NCAA Baseball Tournament Betting Preview

With college baseball’s NCAA tournament starting this week, there are signs the sport is gaining momentum among bettors. Look at any of the major national books and the NCAAB tab is now near the top of the betting menu next to the familiar MLB, NBA, and NHL ones. 

Not that long ago, bettors had to actively search the board and sift through Russian table tennis and the lower Swedish soccer leagues to find college baseball lines. Now that the lines are easier to find and the games are about to start, let’s examine the NCAA tournament to provide some betting guidance.


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All national championship futures odds courtesy of DraftKings. 

Be Aware of Wearin’ Tennessee Orange 

The Volunteers (+600) enter the tournament as the No.1 overall seed and the second shortest number on the board next to Texas A&M (+500). Tony Vittelo’s talented, slugging squad ran through the second half of the season to become one of the hottest teams in the nation. Tennessee’s preseason odds of 13-1 jumped to nearly 20-1 in some books before the Vols found their stride, winning the SEC regular season title and the tournament championship (defeating LSU in the final game). 

This squad can hit (SEC-leading .311 batting average and 147 home runs) and has a stud starter in Drew Beam. For two of the past three seasons, the Vols won a regular-season title and a conference championship, and last year, they made it all the way to Omaha. 

The biggest challenger in the Knoxville Region is Southern Mississippi (+15000).  All good news for those who bought low on the Orange back in April. However, don’t go spending those winnings just yet. Also, don’t feel compelled to get an initial ticket on Tennessee because of all the attention Billy Amick (19 HRs) and the rest of the Vols are now receiving. 

Since 1999, when the tournament’s current format started, there has been only one team (Miami 1999) to turn the No.1 overall seed into a national championship. Vitello’s previous May swagger hasn’t turned into the ultimate late-June success. 

Good luck to those with tickets in hand on the Vols.  For those without, stick to single-game action. 

Slow Your Underdog Role 

Remember, this tournament is not like March Madness when Cinderellas and Sleepers are the preferred groups.  Sure, college baseball has its surprise teams, such as Oral Roberts a season ago.  Nonetheless, as is often the case in basketball as well, sleepers are good stories and fun to track, but it’s the favorites who overwhelmingly cash the final ticket. 

When handicapping this field of 64, bettors should focus most of their attention on which of the 16 No.1 regional seeds (and the top eight among them who will host a super regional) can win it all. History says that is the best way to find a national champ. Since that transformative season of 1999, nearly 74% of all the teams to make it to Omaha were a No.1 seed. The No.2 seeds have made it 17% of the time. Not too many No.3s and 4s have done it. 

So as much as we value “value,” most of the betting scrutiny for those making plays now should be on one of the top eight seeds. Yes, Mississippi bucked this trend in 2022, as a No.3 regional seed, however, that is an outlier. Be conservative with units when possibly looking for 2024’s Ole Miss. 

Remember last year, the final two teams alive were the eventual champion LSU playing its SEC elite counterpart Florida. For those who follow MLB more than college baseball, that is like the Yankees playing the Dodgers in the World Series, 

Think of it this way: If the books were to hang a line on the SEC (a record-breaking 11 of the 64 teams) vs. the field for the national championship, the conference that has won the last four titles would be a prohibitive favorite. 

This year, the SEC features four of the top five seeds. 

Seeding Controversy 

Similar to college basketball, this tournament starts with a debate surrounding some of the selection committee’s final decisions. 

Mid-majors East Carolina (+4000) and UC Santa Barbara (+6000) along with Arizona (+6000), in the final year of the Pac-12, are hosting a regional at the expense of Duke (+2000),  Mississippi State (+4500) and Wake Forest (+1200)

Somehow Florida (+4000) and its 28-27 record got in without really being on the bubble. The last four in included: Coastal Carolina (+15000), Indiana (+2500)James Madison (+25000) and UCF (+20000). Those not receiving one of the last at-large spots were California, Charleston, Cincinnati and TCU. 

Let’s Get to Monetizing

This tournament, with its double elimination format, is prime real estate to monetize inexpensive tickets on teams with high odds. College baseball is a great sport to look to monetize since teams with odds north of 80-1 find their way into the tournament and can win at least a game. 

Anytime this topic is brought up, homage must be paid to Circa VP Mike Palm, who made the concept of hedging more fashionable. His advocacy of monetizing tickets and explaining to the VSiN audience how to do so is akin to Jane Fonda sparking the aerobics craze of the 1980s. 

Besides wagering against a team in an effort to monetize, another way is to use the early cash-out option. Think of the early cash-out as a form of day trading in sports betting, a short-term play to get a team at a higher number and get out before the books adjust. Monetizing this way is different from some high-profile recent examples of bettors using the cash-out to bail out on a multi-leg parlay before it is completed. In that case, using a service like PropSwap would be much more profitable. 

As in all aspects of sports betting, this move is not foolproof.  I made early-season wagers on East Carolina 50-1 and Dallas Baptist 90-1, expecting these mid-majors to compete to host a regional and be positioned for a deep tournament run. Those odds were bound to drop during the season. This did happen, and an early cash-out (ECU down to 20-1, DBU down to 40-1) was available throughout the year for an easy profit. I decided not to do so, with the hopes of an even better number popping once the seedings were set. 

Selection Monday made that value disappear. Wake Forest and Tennessee are now, unfortunately, major impediments on ECU’s path to Omaha. The Pirates’ odds are back up to 40-1. DBU, as a No.2 seed in Tucson Regional, is back to 90-1.

Bettors must take note of all the rewards the selection committee granted the SEC in terms of bids and regional sites. The SEC is only getting bigger and the power ranks are shrinking.

The mid-majors during the regular season may look appealing in terms of talent and odds. That will change once the tournament starts, and there are an abundance of SEC teams in the field. Bookmakers will price the mid-majors like non-factors.

This SEC bias may create some betting opportunities for longshots during the tournament, but the chances of turning an early-season mid-major ticket into equity are going to dissipate. 

One of the best longer-odds options still available with a chance to monetize is UCSB. Even with one of the top 16 seeds, the Gauchos, are more than a longshot to win it all. The 60-1 is worth some consideration. UCSB is the favorite to win the regional, and if that does happen, there will be an odds reduction prior to the next round against Texas A&M. That should allow a bettor the chance to use the early cash out – especially for those who like UCSB’s chances to win their regional but don’t have access to a book that offers futures for that market. 

The reality is that an SEC team is very likely going to win the tournament. If that somehow doesn’t happen, the ACC will probably fill the void. The Big 12 is maybe the deepest to go when looking for a winner.

That is where a bettor could find Oklahoma State (+3000), a hot team that has plenty of odds on the bone. The Big 12 tournament champs are hosting the Stillwater Regional and playing their best ball of the season. A ticket on the Cowboys would be one to let ride as long as possible. 

Oregon State (+1500) is going to need Travis Bazzana, one of the best players in the country, to play like absolutely the best player in the country for the Beavers to make it to Omaha. 

On to the Regionals 

Here is the conference breakdown of the 16 regional hosts: ACC 5; SEC 5; Big 12 2; Pac-12 2; American and Big West 1. Here is the 64-team bracket.

The 16 regionals and the pairings between each are listed below.

No.1 Tennessee (+600) (50-11) – Knoxville, Tennessee
Teams: Southern Mississippi (+15000)Indiana (+2500)Northern Kentucky (+8000)
Breakdown: This group is a fantastic reward for the Volunteers who likely don’t need to expend a lot of pitching to advance. The first-time participant Norse should provide little resistance and both the Golden Eagles and Hoosiers will both need to use their top of the rotation from the start. The Vols can be found as much as a -335 winner to take this regional. 

No. 16 East Carolina (+4000) (43-15) – Greenville, North Carolina 
Teams: Wake Forest (+1200)VCU (+5000)Evansville (+80000)
Breakdown: This should set up for a little brother against big brother matchup, with ECU getting the preseason No.1 team on its home field, with the winner advancing to play Tennessee. Wake is going to get a lot of betting attention based on what Chase Burns and Josh Hartle do on the mound and the power Nick Kurtz provides. In fact, some books already have the Demon Deacons (-136) as the odds-on favorite to win the Greenville regional. For those with futures on ECU, get a piece of Wake to win the regional to provide some protection. 

No.2 Kentucky (+1000) (40-14) – Lexington, Kentucky 
Teams: Indiana State (+15000)Illinois (+4000)Western Michigan (+70000)
Breakdown: The Wildcats, a team that neither pitches or hits in a way that moves the analytical meter, should win a second consecutive regional title. The current -177 for the Wildcats seems lower than it should be considering the other teams in the Lexington regional. 

No. 15 Oregon State (+1500) (42-14) – Corvallis, Oregon
Teams: UC Irvine (+8000)Nicholls State (+40000)Tulane (+30000)
Breakdown: The Anteaters will give the Beavers some fight. Look to play Irvine against Tulane in their first game.  The Green Wave go from the high of winning the AAC title to having a short turnaround on the way to Corvallis. OSU was one of my top preseason plays, and I feel good against them advancing and then squaring off against the UK. Still, if that happens, a play on the Wildcats makes sense. 

No. 3 Texas A&M (+500) (44-13) – Bryan-College Station, Texas 
Teams: Louisiana (+15000), Texas (+5000)Grambling (+100000)
Breakdown: This is an interesting region to analyze since the Aggies, with star Braden Montgomery, are the shortest shot on the board. Even at 5-1, there is some value in that number because if they do make it to Omaha, it will be closer to +150. Still, Louisiana (+400) and Texas (+275) are more than capable of pulling off a major regional upset. 

No. 14 UC Santa Barbara (+6000) (42-12) – Santa Barbara, California
Teams: San Diego (+10000)Oregon (+7000)Fresno State (+60000) 
Breakdown: For those who can make a bet on the regional winner, look at the Gauchos at +120. That is one of the best plus odds for any regional favorite. This team has not received the media and betting attention it deserves. 

No. 4 North Carolina (+1500) (42-13) – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Teams: LSU (+900)Wofford (+50000)LIU (+100000)
Breakdown: The Tar Heels and their pitching and LSU, with its recent hot play, are priced similarly to win this region. UNC should benefit from the Southern Conference champs Wofford using its top arm, Zac Cowan, to challenge LSU in the opener. 

No. 13 Arizona (+6000) (36-21) – Tucson, Arizona
Teams: Dallas Baptist (+9000)West Virginia (+20000)Grand Canyon (+30000)
Breakdown: All four of these teams could win this regional and that makes it hard to monetize any preseason tickets on DBU. GCU has been competitive against the Pac-12 all season in non-conference play. This might be the best regional futures board for those bettors looking for an upset (Arizona +150, DBU +180, WVU +300, GCU +850). Since I have a 90-1 preseason ticket on DBU, I will look to monetize it by betting against them in elimination games. 

No. 5 Arkansas (+1000) (43-14) – Fayetteville, Arkansas
Teams: Louisiana Tech (+20000)Kansas State (+15000)SE Missouri State (+40000)
Breakdown: Selection Monday played out well for the Razorbacks who can rely on lefty Hagen Smith whenever a win is needed.

No. 12 Virginia (+2500) (41-15) – Charlottesville, Virginia
Teams: Mississippi State (+4500)Saint John’s (+40000)Pennsylvania (+50000) 
Breakdown: Here is an example where bettors should pay more attention to the bookmakers than the selection committee. The Bulldogs and host Cavaliers are both listed as even money favorites. MSU can use starting pitchers Khal Stephen and Jurrangelo Cijntje to neutralize the Cavs that rely on their .340 team batting average to outscore their opponents. The Bulldogs played to a decent 8-9 record on the road this year. 

No. 6 Clemson (+1300) (41-14) – Clemson, South Carolina
Teams: Vanderbilt (+3500)Coastal Carolina (+15000)High Point (+70000)
Breakdown: The Tigers are a true contender for the title. They have the 7th best RPI in the country. Clemson pitched to a 4.53 team ERA in the offensive minded ACC. Vandy and Coastal Carolina will get some play based on their names. The -118 on Clemson to win this regional seems a little light.  

No. 11 Oklahoma State (+3000) (40-17) – Stillwater, Oklahoma
Teams: Nebraska (+10000)Florida (+4000)Niagara (+100000)
Breakdown: The Cowboys are hot, losing just once since May 4th. Nebraska versus Florida should be one of the best first-round games of the tournament. OSU at close to even money to win the Stillwater regional is a wager to contemplate. Florida is going to get more public play than the Gators deserve. If you are looking to take the Cowboys to win it all, make sure to shop around. Their odds seem to have the most variance of any team on the futures board. 

No. 7 Georgia (+2200) (39-15) – Athens, Georgia 
Teams: UNC Wilmington (+20000), Georgia Tech (+10000)Army (+40000)
Breakdown: The Bulldogs received a somewhat easy grouping. I will gladly take Charlie Condon and his homer-hitting buddies at -150 to advance through the Athens region. 

No. 10 NC State (+3500) (33-20) – Raleigh, North Carolina 
Teams: South Carolina (+3500)James Madison (+25000)Bryant (+80000)
Breakdown: The Wolfpack and Gamecocks compare extremely well against one another (RPI 15 v. 21), but a slight advantage in the pitching area goes to USC. The Gamecocks are available at +115 to pull off an upset in Raleigh. 

No. 8 Florida State (+1800) (42-15) – Tallahassee, Florida
Teams: Alabama (+5000)UCF (+20000)Stetson (+40000)
Breakdown: As would be expected, there is very little difference between the eight teams in the 8/9 brackets. FSU at -115 to win the region is probably a cheaper price than it should be due to an SEC school also in the field. 

No. 9 Oklahoma (+4500) (37-19) – Norman, Oklahoma
Teams: Duke (+2000)Connecticut (+25000)Oral Roberts (+70000) 
Breakdown: When the brackets were announced I planned on taking Duke at a plus price to win this region in an upset. The books won’t let me do that as they set the Blue Devils as the favorite, not the home Sooners. So, using the fundamentals of betting strategies, I won’t allow a preexisting mindset that doesn’t adhere to the current numbers to dictate my wagers. Instead, the prudent option is to hold off and play Duke in a possible championship game at a price that should be close to the current -110 on the futures board.