Betting the Final Four

How to approach betting the Final Four.

Key Points

– There are a number of recent trends that can help you in betting the Final Four.

– Time zones play a role in betting the Final Four.

Betting the Final Four

Any good bracket comes down to the Final Four. There are some trends to watch out for whether you’re creating the ideal, going-to-win-it-all dream bracket or simply betting the Final Four.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that the trends below are historical. Some are strange, some are awesome, some are founded in logic, and some are just pure coincidences. As a bettor, you have to use these trends for what they are worth. Use every resource you can find to make the best bets on the Final Four.

It is said that past performance is the best predictor of future success, but in college basketball, past performance can occasionally be a red herring. There is roster turnover and coaching changes. 

Here are the most notable Final Four betting trends over the past 37 years. Remember, there was no tournament in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The East Rules When Betting the Final Four

This is one of those weird ones. Think about the past 24 national champions. If they have one thing in common, it is that they are from the Eastern time zone. Teams like Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, etc. are all from the East coast.

Of the past 24 national champions, 21 are from the Eastern time zone. Baylor was the 2021 national champ and Kansas did it twice – 2008 and last year, 2022. Both the Jayhawks and Bears were eliminated from the 2023 tournament in the second round. Interestingly, both Baylor and Kansas are from the Big 12.

Rankings Matter

While seeds might not matter as much, there is something that does – rankings. Between 2008 and 2022, 22 of the 56 teams that made the Final Four were No. 1 seeds. Fifteen of those 22 advanced to the national championship games. Ten of them won the title. 

Seeding helps and hurts March Madness bettors.Seeds matter somewhat as primarily No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 seeds make the Final Four. Since 2008, 13 teams have made the Final Four as a No. 5 seed or worse. Only four of those teams advanced to the title game and only one – UConn – won a championship. The Huskies were a No. 7 seed in 2014.

Favorites & No. 1 Betting Trends

Over the past few years, a profitable trend has picked up involving No. 1 seeds. Top seeds that advance to the Final four are 25-19 against the spread from 2005 to 2022. In the semifinals, No. 1 seeds that are favorites – and favorites in general – have been dominant.

In the past seven tournaments, only three underdogs have won a national semifinal. Wisconsin in 2015, Texas Tech in 2019, and North Carolina beat Duke last year in 2022. 

Don’t forget that in the past four national championship games, favorites have won three times. Underdogs had a small winning streak with wins in 2014, 2015, and 2016. UConn, Duke, and Villanova all pulled Final Four upsets. Note, they are all from the Eastern time zone. 

Champions Cover When Betting the Final Four

Winners win and champions cover. It’s a popular saying and it’s true with Final Four teams. From 2008 through the 2021 tournament, note the betting trends. 

The majority of Final Four teams have winning records against the spread, which is one of several things that stand out. Forty-six of the 56 Final Four teams in this time span had ATS records above 50 percent. Three of the ten with ATS marks below .500 came in 2010 (Butler, Michigan State, and West Virginia).

Sixteen of the 46 Final Four teams with ATS records above .500 actually won more than 60 percent of the time ATS. Of those 16 teams, nine won national titles. Three more played in the final and only four missed the championship game. 

The best ATS record by a Final Four team between 2008 and 2022 was Virginia in 2019. The Cavaliers won ATS 68.4 percent of the time. They also won a national championship.

Betting Trends – It’s Hard to Win the First One

Since 2000, 15 teams have made the championship game with a chance to win their first national title. Only five have been successful. Only Maryland (2002) and Virginia (2019) were able to do it on their first attempt. 

It took Syracuse, the 2003 national champion, three trips to the final before they actually won it all. Florida (2006) and Baylor (2021) each won on their second trip to the championship game. 

Offense vs. Defense 

It takes a lot to win March Madness. It might take even more when betting on it. There are some keys to success betting the NCAA tournament.

Typically, it takes efficient offenses to win a national championship. Since 2002, 12 national champions have been in the top three of KenPom’s offensive efficiency rankings. Only one team – 2014 UConn – fell outside of the top 20 and only three teams finished outside of the top 10.

Remember Virginia in 2018? They were a No. 1 seed, but they finished well outside of the KenPom top 20 in offensive efficiency. That was the year the Cavaliers became the first top seed to lose in the first round of the tournament. In the same tournament, Cincinnati was a No. 2 seed that ranked outside the KenPom top 20 in OE. The Bearcats lost in the second round.

One year later, Virginia’s offense ranked No. 2 in OE. The Cavs won a national title. Virginia is also known for is defense. A respectable defense may be even more crucial than a great offense. Since 2002, only two teams – UNC in 2009 and Kansas in 2022 – were ranked outside of the top 20 in defensive efficiency. Both teams were ranked in the top 50 though.