March Madness Spills into the Betting Market with Big Wagers
And just like that, brackets are already busted.
Several high-profile teams have been sent packing one day into the NCAA Tournament. The Princeton Tigers shocked the basketball world, knocking off the second-seeded Arizona Wildcats as +15.5 underdogs. Mix in a few other double-digit seeds sneaking into the second round, and it’s easy to see why it’s called March Madness.
As chaotic as things appear on the court, these emotions also spill onto the betting floor. Whether it’s a perceived advantage, loyal rooting interest, or the promise of a big payday, BetMGM is taking high-profile wagers on tournament longshots.
BetMGM Sports Trader Seamus Magee made it clear in his assessment, “This year’s NCAA tournament is wide open. We are expecting more action than ever, with many contenders in the field. We’re crossing our fingers that we don’t get cleaned out by a massive underdog making a run like Saint Peter’s did last year.”
He wasn’t wrong. The sportsbook collected a few notable wagers, one of which is already dead in the water after a modest upset on Thursday.
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest bets rolled in on the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks, who made short work of the Howard Bison on the opening day. The Jayhawks dispatched the Bison 96-68 on Thursday, easily covering the -21.5 spread. One bettor’s future wager remains intact, as the person who backed Kansas with $10,000 at +900 still has a horse in the race.
However, the person who staked $100 on Howard to win it all is left wondering what could have been. It wasn’t long before the dream of a $200,000 payday was stomped out.
The Howard backer wasn’t the only person to miss fire with their future wager. The Texas A&M Aggies entered the tournament as +12500 longshots, and that was intriguing enough for one bettor to get in on the action. BetMGM took a $1,000 bet on the Aggies, yielding a potential $125,000 payday. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as Texas A&M was no match for the Penn State Nittany Lions, losing as favorites in the round of 64.
Magee and his consiglieres will be sweating a few other dark horses on Friday as the Iona Gaels and Kent State Golden Flashes take to the court. The sportsbook accepted $500 wagers on both teams, which could result in a six-figure payout for bettors. Kent State entered the tournament as +50000, meaning the initial deposit could turn into $250,000. Likewise, the Gaels’ investment at +100000 is a half-million liability for BetMGM.
The Gaels and Golden Flashes both enter the tournament as #13 seeds but face shorter odds in the betting market than their ranking would imply. Kent State enters its opening-round matchup against the Indiana Hoosiers as modest +4.5 underdogs. Iona faces slightly longer odds, coming in at +9.5 against the Connecticut Huskies. The silver lining is the betting line continues to shift in favor of the Gaels.
That’s not to say the futures wagers have legs, but those bettors may have a keen eye for value. Moreover, the shorter gambling price could also mean more profitable hedging opportunities from the outset of the tourney.
Lastly, the wager that could keep Magee and BetMGM up at night is the $10,000 stake on the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Zags are just two years removed from a trip to the National Championship and made short work of their counterparts en route to a WCC title.
Still, the Bulldogs came into the tournament as mid-range +2500 options in the futures market. That means the bettor stands to win $250,000 if Gonzaga pulls through and claims their first National Championship. That wager is worth a roll of the dice for a team that has appeared in the big dance in 22 consecutive seasons, making the final twice over the past five tournaments.
With these big wagers and high-liability outcomes, BetMGM won’t be the only sportsbook rooting for the right type of chaos.