With football in the rear-view mirror, the betting world can officially shift its focus onto basketball.
Even though the NBA tends to dominate the headlines this time of year, it’s the NCAA’s March Madness that’s the next big event on the sports calendar. With West Virginia sports betting now legal, there is plenty of excitement around the Big Dance.
Every year, the Division I men’s basketball tournament is one of the most anticipated and bet on sporting events. With 48 games in the opening four days, there is no shortage of entertainment and games to wager.
Beyond betting on individual games, most people like to partake in a bracket pool where you try to predict every single matchup in the tournament. These can often create a lot of excitement as every game officially becomes meaningful, even to your average fan.
Betting on the NCAA Tournament in West Virginia
West Virginia residents have plenty of options when it comes to getting their bets in for March Madness. There are now sportsbooks at each of the five WV casinos in the state, which are the perfect places to kick back and watch the games after placing your bets.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
Hollywood Casino is the largest and the first to offer sports betting in the Mountain State. Its location in Ranson, WV, is ideal for out-of-state gamblers in both Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Hollywood Casino is less than an hour from both major cities.
Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort
Suspended WV sportsbooks
Mardi Gras Casino and Resort
A contract dispute between the casinos’ owner, Delaware North, and its technology partner Miomni left the books in the dark during one of the most popular betting event of the year.
Also caught in the crossfire is BetLucky Sportsbook, WV’s only online sports betting option.
Recently, Delaware North filed suit against Miomni hoping to sever its relationship. That means it will be a while before sports betting finds its way back to Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island. It is unlikely BetLucky will return to the Mountain State.
WV online sports betting for March Madness
Online sports betting is also available within the state. Anyone physically in WV who’s over the age of 21 can legally place a wager on any March Madness game.
NCAA Tournament basics
Unlike some other sports, it can be a little tricky to understand how the college basketball postseason works and which teams are eligible to make it.
Once the regular season ends, every team that has qualified will then play in its conference tournament. Most conferences allow the majority of teams to participate in the conference tournament. The top teams will receive a bye or sometimes two in order to reward their regular season record.
From the conference tournament champions, we get 32 automatic bids into the NCAA Tournament. It doesn’t matter if your regular season record is terrible if you win the postseason conference tournament, you’ve punched your ticket to the Big Dance.
With a total of 68 teams creating the tournament field, that leaves 36 remaining at-large bids. These teams are chosen by a 10-person selection committee on Selection Sunday.
On top of rounding out the field, the committee makes other important decisions like choosing which seed every team gets and which region they’ll be placed into. This is always one of the most criticized processes since it determines potential matchups to come and the city it will be played in.
After the bracket is set, the first games played are called the First Four. There are now four play-in games where two teams with the same seed will play. Often, two of the four games consist of 16 seeds. Once the field reduces to 64, the true tournament begins with the first round.
The single-elimination tournament then proceeds round-by-round until the regional finals determine the Final Four participants. The Final Four will be hosted in Minneapolis, Minnesota, this year. Three games later, a champion is crowned.
March Madness 2018 approaching fast
Midway through February, the college basketball season is coming to a close which means the madness is nearly here. Let’s take a look at some key dates quickly approaching:
- March 9 – Regular season concludes for the majority of teams
- March 17 – Selection Sunday
- March 19-20 – First Four play-in games
Location: Dayton, Ohio
- March 21-24 – First and Second Rounds
Location: Hartford, Connecticut; Salt Lake City, Utah; Des Moines, Iowa; Jacksonville, Florida; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Columbus, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina; San Jose, California
- March 28, 30 – West and South Regional Semifinals and Finals (Sweet 16 and Elite Eight)
Location: Anaheim, California, and Louisville, Kentucky
- March 29, 31 – East and Midwest Regional Semifinals and Finals
Location: Washington, D.C., and Kansas City, Missouri
- April 6 – National Semifinals (Final Four)
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
- April 8 – National Championship Game
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
March Madness bracket and betting tips
Last year, the American Gaming Association estimated that $10 billion was bet on the NCAA tournament. This is a combination of both individual game bets along with bracket pools.
Of course, betting is now much more prevalent across the country, but it seems that filling out a bracket has always been popular. It’s usually an inexpensive way to create a buzz for every single game while earning a chance at winning and taking home a nice payout.
No matter what you choose to bet on, here are some helpful tips and factors to keep an eye on:
- Pick some upsets – They call it March Madness for a reason. Upsets occur every year, you just have to find some luck and somehow choose the right ones.
It might not be the smartest move to pick too many, but definitely sprinkle some in throughout each region.
Also, note areas where you may have a higher-seeded team whose odds you don’t like. Taking an upset there in the first or second round won’t be as costly if you’re wrong since you would have the favorite losing sometime soon anyway.
- Be aware of injuries – Some teams with a high seed will have some notable injuries you might not know about. Don’t always assume that a good record and a quality seed mean the team is running at full strength.
- Who’s hot – Picking the hottest team as opposed to the best team can sometimes be beneficial in this tournament. Once again, don’t judge every team strictly by record. Do some research and see how they fared down the stretch and in the conference tournament.
- Location – Take a look and see where each game is being played. Typically, the best teams are placed in regions with early-round games close in proximity to their home city and state. Sometimes a home-court advantage can be huge in these games played on neutral courts.
- Be selective – Just because there are 16 games played in a single day does not mean you need to bet on all of them. Figure out a game plan going into each day regarding the select matchups you want to bet on so you don’t impulsively start to pull with every new tip-off.
How to watch March Madness
- First Four play-in games: truTV
- First and second rounds: CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV
- Regional semifinals and finals: CBS and TBS
- Final Four: CBS
- NCAA Championship Game: CBS