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Prince J. Grimes

5 bets to avoid during the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament

Welcome to the Winner’s Circle, a weekly column by Bet For The Win senior writer Prince J. Grimes.

It’s the day after Selection Sunday, a wonderful time of year for bettors. So many games and teams to choose from.

We only have a day to figure out our favorite tournament bets before the First Four begins, but don’t be in such a rush that you fall into avoidable traps. There’s action that simply isn’t worth your time or attention.

To narrow down your betting options, I browsed the worldwide web for some trends to take heed to while betting on the NCAA tournament. These are the bets I would avoid:

Chalk throughout

This is self-explanatory and really doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway. Don’t just bet on all higher seeds to win. Upsets will happen, and that actually starts with the First Four teams.

In all but one year of the First Four, at least one of the at-large teams has advanced to the second round. So expect one of Pittsburgh, Mississippi State, Nevada or Arizona State to come through on the moneyline against a 6-seed.

A top-4 seed will also lose in the first round if past years are an indication, but picking which of the 13- to 16-seed moneylines to tail is a little trickier.

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A 15 over a 2

This is one upset you might be inclined to take because it’s happened once each of the past two years. But it’s actually not all that common. Before Saint Peter’s rode a win over Kentucky to a deep 2022 run and Oral Roberts beat Ohio State in 2021, a 15-seed hadn’t beat a 2 since 2016.

Before that, it had only happened seven other times in tournament history. This year, I’m expecting Arizona, Texas, Marquette and UCLA to all safely advance to at least the second round.

Public bets against the spread

According to Action Network, tournament teams that receive 60 percent or more bets against the spread have a 41.2 percent winning percentage ATS since 2016.

Simply put, when the public is incredibly convinced a team is going to cover, that team probably isn’t going to cover.

Longshot futures

Since tournament seeding began in 1978, only four teams with odds longer than 20-1 have won the title, with UConn in 2014 being the longest at 100-1.

That narrow’s this year’s field considerably if the trend holds. Only 10 teams have odds shorter than 20-1 at BetMGM: Houston (+550), Kansas (+800), Alabama (+800), Purdue (+1100), UCLA (+1200), Arizona (+1200), Texas (+1600), UConn (+1600), Gonzaga (+1800) and Baylor (+1800).

This stat also makes sense when you consider no team seeded higher than No. 8 has ever won the tournament.

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1-seed upsets

The teams that end up as 1 seeds got there for a reason. This year, that’s Alabama, Houston, Purdue and Kansas. Let’s not go betting on upsets over No. 1s just for the sake of it.

These teams will always be your safest bets to not only win each round, but also win the entire tournament. Since 1985, 24 of the 37 national champions have been 1 seeds — including 12 of the past 15 winners.

That’s not to say every 1 seed will advance to the Final Four; 2008 is the only year where each Final Four team was a 1-seed — like I said, avoid chalk. But there’s a pretty good chance one of the four top-line teams will end up as the last standing.

And that’s it from me. Happy March!

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