March Madness Betting Rocked Markets Last Year, What’s to Come this Time?

Grant Mitchell
Grant Mitchell
Basketball news


  • The American Gaming Association estimated over $3.1 billion would be bet on last year’s tournament
  • Underdogs proved highly profitable in 2022
  • Houston is favored to win this year’s tournament ahead of Kansas, Purdue, and others

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, more commonly known as March Madness, is just a few weeks away.

The 68-team bracket will be unveiled on “Selection Sunday” March 12, and the games begin on March 14. The American Gaming Association’s pre-tournament estimates before last year’s tournament suggested that over $3.1 billion in wagers would be placed, and that figure is expected to rise again this year.

The betting favorites include Houston, Kansas, and Purdue, but this tournament is known for its many unforeseen upsets. No matter what, it should be a massive hit for sports bettors.


March Madness is an extremely popular spectacle every spring. If it weren’t for the NFL’s dominance over TV audiences, last year’s tournament would have produced five of the 50 most-watched television events of the year.

No. 1 Kansas defeated No. 8 North Carolina 72-69 in last year’s championship game despite trailing by 15 at halftime thanks to 47 second-half points. Ochai Agbaji, now of the Utah Jazz, was named the most outstanding player of the tournament.

Famous high-roller and sports gambler Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale was one of many who placed enormous wagers throughout the tournament. His final wager was to the tune of $3.3 million and on Kansas to win the championship, one that brought his tournament total to nearly $9 million and allowed him to win $12.21 million.

While the tournament was kind to the top-seed Jayhawks, many of the favorites struggled. 27-6 Baylor lost to #8 UNC in the Round of 32, 28-3 Gonzaga fell to #4 Arkansas in the Sweet 16, and 33-3 Arizona lost to #5 Houston, also in the Sweet 16.

#2 Kentucky also became the 10th second-seed to lose to a 15 seed in the Round of 64 when it fell to St. Peter’s. #2 Auburn also lost to #10 Miami, which eventually made a run to the Elite Eight, in the Round of 32.

Underdogs went 19-46 throughout the entirety of the 2022 tournament. Although that is a winning percentage of just 29.2, bettors would have profited $1,364 had they placed a $100 moneyline bet on every non-favorite. St. Peter’s had the biggest individual win with their upset of Kentucky.

However, the underdogs’ success is a historic aberration. Favorites have found more success and produced a higher return on investment both on the moneyline and against the spread across the tournament’s history.

Big payouts for favorites?

The out-and-out favorite to win March Madness this year is unsurprisingly the top-ranked team in the country, the Houston Cougars. They are 25-2, already beat the number-two team in the country, and lost by six or fewer points in both of their losses.

Houston is outstanding defensively. They allow the fewest points per game and the worst field goal percentage to opponents, and also rank 16th in rebounding. They are not amazing on offense, but they are potent and get tons of second-chance opportunities.

Mattress Mack has already declared his allegiance to the Cougars, just as he does for many teams near or in his home of Houston. He made two wagers—one for $1 million at +900 odds at DraftKings and the other for $500,000 at +1000 odds at BetMGM—back in November. If those hit, he will take home $15.5 million, or $14 million in profit.

He then added another $1 million wager on, guess who, at Caesars sportsbook in Decembe.

The last non-Power Five conference team to win March Madness was Villanova in 2018. No non-Power Five or Big East team has won the tournament since UNLV, then of the Big West Conference, in 1990.

Houston itself has never won a March Madness title. It appeared in the championship game in 1983 and then again in 1984 during the Clyde Drexler-Hakeem Olajuwon “Phi Slama Jama” era, losing to NC State and then Georgetown.

Last year’s champion, Kansas, is second on the list of odds. They are 23-5 on the year but only 7-5 against ranked schools. Additionally, no team has won back-to-back NCAA Men’s Tournaments since Florida in 2006/07.

Purdue and National Player of the Year frontrunner Zach Edey check in at third in the list of odds. Alabama, UCLA, Baylor, and Arizona are all close behind.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.