Trends Abound for Opening Round Big Dance Betting

If there's such a thing as Christmas in March, college basketball betting fans will celebrate when they unwrap the 32 games that comprise the opening round of the 2011 NCAA Men's hoop Tournament, March 17-18. Technically, the powers that be are calling this the "second round" after a "First Four" round on March 15-16 sends a quartet of teams into the 64-team main draw. Yeah, that's just another reason to call this annual hardcourt mayhem "March Madness."

There usually isn't much drama associated with a No. 1 seed taking on a No. 16 seed, or a No. 2 seed facing a No. 15 seed, for that matter…unless you're betting. The spreads may be large but the betting outcomes are anything but guaranteed.

With that in mind and with history as a guide, let's take a look at the seeding match-ups:

No. 1 versus No. 16: A No. 16 seed never has beaten a No. 1 seed straight up (SU) so taking the underdog on the money line is a hopeless strategy. That said, the matchup of top seeds versus bottom seeds have been much closer against the spread (ATS). Of the 28 games played between top and bottom seeds since 2004, No. 1 seeds lead by a scant 14-13-1 margin, so, if anything, sportsbooks have d0one an excellent job of establishing what is perceived to be a difficult pointspread. Top seeds actually won three out of four last year with Duke (-24 1/2), Kentucky (-18 1/2) and Syracuse (-15 1/2) covering the spread. But Kansas (-25) only beat Lehigh by 16 points. Pick your spots.

No. 2 versus No. 15: No. 15 seeds have a solid 22-14 advantage over No. 2 seeds against the spread (ATS) since 2002. The split was 2-2 last year with Kansas State (-15 1/2) covering against North Texas; West Virginia (-17) rewarding its backers against Morgan State; Villanova (-17) winning by just three points against Robert Morris; and Ohio State (-17 1/2) coming up a half-point shy of a cover versus Santa Barbara.

No. 3 versus No. 14: No. 3 seeds hold a narrow 17-14-1 pointspread advantage over No. 14 seeds the last eight seasons but after covering 10 of 12 meetings from 2007-09, beat the spread just once last year. Pittsburgh (-10) was the only No. 3 seed to cover in 2010 as Georgetown (-14) lost outright to Ohio University, Baylor (-10) won by nine over Sam Houston State and New Mexico (-9) beat Montana by only five points.

No. 4 versus No. 13: The higher seed enjoys a modest 17-15 edge but victories by unheralded teams such as Cleveland State, Siena, San Diego State, Vermont, Bradley, and Murray State all of which scored outright wins, prove straight-up upsets are possible. It was even last year with Wofford (+10), which beat the number against Wisconsin, joining Murray State as a No. 13 seed pointspread winner.

No. 5 versus No. 12: The lower seed has been highly competitive in this matchup, something that's been consistently hyped by the media. All told, No. 5 and No. 12 seeds have split 28 games over the last seven years, each covering the spread 14 times. Of those 14 pointspread wins for the No. 12 seed, 13 of them have been outright, a strong argument for betting the lower seed on the money line. But that wouldn't have been a good strategy last year as only Cornel (+3) won outright, over Temple. No. 12 seed New Mexico State (+13) also covered against Michigan State but lower seeds Utah State and UTEP weren't as fortunate.

No. 6 versus No. 11: Since 2003, the higher seed holds a 16-15-1 pointspread advantage.

No. 7 versus No. 10: Despite being 2-6 ATS the last two years, No. 7 seeds hold a 19-13 pointspread advantage versus teams seeded 10th. But lower seeds St. Mary's, Missouri and Georgia Tech all won outright in 2010.

No. 8 versus No. 9: It's important to note that sportsbooks make odds, not seedings, so don't be surprised if lower seeds are favored in some of these matchups. In truth, the No. 9 seed has been favored as much as the No. 8 seed in recent years. This pointspread reversal occurs in other pairings as well, though not as frequently. For the record, since 2003, No. 9 seeds are 17-13-2 ATS and No. 8 teams.

While the seeding sample is illustrative, technical bbetting trends are apt to change at any time and when it comes to March Madness college basketball betting, nothing is as meaningful or valuable as individual game analysis.