucky 108th in defensive efficiency via KenPom, it’s hard to imagine a big tournament run from the Wildcats. The defense has been atrocious at times.

3. Duke Blue Devils (+3500)

The Duke Blue Devils actually have the metrics that would solidify them as contenders. However, Pinnacle isn’t buying Duke regardless.

According to Pinnacle, Duke has a 2.84% chance of winning the National Championship. However, the legal sportsbooks believe Duke has a 3.23% chance of winning the NCAA Tournament. If Pinnacle thinks Duke has a lesser chance based on the sharp action coming in, we’ll trust that.

More Findings From The March Madness Simulator

It’s All About Probability

If you read this article, you’re looking for a mathematical edge in sports betting.

You want to pay attention to sharp action and probabilities. If Pinnacle is indeed the sharpest book in the world, you don’t want to bet a +1800 price when Pinnacle has a +2000. Long term, that bet will likely lose you money over time.

However, if you take a +2000 bet when Pinnacle’s price is only +1600, there’s a much higher chance that you’ll be profitable in the long run once you’ve made an adequate number of bets with an edge.

With Pinnacle, we’ve determined Houston (+600) and Tennessee (+1800) are the two best bets you can make for the NCAA Tournament.

Other longshot options that hold value include Illinois (+3500), Alabama (+4000), and St. Mary’s (+7000). The rest of the top 25 are bets you should avoid, per the sharpest book in the world, Pinnacle.

Another note is that the five legal books used for this simulation are some of the best March Madness betting apps you can find.

If you haven’t downloaded those apps five apps, make sure to add them to your sports betting rotation so you can continue to line shop and find the best value.

I wish you all the best of luck this March Madness season! Transparently, I’ll be on the five teams suggested above for .25 units. Let us know if you’re tailing these bets too!

Author

Jason Radowitz

Jason Radowitz is a jack of all trades when it comes to writing sports. Jason writes and bets the MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAAF, and NCAAB when the sports are in season. Currently, he's a Writer and Betting Analyst for The Game Day providing daily content in the MLB. Earlier in his sports career, Jason was a graduate assistant for the University of Hartford Men's Basketball team using analytics and numbers to help put together the winningest season in program history. With his articles, you will be sure to get an analytical approach.

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