While every team that made it to the NCAA Tournament has its eyes on a national championship, just making it to the Final Four is a major accomplishment. Something similar can be said for bettors trying to make some money during March Madness: If you wager on a team to make the Final Four and it gets there, you’ve accomplished at least a little something. If you hit on all four teams that make it to the Lucas Oil Stadium main stage, well, you’re the real national champion — especially if one had relatively long odds.
It goes without saying that betting on teams to simply reach the Final Four is “easier” than trying to hit on a national champion or possibly even win your bracket pool, but it’s not always profitable if you cast your net too wide or too narrow. You could go all-in on one or two teams, but that leaves you little margin for error. If you wager on 15 teams, then you could still lose money even if you get a couple correct, depending how you divvy up your bets and which ones hit. As with most futures bets, it’s all about balancing value with likelihood.
Regardless of many teams you decide to bet on — and much money you wager on each bet — you need to have a strategy if you’re actually trying to profit. Sure, you could just bet on all 1-seeds, but they have the smallest payouts. You don’t want to bet on too many teams from the same region unless you dig down for at least one or two sleepers. That way, you get some great odds and can still profit even with multiple losers.
That doesn’t mean you just take any team with long odds. You obviously have to believe that team has a realistic shot of making the Final Four. It can be tough to talk yourself into any such team, and it usually requires some level of conditional reasoning, such as, “If Alabama gets upset before the Elite Eight, then Florida State will be the best team in the East, so getting the ‘Noles at +700 is great value.” Obviously, that’s also assuming Florida State just gets to the Elite Eight — which probably means you’re banking on Isaiah Livers’ foot injury derailing Michigan — but, again, that’s part of the reasoning that goes into betting on almost any non-top-three seed to make the Final Four.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the best bets from each region.
East Region Final Four Best Bets
The Livers’ injury certainly makes the East region one to target for multiple bets. With Michigan more vulnerable than the other top seeds — and Alabama being a somewhat-volatile No. 2 seed — the door is open for a surprise team to make a Final Four run. Even putting a little money on red-hot Georgetown at +6500 makes sense. It truly wouldn’t be shocking to see any of the top 12 seeds come out of the East, and with both third-seeded Texas and fourth-seeded Florida State at +700, it makes sense to try your luck with both.
Midwest Region Final Four Best Bets
The Midwest region is also begging for multiple bets because of the potentially difficult Sweet-16 matchup for top-seeded Illinois. The value for Oklahoma State (+600) isn’t quite what you’d expect for a 4-seed, but it’s still a nice payoff if they pull out the upset (and one more win). Getting fifth-seeded Tennessee at +1100 might actually be more appealing, as Oklahoma State could have a tougher first-round battle, but it’s also less likely Tennessee would beat Illinois. The bottom half of that bracket is wide open, and if you don’t believe in Houston, then getting a small piece of whoever you like in Clemson (+2500) vs. Rutgers (+2400) in the first round and sixth-seeded San Diego State (+1200) makes sense. Even West Virginia at +750 isn’t bad for a 3-seed.
South Region Final Four Best Bets
Purdue at +850 is probably the best value in the South region. Obviously, Baylor is the favorite there, but Purdue shapes up to face either an undermanned Villanova or 12th-seeded Winthrop in the second round, which makes the Boilermakers’ path to the Sweet 16 as favorable as any 4-seed’s. From there, they’ll likely need to beat Baylor and Ohio State, which is not easy at all, but if they knock off Baylor, then you’ll be glad you invested a little something in the Boilermakers. Yes, you can play the “if” game with just about any team, but being a talented team with a good chance to be in that position is half the battle. Purdue fits the bill, and it doesn’t hurt that the Boilermakers beat Ohio State twice and took them to overtime in a third game this season. You could make a similar argument for 12th-seeded Winthrop (+10000), but you don’t want to invest too much into the Eagles. Also, getting 2-seed Ohio State at +480 is great value.
West Region Final Four Best Bets
Gonzaga is the overwhelming favorite in the West region, but with the ‘Zags paying off at -210, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to bet on them unless you’re willing to throw down a lot of cash. Taking a team from the bottom half of the region and hoping Gonzaga gets upset before the Elite Eight is probably the way to go. Kansas at +1400 is a great number for a 3-seed, but if you’re worried about the Jayhawks’ COVID issues, then pivoting to sixth-seeded USC at +1700 makes a lot of sense. USC has a supremely talented and a versatile big in Evan Mobley, who’s projected to the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft. He could give Luka Garza and Iowa all kinds of trouble if those two teams meet in the Sweet 16, so it’s more than realistic to project USC to win that one.
March Madness Final Four Odds
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook
|San Diego State||+1200|
|Mt. St. Mary’s||+13000|