Last December, I began simulating the NCAA Tournament 25,000 times each week. Now, I’m gearing up for another crack at it.
Below, read about how the simulation works and my preliminary 2023 Final Four best bets.
How The March Madness Simulation Works
Up until Selection Sunday, we will not know which teams make the tournament. The field is made up of 32 automatic bids for each conference champion and 36 at-large bids picked by a committee.
Rather than try to predict all 68 teams and their seeding, I use the ESPN Bracketology projections made by Joe Lunardi. For future simulations for The Game Day, I will be doing my own bracketology projections, so stay tuned.
Find the top CBB futures to bet during the season and March Madness
How does this March Madness simulation work?
- You take one team’s rating and subtract the other team’s rating, which gives you the number of points a team should be favored by.
- If a team has a power rating of 22 and their opponent has a power rating of 25, for example, they should be a three-point underdog in a neutral court matchup.
How do I make these NCAA Tournament power ratings?
Any experienced college basketball bettor is familiar with Ken Pomeroy, a former meteorologist who comes up with advanced college basketball statistics. His numbers are so good that most bookmakers copy his numbers to set NCAAB spreads.
In that spirit, I incorporate his power ratings to simulate March Madness brackets. After doing so 25,000 times in Microsoft Excel, I then tabulate the number of times each team won the National Championship.
If the odds of a team winning the championship are greater than my breakeven odds, I bet it.
- Breakeven odds are the percentage of time a bet needs to win for you to break even. If the payoff is better than the breakeven odds, that’s the type of bet you should be making to be a long-term profitable bettor.
- Example: Let’s say my model gives a team a 12.5% chance of winning the tournament for a breakeven price of (+700). If a sportsbook offers (+800) on that bet, I take it. If they are offering, say, (+500), I would not take it.
The point of breakeven odds and projections is to figure out when to make a bet.
March Madness 2023 Simulation
ESPN has UConn, Arizona, Purdue, and Kansas as No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
Currently, Caesars Sportsbook has installed Houston, Arizona, UConn, and UCLA as the top four betting favorites to win the tournament.
|Team||Simulations Won||Breakeven Odds||Good Bet||No Lean||Bad Bet|
In Kansas’ region, the Jayhawks qualify for the Final Four most often (34.1% of the time). Alabama, Duke, and Gonzaga — the 2-4 seeds — qualify for the Final Four a combined 44.1% of the time, and Saint Mary’s, as an 8-seed, is an intriguing dark horse, making the Final Four in 7.8% of my simulations.
In UConn’s region, it is a two-way race between the Huskies and Tennessee for the Final Four, with both teams combining to qualify 78.3% of the time. Connecticut has an edge, making it in 43.5% of my simulations, but Tennessee is still worth watching.
The interesting region is Arizona’s, as the Wildcats only made the Final Four in 8.6% of my simulations. Houston is the heavy favorite, winning the region 66.1% of the time.
Even with North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, and Auburn in the same region, Houston dominates.
The last region is Purdue’s, where the Boilermakers are locked into a battle with UCLA. Despite being a 2-seed, the Bruins win the region in 40.5% of my simulations — the most of any team — though Purdue still wins 38.4% of the time.
When assessing all the hypothetical regions, Houston wins most often (27.1%), but the tournament field is wide-open. When combining teams with less than a 1% chance of winning and labeling them as “the field”, they won the NCAA Tournament in 10% of my simulations.
UConn, Tennessee, and UCLA round out the tournament favorites.
Best NCAA Tournament Teams to Bet
The most recent AP Top 25 poll has Houston as the No. 3 team in the country behind UConn and Purdue. KenPom has Houston as the best team in the country.
Despite this, the Cougars didn’t receive a single first-place vote.
None of this is surprising since Houston has a 12-1 record and both Purdue and UConn are undefeated. However, the Cougars’ lone loss came against an Alabama team that is ranked No. 8 in the country
Houston is underrated for several reasons this year. As a mid-major, they will always be overlooked when compared to blue-chip programs like UCLA, UConn, or Kentucky.
The American Athletic Conference is only the eighth-best conference in the country. The only weaker conference with an NCAA Championship contender is the West Coast Conference, which has Gonzaga.
For Houston’s non-conference slate, they went 3-1 against Alabama, Virginia, Oregon, and Saint Mary’s. With a decent non-conference slate, KenPom gives Houston the second-best adjusted defensive tempo in the country and a top-20 offense.
At (+700), Houston is the rare futures favorite that still pays out a hefty price, and I would bet them up to (+500).
NCAA TOURNAMENT BET: Houston Wins NCAA Tournament (+700) at Caesars Sportsbook
Wager: 2 Units
UConn should be the No. 1 team in the country, and at some point, they should pass Purdue in the AP Top 25.
They are one of only two teams that has an adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency inside the top 10. Once you adjust for their schedule and play, the Huskies have the sixth-best offensive and fourth-best defensive efficiency.
The key player for UConn is senior forward Adama Sanogo. With .339 win shares per 40 minutes, only Purdue’s Zach Edey (.360) has a better rate than Sanogo.
Another key contributor who often goes unnoticed is guard Andre Jackson, who is one of the better defensive players in college basketball.
Connecticut is appropriately viewed as a National Championship contender, and if they become the No. 1 team in the country, their NCAA Tournament winner odds should become shorter than the current 12-1 price.
NCAA TOURNAMENT BET: UConn Wins NCAA Tournament (+1200) at Caesars Sportsbook
Wager: 2 Units
Tennessee has the best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country. The offense may not be spectacular, but that only matters so much here.
In their non-conference schedule, the Volunteers held Kansas to just 50 points and Maryland to 53. Even in their loss on the road to Arizona, the Vols held the Wildcats to only 75 points, which was their second-lowest scoring performance of the season.
The key for Tennessee will be how they do against Kentucky on Jan. 14 and Texas on Jan. 28. They should be favored in both games, and if they win, they will have even shorter odds than the current 20-1 price.
NCAA TOURNAMENT BET: Tennessee Wins NCAA Tournament (+2000) at Caesars Sportsbook
Wager: 1 Unit
Worst NCAA Tournament Teams to Bet
Gonzaga fell flat in the NCAA Tournament last year, which left me with a bad taste in my mouth. This season, the Zags played a tough non-conference slate, and I was not impressed with their performance.
In neutral-site matchups, Gonzaga beat Michigan State by only one point and lost to Purdue and Baylor. They did beat Alabama and Kentucky, but I believe that both teams are overrated this season.
With a weak conference slate, I need to wait until their game against Saint Mary’s on Feb. 4 before I change my mind about the Zags.
Teams like Kentucky and North Carolina (below) will always be priced at a premium since they play in tough conferences and contend every season. The Wildcats are a good team, but they are barely in KenPom’s top 10, and their stock could decline with a tough conference slate coming up.
In their non-conference slate, the Wildcats did not have any noteworthy wins. For their conference slate, they face tough tests in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama.
At 17-1 to cut down the nets, I would avoid Kentucky like the plague right now.
3. North Carolina
North Carolina had a mediocre regular season last year and got hot for the big dance. Despite playing in the National Championship as an 8 seed, I am very bearish on UNC this season.
The Tar Heels rank No. 57 in adjusted defensive efficiency, and their only win against a top-25 team was Ohio State in overtime. Their four losses against Iowa State, Alabama, Indiana, and Virginia Tech have me concerned about their ability to make it past the Round of 32 in the tournament.
UNC is something of a longshot the win it all, but their odds aren’t long enough to merit any consideration.