NCAA Tournament Betting Strategy: Forget Futures, Roll it Over

Rollover Strategy
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The 2021 NCAA Tournament will tip-off with play-in games on Thursday, followed by 16 first-round games on Thursday. Hopefully any futures bets you placed before or during the season are still in play. With a host of teams like Oklahoma State, Alabama, and Michigan exceeding pre-season expectations, we’ve seen major changes in their odds to win the national championship at online sportsbooks. If you bet on these teams early, then you likely have +EV tickets in your hands.

[Read More: March Madness Odds and Betting Tips]

For example, at some shops, Michigan bettors were able to grab the Wolverines +10000, or 100-to-1 (1% implied probability) to win the NCAA Tournament before the season started. Now, they’re +600 (14.3%) at BetMGM. Similarly, oddsmakers opened Alabama at +6600 (1.5%). Four months later, the Tide find themselves with the sixth shortest odds—+2200 (4.3%)—at PointsBet.

However, not everyone is so lucky. If you bet on Duke or Kentucky, you’re probably in search of new national title picks.

But before you lock in any more NCAA Tournament futures bets, you should consider adding another sports betting strategy – the rollover strategy — to your repertoire.

Rollover strategy explained

The rollover strategy is simple. Rather than locking your money up for several weeks and betting on a team to win outright (and often getting robbed on the overround in futures markets), you make a single moneyline bet on your chosen team and roll over the winnings for each game by betting on the moneyline one round to the next. This betting angle is often more profitable long term than betting the futures market. To see how and why the rollover strategy is optimal, let’s look at real life examples from recent NCAA tournaments. (Note: You can start the rollover at the outset of the tournament, or beginning at any round.)

2018’s Cinderella team, the Loyola-Chicago, was +900 to win the NCAA Championship once they reached the Final Four. Their first game was against the Michigan Wolverines where Loyola-Chicago backers were getting +240 on the moneyline.

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If they had won, a $100 bet would earn $340 back ($240 profit), and the hypothetical championship game would have been against Villanova. Using historical data and sites like KenPom, we can predict what the spread and moneyline will be sportsbooks open their numbers. It may not be perfect, but we can at least find our way into the ballpark.

In this example, Loyola Chicago would have been somewhere between +450 to +500 underdogs.

Using the rollover strategy and reinvesting the $340 from the first game into the ~+500 moneyline on the championship game, we’d be set for a $1700 payout if Loyola won the title. That’s a $1600 profit from our initial $100 investment, nearly twice as much as the $900 profit that the initial +900 futures ticket paid out.

The rollover strategy also gives us more options beyond reinvesting our first wager. If we want to be more conservative, we could take out our initial $100 and only play with the $240 profit from the first bet. This essentially turns subsequent wagers into free rolls.

A more visual example comes from a 2013 article from Matt Lindeman

Start amount: $100 bet on No. 11 seed VCU (’11) with pre-tourney title odds of 300/1. In each case, Lindeman is rolling over the entire bankroll. (Note: VCU lost in the Final Four to Butler; the subsequent hypothetical championship moneyline is projected based on semifinal spreads.)

1st round (+165 vs. USC) — $100 to win $165

2nd round (+220 vs. Georgetown) — $265 to win $583

3rd round (+400 vs. Purdue) — $848 to win $3,392

Sweet 16 (+170 vs. Florida State) — $4,240 to win $7,208

Elite 8 (+620 vs. Kansas) — $11,448 to win $70,977

Final Four (+150 vs. Butler) — $82,425 to win $123,637.50

Championship (approx. +220 vs. UConn) – $206,062.50 to win $453,337.50

End amount: $659,400.

So, if VCU had won the title that season, a futures bet would’ve paid 300/1, while a ML rollover approach would’ve paid 6,500/1! If you had bet the same $100 you used to start the rollover, you’d have cashed out $30,000 on a VCU title — only a fraction of the end amount from rolling it over.

Additionally, since a futures ticket requires your team to win the whole thing, rolling over allows you to change routes and hedge. Maybe the star on your team suffers an injury before the championship game. Wouldn’t it be nice to cash out rather than sweating the rest of the tourney? The rollover strategy gives you this luxury.

Enough with the hypotheticals

For our last example let’s go back to the 2019 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, where we don’t have to project hypothetical lines.

Finishing fifth in the MVC regular season standings, Bradley was an +800 underdog to win their conference tournament and earn an automatic bid to the big dance.

Starting with a $100 bet in their 1st round game, Bradley was +120 against Missouri State. The 61-58 win earned $120 in profit, making the bankroll $220.

The second game was against Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers were a decent favorite as Bradley backers got +220 ($220 to win $484) on the moneyline. Bradley squeaked out another close win to move on to the MVC Championship,

With $604 accumulated in profit through two games, this time they were slight favorites (-120) over Northern Iowa. Bradley won, and the $704 bet paid $587, for a total profit of $1,291. Using the rollover strategy, a Bradley bettor would have gotten just under 12-to-1 odds. And again, rolling it over provided significant value and a higher ROI relative to that offered in the futures market.

To be sure, rolling it over isn’t always the best course of action for college basketball bettors. You need to analyze your team’s odds and the potential matchups that lie ahead. Unlike bets made earlier in the season, like those on Michigan and Alabama, futures bets won’t have the opportunity to gain much value in the three weeks of the NCAA Tournament. Be sharp and use the rollover strategy when you can.

Also see: How To Actually Win Your NCAA March Madness Bracket Pool

About the Author

schmitto
Matt Schmitto (schmitto)

Matt Schmitto is an Organic Strategy Lead for Better Collective. He was introduced to daily fantasy sports in 2012 and soon became a member at RotoGrinders. Seven years later, Schmitto joined RotoGrinders Network full time as a staff writer shortly after the Supreme Court overturned PASPA. He has since covered important stories in the sports betting and fantasy sports industries for sites like SportsHandle and USBets and has had roles as a sports betting editor and commercial content lead. He continues to play DFS and loves placing Futures bets at sportsbooks. His favorite DFS sites are Underdog Fantasy, and PrizePicks, and DraftKings. Follow Schmitto on Twitter – @Matt_Schmitto