If you’re interested in college basketball, you’ve likely already experienced the joy (and frustration) of picking a March Madness bracket. That, however, is just a small part of the betting thrills you can find during the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Here in California, when sports betting is finally legalized, you’ll be able to bet on individual March Madness games, which teams will make the Sweet 16 or Final Four, and much more.
Let’s take a closer look at the best March Madness betting sites that could find their way to California.
Top 3 Sportsbooks for March Madness betting
Here are some quick takeaways on our three favorite sportsbooks for betting on March Madness.
🏀 FanDuel Sportsbook: FanDuel started in the world of daily fantasy sports before making the leap to becoming a full-fledged sportsbook. The result for NCAA Tournament bettors has been major betting opportunities, a very user-friendly experience, and a nice selection of bonuses and promotions for new and existing customers. You’ll find:
- Spead, moneyline, and totals bets on every game of the NCAA Tournament
- Odds boosts are a regular promotion during March Madness
- Betting options included in-game props and same-game parlays
🏀 DraftKings Sportsbook: DraftKings has amassed a huge customer base through mass marketing (You may have seen a few of their ads on TV). Bettors from more and more states across the country can now sign up and take advantage of some of the best bonus offers currently available. There is also a lot of fanfare about the DK betting app and its Flash bet live betting feature. Look for:
- Competitive odds for all March Madness games
- Huge prize pool free-to-play March Madness bracket contests
- Every standard bet type you can think of plus dozens of props not offered elsewhere
🏀 BetMGM Sportsbook: You’ve likely heard the name MGM in conjunction with betting in the past, which is one of the reasons BetMGM Sportsbook has become an industry leader in just about every state where sports betting is legal now. They have a huge sportsbook to choose odds from when sports betting, and they tend to pull out all the stops for March Madness. Those include
- $10M Perfect Bracket contests for those who aren’t interested in betting money game by game
- NCAA Tournament bets can be edited after you submit them, which isn’t the case at the majority of sportsbooks
- You can participate in parlays — both single-game and multi-leg styles — for every March Madness tournament game.
How to bet on March Madness futures
Think you know who will cut down the nets after the National Championship game? Consider using that information to make futures bets with any legal online sportsbook.
The odds for futures bets are always higher when the lines are first released, which gives you a better shot at a larger return on your investment. That, however, isn’t always the case when you wait through the regular season before making your bet.
There are a variety of futures bets you can make for the NCAA Tournament. Below is a small sample of the many opportunities you’ll find in your preferred CA sports betting sites.
- Which team will win the national championship?
- Which conference will the national championship come from?
- Which team or teams will win their regional?
- Which team or teams will make the Final Four?
Some of these futures opportunities pop up right after the last March Madness comes to a close. Others arrive before the start of the regular NCAA basketball season.
How to bet on pre-tournament seeds and props
Not all March Madness gambling revolves around which team will win the national title. There are quite a few odds markets at most sportsbooks that focus on March Madness prop bets.
Prop bets typically aren’t dependent on wins and losses like other bet types. Some prop bets you might see include things like:
- How many teams from each conference will be invited to March Madness?
- Over/under bets on the seeds, the teams are assigned
- Which team will be awarded the coveted No. 1 seeds?
- Over/under bets on the number of wins a team could get in the tourney
You’ll find plenty more opportunities in your sportsbook of choice. If you want even more prop bets to bet on, you can sign up for multiple accounts and do the shopping for the best sports lines and the widest selection of prop bets available.
How to bet on the First Four
Not every team in the NCAA Tournament gets there simply by being invited. There are four games in which teams are asked to square off with one another to decide which will advance to be either an 11-seed or a 16-seed in a region.
This play-in tournament consists of the four teams with the lowest-seeded at-large bids and the four lowest-seeded automatic bids. This is essentially a miniature first round to the NCAA Tournament, and like the more complete 64-team national championship tourney, you can also bet on the First Four.
Once these teams are announced, sportsbooks in California will release odds for each game. You’ll also be able to try your hand at things like parlays and point spread bets during this part of the March Madness games as well.
How to bet on March Madness games
Three major bet types will dominate the sportsbooks when it comes to March Madness. Here are the basics for each of the top March Madness bets:
NCAA Tournament moneyline bet
A moneyline bet is as simple as they come. You are given two teams that will be playing one another and you are tasked with choosing which team will win. Lines for these games typically are released once the entire NCAA Tournament field is announced. From that point forward, the lines are released as upcoming matchups are determined.
NCAA Tournament point spread bet
While the moneyline might be the most simple bet you can make, and it is the most popular with newcomer bettors, it is the point spread that gets the most attention from experienced bettors. The basic concept of the point spread bet is you are given the two teams playing in an upcoming game as well as the number of points the favorite is expected to win by.
You need to choose if the favorite will win by that amount or more, or if the underdog will keep the game closer than the spread or even win outright.
NCAA Tournament totals bet
A totals bet is also known as an over/under, which will make sense in just a moment. You see, totals bets are focused not on which team wins their games, but on how many points the two teams playing will combine to score. If the two teams combine to score more than the predicted points total, then you would bet the over. If you think the two teams won’t be able to live up to the expectations, then you’d bet the under.
March Madness betting vs. March Madness brackets
You might be thinking to yourself, “I’ve got this, I’ve filled out a ton of March Madness brackets in my day!” Well, the truth of the matter is, they are quite a bit different. But which is better?
If you’re extremely casual about the NCAA Tournament, you’ll probably want to just stick with brackets. But if you don’t want to be quite as restricted as you are in brackets, then betting on single games is the route to go.
That doesn’t mean you can’t do both, of course. The difference is by betting on single games, you can always choose to bet on games you’re more comfortable with instead of those you’re not quite sure about.
You can also be comforted knowing that betting on individual games instead of the tournament as a whole means you don’t have to worry about your bracket getting busted.
Instead, you can just bet on the next game. You’re not stuck because of an upset or unexpected turn of events like you might be in a bracket.
Should you bet on March Madness favorites or Cinderellas?
This is a personal decision that you have to make for yourself, but our advice is pretty simple: Do your homework and go with the team that your research indicates has the best chance of winning.
That homework can consist of a lot of things, but looking at recent trends for the teams, including player trends, will be important, as will the most current win/loss streaks and how the teams perform in pressure situations.
The excitement of picking a Cinderella team and getting it right is always a boost of energy for bettors, but those big upsets (like a No. 16 defeating a No. 1 seed) aren’t very common. That’s why doing your homework and research is the most important aspect of your March Madness betting strategy.
That said, you shouldn’t just run with all favorites unless you find solid evidence in favor of that move. There are always going to be upsets, so if your homework indicates there is a good chance of that happening then you shouldn’t avoid it just because of seeding.
Which California teams can you expect to bet on in March Madness?
California teams are no stranger to making it to the Big Dance and competing for a chance to cut down the nets. These are some of the teams that commonly make the trip to participate in March Madness.
- UCLA: The Bruins are a staple in the NCAA Tournament and any year that they don’t make it is a disappointment to their faithful fans. In the history of the school, they have made it to the tourney more than most other colleges. In all those years, they’ve cut down the nets more than 10 times, which always makes them an intriguing selection for bettors to consider. (Bet on latest Bruins NCAAB odds here)
- California: The Golden Bears have been known to get invited to March Madness and even brought home a national title back in 1959. They don’t make as regular of appearances as UCLA (not many teams do), but they always seem to be in the running during the regular season.
- USC: The University of Southern California might be known for being a football school, but the basketball team has more than just a handful of March Madness appearances. While they have never been able to hang a National Championship banner, they have gone toe-to-toe with some of the best programs when getting a bid to play in the NCAA Tournament. (Bet on latest USC NCAAB odds here)
- San Francisco: The Dons might not be the first pick you think of when considering which teams could get a bid to the NCAA tourney, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in the conversation every year. In fact, the team has two championships that they earned in the 1950s and still manages to make the dance from time to time, including in 2021.
- Stanford: The Cardinal basketball team proves you can be smart as heck and still competitive on the court. Stanford took home a national title back in the 1940s and has made multiple appearances since. While they may not be the most potent team around, they are capable of winning, especially in the early rounds of the tournament. (Bet on latest Cardinals NCAAB odds here)
- San Diego State: While the Aztecs can’t claim a national title, they have had their fair share of tournament appearances over the decades, including in the 21st Century. Will they ever make a run to the title game? Who knows, but one thing is for sure: They are one of the California teams that have made double-digit appearances in the NCAA Tournament. (Bet on latest Aztecs NCAAB odds here)
March Madness bracket contests
If you’re one of those March Madness fans who just can’t get through the spring without filling out a bracket, you’re in luck because there are still a lot of free-to-play contests you can get in on with California sportsbooks.
Below, we take a look at three sportsbooks that offer up a free bracket for customers to enjoy, each with real prizes available to win.
- BetMGM: The top-scoring bracket in this free contest wins a cool $100,000.That’s nothing to scoff at, that’s for sure. If someone one day manages to fill out a perfect bracket? Well, they’ll get a staggering $10 million for that historical moment.
- FanDuel: Each selection that you correctly pick will earn you points that get added up to determine the winners of this free bracket contest. The total prize pool comes in at $5,000, which is solid considering the contest is free to enter.
- DraftKings: This free-to-play contest is a survivor pool. You are tasked with picking a winner for each day of the tournament. If you can survive the championship, you can be a part of the group of players who split a $30,000 prize pool.
How to bet March Madness online in California
First and foremost, you need to choose which sportsbooks you want to have an account with. If you’re not sure, you can read through our reviews here on this site to see the pros and cons of each, as well as what bonuses they are currently offering.
You can get access to the best bonuses available to new customers if you click our link to be taken to the sportsbook of your choice. Once you get to the sportsbooks, click the “sign up” or “register” button and then provide all the details they ask for.
Once your account is created, you can then claim your bonuses and bonus bets, then make a deposit and get to betting.
Make sure to read the terms and conditions for any promotions you’re going to accept to understand what you will need to do to claim your winnings.
March Madness betting rules
Every sportsbook has its own “house rules” that govern how betting works in particular situations in each sport. NCAA basketball betting and betting on the NCAA Tournament are no different.
Most sportsbooks are going to have similar rules, but you can always read through them by visiting the sportsbook website and reading through them. You can also find them in the terms and conditions you have to agree to sign up for an account.
Here are some examples of rules you might find in your sportsbook when it comes to March Madness:
- All bets are settled using only official data and statistics provided by the NCAA
- If the tournament is canceled for any reason, bets will be voided and refunds issued to all bettors
- Games must start on the scheduled day to have action
- All bets include overtime unless otherwise stated