Building a contrarian NCAA Tournament bracket


In 2022, roughly 40 million Americans filled out a March Madness bracket. However, with the continued growth of legalized sports betting, that figure is expected to rise even higher this time around. The NCAA Tournament is the ultimate "public’ betting event of the year, which provides a unique advantage for contrarian-minded bettors. 


The public may not have bet, or even watched, a single college basketball game all season long. But they love the annual excitement of March Madness and want to get in on the action. When the public fills out their brackets, they will lean heavily toward favorites, big-name schools and whoever is the higher seed. Simply put, it’s all chalk. 

The key to winning your Bracket is setting yourself apart from the public. And also by starting in the middle and working your way out.

When the public fills out a bracket, they start on the outside and work their way in, first filing out the Round of 64 matchups. However, the outside matchups get you the least overall points in the long run. It’s like being on Jeopardy and getting all of the $100 questions right, meanwhile, someone else who picked the champion correctly is winning all of the $1000 questions. The key to winning your bracket is selecting your champion first because you get far more points over the long haul if they win it all. Each round rewards more points the deeper you go. Therefore, getting the deeper rounds correct is far more important than getting the opening rounds correct.

However, you can’t just pick the chalk favorite champion that everyone else is picking. You have to pick a contrarian champion.

Many outlets (ESPN, Yahoo, CBS) will give you percentages on who America is picking, both in terms of each matchup and who they are selecting as their champion. It’s safe to assume that a vast majority of Americans will pick the top overall seed to cut down the nets: Alabama.

This means contrarians should pick a different team in order to break from the herd and separate themselves from the masses.

If Alabama wins it all, you lose your bracket and tip your cap to the public. This is the gamble you must take. But very rarely does the Tournament favorite actually win the whole thing. 

So who should you pick as your champion? 

Your first option is Houston. They have the best overall odds to win the Tournament (+475). But because they’re considered a "smaller" school and just lost to Memphis in ranked 1st overall according to Ken Pom. Kansas is also a sneaky contrarian play. The Jayhawks are tied for the 4th-best odds to win it all (+1200) but they also just lost to Texas in their conference championship game, providing a buy-low opportunity off a loss. Kansas also has big-game experience having won it all last year.

Another contrarian option is UCLA. Despite being a 2-seed, UCLA has the 4th best odds to win the championship (+1200). Ken Pom has UCLA ranked as the 2nd best team in the country. The analytics love the Bruins.

The whole idea is to set yourself apart. In this case, it means betting against Alabama.

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Peterson’s Daily CBB Podcast

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