Here’s Who The Public Likes In First-Round NCAA Tournament Games

Written By Drew Ellis on March 18, 2021 - Last Updated on March 19, 2021
NCAA Tournament Bets Purdue March Madness 2021

Still having trouble making decisions on your NCAA Tournament bets? Perhaps a little public opinion scouting would help.

With March Madness being one of the most high-volume sport events for betting each year, there’s a lot of public information to consider.

Here’s a closer look at who the masses are wagering on in the Big Dance.

Gonzaga, Michigan garnering most wagers

In Michigan and across the country, the Michigan Wolverines remain one of the favorites to win the national championship.

Despite the injury to senior Isaiah Livers, Michigan is still garnering 8.73% of the bet count to win the NCAA Tournament, according to PointsBet Sportsbook. At BetMGM Sportsbook, Michigan is getting 17.97% of the bet count.

According to PointsBet, the top five teams to win the tournament by bet count are:

  • Gonzaga (+210) 11.64%
  • Michigan (+825) 8.73%
  • Illinois (+725) 7.22%
  • Baylor (+625) 6.67%
  • Iowa (+1800) 4.48%

When it comes to handle, the breakdown is pretty similar:

  • Gonzaga 19.01%
  • Michigan 10.18%
  • Baylor 8.98%
  • Illinois 7.02%
  • Iowa 3.00%

Looking beyond the top five in wagers, Texas (+4000) and Oklahoma State (+3000) are getting outsized action. Texas is eighth in bet volume and sixth in handle. The Cowboys place ninth in terms of most bets.

Purdue a heavily-supported first-round favorite

Friday and Saturday each feature 16 first-round NCAA Tournament games, giving Michigan sports bettors plenty of wagering options.

The team getting the most individual early handle in its opening matchup is Purdue. The Boilermakers are a 4 seed and set to face 13th-seeded North Texas at 7:25 p.m. Eastern on Friday. As a 7.5-point favorite, Purdue is getting 69% of the handle as of late Thursday morning, according to’s bet-tracking charts. Purdue closed the regular season 11-3 against the spread in their final 14 games.

One favorite garnering a lot of the handle is top-seeded Baylor. The Bears get things started against No. 16 Hartford at 3:30 p.m. Friday. Baylor is a lofty 26-point favorite, but is still getting 67% of the handle. That’s the most of any top seed. The Bears are 5-1 ATS in games as a favorite of 20 points or more.

Another favorite in the eyes of the public is Oklahoma. The eighth-seeded Sooners take on ninth-seeded Missouri at 7:25 p.m. Saturday. Listed as a 1-point favorite, Oklahoma is getting 65% of the handle. It’s worth nothing that guard De’Vion Harmon is out for this weekend because of COVID-19 protocols. He averages 12.9 points per game.

As a No. 6 seed, Texas Tech is a popular play for early NCAA Tournament bets. The Red Raiders face No. 11 Utah State at 1:45 p.m. Friday. Tech is a 4-point favorite against the Aggies and getting 65% of the handle. Be mindful, Tech hasn’t been great at the betting window this season, going just 10-17 ATS.

The seventh-seeded Oregon Ducks are a public favorite against No. 10 VCU at 9:57 p.m. Saturday. The Ducks are a 5-point favorite against the Rams and getting 64% of the handle.

Public strongly behind some double-digit seeds

Of all the higher seeds, no team is garnering more handle than 12th-seeded Oregon State. The Beavers face fifth-seeded Tennessee at 4:30 p.m. Friday. The Vols are an 8-point favorite, but the Beavers are getting 66% of the handle right now. Oregon State was 18-9-1 ATS this season and 10-1 ATS in its past 11 games.

Georgetown is coming off a Big East Conference tournament title, and bettors like their momentum. As a No. 12 seed, the Hoyas face fifth-seeded Colorado at 12:15 p.m. Saturday. As a 5.5-point underdog against the Buffaloes, Georgetown is getting 64% of the handle in this game.

A No. 15 seed doesn’t knock off a No. 2 seed often, but the public likes 15th-seeded Iona to at least cover against second-seeded Alabama at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Gaels are a 17-point underdog and are getting 62% of the handle against the Tide.

A popular upset pick in early NCAA Tournament bets is No. 12 Winthrop. The Eagles face No. 5 Villanova at 9:57 p.m. Friday. Jay Wright’s squad is a 6.5-point favorite for the game, but Winthrop is getting 60% of the handle. Villanova has lost three of its last four and is without guard Collin Gillespie because of a knee injury.

Another popular double-digit seed is No. 10 Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are taking on No. 7 Clemson at 9:20 p.m. Friday. Rutgers actually finds itself as a 1.5-point favorite despite being the larger seed. The Scarlet Knights are garnering 60% of the handle. Clemson is just 1-5 ATS in its past six games as an underdog.

Photo by Michael Conroy/AP
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

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