Hedging College Basketball Futures for the Sweet 16 & Elite Eight


The Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight are here and that means more hedging questions. If you’re holding a futures ticket on any of the remaining 16 teams, you can taste the profit. But, you want to know how to maximize it. It is a challenging decision because you always have to be thinking towards the future. The hardest pill to swallow about futures betting is that you usually have to put more money out in order to turn a profit.

Unless you have the Golden Ticket and picked the winner of the tournament, you have to hedge. You have to spend money to make money, literally and figuratively. And even if you did pick the right team, the chances that you were in a position to let it ride all the way to the title game are slim to none.

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As I mentioned with hedging the first round and the second round, these are just general pieces of advice. Each situation is unique because every bettor is different. You may have more gamble and that means letting it ride. You may be more conservative and that means looking to lock up something right here and right now. You may be somewhere in the middle, which is where most bettors fall.

These decisions are important. They are also a learning experience for most bettors. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t get frustrated. Set an amount that you want to make in profit off of that futures ticket and set yourself up for exactly that.

As we look at the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, here are your options in my humble opinion:

(note: going clockwise around the bracket)

Duke/Virginia Tech – A Virginia Tech future must be hedged at this point. Many believe that Duke got its scare against UCF and now the Blue Devils are in good shape to win it all, as many predicted before the tournament began.

I don’t know if that’s the case, but you have to hedge VA Tech. With Duke, given the low price all season, you have no choice but to let this ride, both against Virginia Tech and against the winner of Michigan State and LSU.

Michigan State/LSU – If you’re holding a Michigan State future, you have to trust Tom Izzo here. The Spartans have an enormous coaching advantage and the Sweet 16 game is the one where that matters a lot because of the extended downtime to prepare.

It is tough to hedge a LSU future here because of the big price tag on Michigan State. I think it has to be done. If you’ve already hedged into LSU in either the Yale or Maryland games, I hope you still have some value on the back end to lay -275 on Michigan State to get a couple units out of it.

I think the ride ends for LSU here, so I’d be looking to get out of that ticket.

Virginia/Oregon – Had a lot of questions about Oregon futures so far this week. I’ll start with the easy one and say that you have to let Virginia ride because the price on the Cavaliers was never all that big this season.

With Oregon, you have to do some kind of hedge. I guess the strategy I would employ is ML to win 1 unit before the game and then look for a better live betting opportunity to get Virginia at a lower price point. This doesn’t project as a game with a lot of margin and it should be a very low-scoring affair. Virginia has been a slow starting team in this tournament in the past. I would think you could get a reduced money line live in the first half or maybe even at halftime. I would take a small piece pregame and then hit it harder in-game on the Ducks, if the game flow dictates.

Tennessee/Purdue – Had a lot of questions about Purdue futures this week as well. Look, this game is a coin flip. Turn over every stone you can about this game and see what you want to do. These two teams look to be very evenly matched and also have similar shortcomings with their respective head coaches come tournament time.

Tennessee prices haven’t been all that big this season, at least not late in the year, so you probably don’t have a lot of hedging margin. I’d be very wary of doing something with Vols futures pregame if you have something under 20/1. You’re going to need it next round against Virginia, so you have to tread lightly here.

If you have a Purdue future, many of those seem to be 75/1 or higher, so you have a lot more freedom. Use it. Study this game hard and then make the proper play. I think, like the Virginia/Oregon game, you take a piece pregame and look for more in-game.

North Carolina/Auburn – You can’t do much with UNC here given their low prices over the course of the season. This is not the right spot to hedge. Let it ride.

Auburn prices were kind of all over the map, so I’m not sure what sorts of numbers we’re dealing with. Anybody with a low number in the 25/1 range should be very careful here. Auburn likely runs into Kentucky, which is a very tough game and you’ll be forced to hedge there. In this particular instance, I’m not really sure what to tell you.

On one hand, Auburn could shoot really well in the first half and you could get a better price to hedge. On the other hand, if Auburn starts cold, the Tigers will likely be dead in the water and UNC will build a big lead that doesn’t allow for a reasonable hedge. Again, like most of these, take a small pregame position and then hope for a better live spot to double or triple down.

Kentucky/Houston – The line indicates that this is a scary game for Kentucky. The problem is that futures prices have been low on the ‘Cats all year, so it’s hard to see a lot of hedging margin. My guess is that UNC is a small favorite in the Elite Eight, so you’ll have to save your pennies to hedge there.

If you’re holding a Houston ticket, even though the Cougars could very well pull this mild upset, you have to hedge. Hopefully you have a good price. This isn’t an ideal matchup for Houston. While the line suggests a very close game, I think most believe Kentucky will win. I’d also get this quickly because public bettors are likely to back the household name and this line is likely to grow.

Gonzaga/Florida State – Gonzaga seems like too big of a favorite here, but the line has even grown in some spots. Gonzaga futures came at prices too low to hedge this. Florida State futures likely have some wiggle room, but I wouldn’t want to go wild here. The Seminoles could very easily win this game and then you’ll be in a tighter spot against Michigan in the next game.

Truth be told, I might roll the dice here and let Florida State ride. It’s risky because they are a touchdown underdog, but I’m not excited about hacking into that ticket with Michigan and likely Duke on the horizon. Your equity in a Florida State ticket is gone real quick.

Michigan/Texas Tech – These two teams are so similar. Michigan is the better offensive team with more weapons. I think I let the Wolverines ride. I think I let Texas Tech ride as well. I think this is a spot where you have to hope for the best. Both teams had low prices throughout the season and I think we’re still a round away from hedging them, unless you got some sort of weird number. It would be real interesting to see lines for UM/TTU vs. Florida State. Both are an underdog to Gonzaga, but how big of a favorite is each team against Florida State?

The West Region essentially has two Final Four caliber games and the three teams that had low futures prices. I think there’s a lot of waiting and watching to be done here.