Hedging College Basketball Futures for the First Week of March Madness


College basketball NCAA Tournament futures are always a challenge. Should I hedge here? Should I let it ride here? Should I buy off of it partially? Should I lock in my profit and not worry about it?

Unfortunately, there is no right answer and the only wrong answer is one that you find out about when you take a financial hit. Everybody likes to get into the futures market, but may not fully understand the ramifications of dabbling in that side of the sports betting business.

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You have to consider the draw. You have to consider your goals with that particular bet. Do you want to make a profit of five units? Are you happy with a profit of 2.5 units? Do you want to gamble a little bit more because you like your position? Are you a low-risk player simply looking for a quick profit?

Also, the price obviously matters. You’ll be able to hedge a 150/1 a lot sooner than a 16/1. You’ll want to let a 16/1 ride deep into the tournament. You can hedge a 150/1, in theory, as early as you want, depending on the draw.

With that in mind, I’ll give you my general suggestions on the first weekend of March Madness when it comes to futures. I don’t know what prices you bet and I don’t know what your potential return is, but given the matchups and the outlook, I can forecast where you would want to consider hedging if you have an average risk profile.

This is predominantly for those that have existing futures. At various points, I may suggest a future, but this is mostly for bets that have already been made.

East Region

Duke – Let it ride

VCU/UCF – Your hands are tied here. This is a coin flip game and both teams are a substantial underdog to Duke. I think Duke mauls VCU. I think UCF’s length gives Duke some problems, but ultimately the Blue Devils should prevail either way. If you have a future on either one of these teams, I think you simply got boned by a bad draw. Duke is -1300 to make the Sweet 16, so you can’t even hedge there. Your best bet is to hope for a live money line to get Duke at a lower price in the second half if the game is close.

Mississippi State/Liberty – The winner gets the winner of Virginia Tech/Saint Louis, which is a very manageable game for either team. I would take my chances here in this pod. You’re going to need to save every penny in hopes of getting a decent spot to hedge against Duke in the Sweet 16.

Virginia Tech/Saint Louis – Similarly, there’s not a whole lot you can do here. I would look at Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State around Hokies -1.5 if that’s the matchup. I don’t think there are a lot of Saint Louis or Liberty futures floating around, so it’s hard to spend much time on those.  With Duke up here, you have very few options. If you wanted to buy out, I’d wait for live betting chances.

Maryland vs. Belmont/Temple – We’ll see who wins the play-in game, but this is a rather interesting pod. LSU is a very vulnerable #3 seed. All three of these teams would be favored over Yale if the Bulldogs pull the upset. I think you just have to bide your time and wait here.

LSU/Yale – Yale is very live. The Tigers are a seven-point favorite, but Yale was the class of the Ivy League and has the firepower to score with LSU. I do still think LSU prevails and makes it into the next round, so if you are holding a Yale ticket, look for a live betting chance. More than likely, it is the LSU ticket you are worried about from grabbing that earlier in the year. Depending on the price you got, I think you have to gamble here. LSU is still going to win this game about 75 percent of the time per the line, so, as hard as it is, you have to trust them. I also think the Second Round draw is manageable, even for a team without its coach and with the other concerns.

Louisville/Minnesota – Can’t do much here. Minnesota has familiarity with Michigan State. Louisville doesn’t, but I don’t count Chris Mack out at all. Michigan State is around -300 to make the Sweet 16, which will be a tad lower than the money line against Louisville in all likelihood. I don’t see much equity there and I expect Louisville to keep it close, so a live hedge is a very real option.

Louisville is kind of intriguing for a futures ticket at 150/1. They have the upside to beat Michigan State and the rest of that part of the bracket is extremely manageable.

Michigan StateLet it ride.


West Region

Gonzaga – Let it ride.

Syracuse/Baylor – Not much you can do here. Getting slapped on the 8/9 line is tough. Syracuse has a much better chance against Gonzaga than Baylor in my opinion, so you can factor that into the equation, but I can’t imagine a lot of Baylor futures are floating around out there. You should get a chance to grab a Gonzaga money line closer to tip-off if you want to hedge a Syracuse future. A Baylor hedge will be much costlier.

Marquette/Murray State – I’m not sure a team hurt its chances more over the final few weeks than Marquette. Falling to a 5 seed means a Sweet 16 date with a #1 and also that dreaded 5/12 matchup. Murray State isn’t an easy opponent. I also don’t think Marquette gets past Florida State even with a win. I don’t see many options here except for hoping Marquette flips the switch if you have a futures ticket.

Florida State/Vermont – Vermont got a really bad draw for a defense-first low-major team. Florida State is one of the most athletic teams in the country. Vermont is getting some love and it has driven the money line price down on the Seminoles, but laying $5 to win $1 is still hard to do. Hope for the best.

Florida State at 60/1 isn’t bad. They’ll win this game and draw the very beatable winner of Marquette/Murray. They knocked out Gonzaga last year and play Syracuse all the time. Better prices were available during the season, but with this draw, there’s some upside. The only thing about 60/1 is that you have to wait a while to hedge. To be honest, I’d maybe hedge against Gonzaga a little, but mostly save it for Michigan or Texas Tech.

Buffalo vs. Arizona State/St. John’s – This is REALLY intriguing. I think Arizona State and St. John’s are two of the most talented teams in the field, but also two of the most inconsistent. Buffalo is really good, but they haven’t played a legitimate opponent since the non-conference portion of the season. Even though the Pac-12 and Big East were down this season, this is a dangerous spot for Buffalo. They’ll be favored over both, and favored by more over St. John’s, but I think you’ll have to try to trust the Bulls because Texas Tech is looming.

If you happen to have an ASU/St. John’s future, I’d hedge here since you should have a big enough number. Buffalo will be -6 or so against Johnny and -5 against Arizona State, so the hedging price will be reasonable.

Texas Tech/Northern Kentucky – This is where the ride likely ends for NKU. Let Texas Tech ride.

Nevada/Florida – This is a super scary for Nevada futures holders, but there was never much equity on the Nevada price anyway. Hopefully you don’t have one of those tickets. If you have Florida, I think you have to do something here because of the toss-up nature of this game. I do think Florida wins, though, so you may not want to go overboard because Michigan is on deck.

MichiganLet it ride.


South Region

VirginiaLet it ride. No, they’re not losing to a #16 again.

Ole Miss/Oklahoma – Not much you can do here. Both teams are sizable underdogs to Virginia, even with UVA’s questionable NCAA Tournament performances. Hope for the best for your futures ticket.

Wisconsin/Oregon – If you saw into the future enough to grab an Oregon ticket at ridiculous price, congratulations. Not only did you get a friendly draw here in San Jose, but this part of the bracket is weak. Kansas State without Dean Wade lacks bite and UC Irvine, while impressive in the Big West, is still a #13 seed from the Big West. If you have a big enough price, you can hedge here and next round, but I really think I’d let this one breathe on its own.

Wisconsin might be worth a hedge right away, given that Oregon is red hot.

Kansas State/UC Irvine – It’s hard to get out of a Kansas State ticket this quickly, and the Wildcats are still a comfortable favorite, but I’d be lying if I said I was confident in this team’s ability to win this game. No Dean Wade makes Kansas State even more one-dimensional and that’s a game UC Irvine can win. I’m not sure K-State gets past Oregon or Wisconsin either. You’ll have to hedge at some point here.

For a UC Irvine ticket, hope for the best here. You could hedge with the really big prices, but it should be a fairly minimal investment if you made one at all. Oregon will be a bigger favorite and Wisconsin should be in the same range as the Kansas State line.

Villanova/Saint Mary’s – Villanova is underseeded, but also close to home in Hartford and this is probably my favorite ATS bet of the first round. I’d let them ride.

Can’t be many Saint Mary’s tickets floating around, but the ride should end here for them. You’ll want to be proactive here.

Purdue/Old Dominion – With the prices on Purdue throughout the season, you have to hope for the best here. The Boilermakers are a comfortable favorite, but an uncomfortable team to follow in this game. It’s hard to hedge an ODU future if you actually made one, but they do face long odds to win this one.

Cincinnati/Iowa – Cincinnati is really popular playing in Columbus here, but this is not a particularly great team. Neither is Iowa. I think you have to let Cincinnati and Iowa ride because Tennessee is on deck and both teams are big dogs. No reason to cut into potential profit yet. You’ll need a lot of it for the Tennessee hedge.


Midwest Region

UNC – Let it ride. Don’t make a new futures bet on the Tar Heels. Their draw is rough.

Utah State/Washington – I know everybody hates Washington, but that matchup zone is something Utah State does not see. The Aggies will have to hit shots in an unfamiliar venue over that zone. There are probably more Washington futures hanging around out there than Utah State. I’m not sure I’d shell out any more money with North Carolina on deck. Just accept that this is a bad draw and toss that ticket aside.

Auburn/New Mexico State – Ah, the dreaded 5/12 game. Auburn may have peaked at the right time, but also benefitted from a tremendous SEC Tournament draw. New Mexico State will be a popular pick and the Aggies are far more accustomed to altitude than the Tigers. With Kansas on deck, I’d let Auburn ride, but probably cut into New Mexico State a tiny bit. You can’t go overboard in case 12 slays 5, especially with Kansas on deck.

Kansas/Northeastern – Highly unlikely that many people have a Northeastern ticket, but they’re likely to lose here. As for Kansas, let it ride. You’ll have a tough decision to make before Saturday’s game against Auburn. You may have to hedge there because Kansas is looking weaker by the day. Then again, Kansas tickets came at a low price, so there won’t be a lot of hedging margin left. Either way, it’s really hard to see Kansas getting past both Auburn and UNC, so you’re going to have to pick your spot and that’s with a more manageable line against Auburn.

Iowa State/Ohio State – Ohio State probably doesn’t deserve to be in the field. Iowa State is a little overvalued off the Big 12 Tournament win. I still let both futures ride in the first game because Houston is a really strong team in the next round. At that point, I’d hedge both.

Houston/Georgia State – I’m letting Houston ride all weekend if I have them. Iowa State and Ohio State are very inconsistent. Houston is not.

Wofford/Seton Hall – Look at the committee holding down a dynamic mid-major again. Draw a really tough #10 in Seton Hall and then run into Kentucky. What a shame. If you have one of these two teams, hope that you’re on the right side of the coin flip because Kentucky is a must-hedge spot.

KentuckyLet it ride, y’all. Also, pick up a Kentucky futures ticket if you don’t have one. The draw is tough, but it’s adding some value to this price. Kentucky should meet UNC and we know that they can play with the Tar Heels.


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