March Madness betting volume favors UConn, Houston; bettors also back North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan State

With March Madness 2024 tipping off in earnest Thursday, the defending champion UConn Huskies are the favorites to repeat and are getting lots of action on sports betting websites.

The Huskies, who won the Big East regular-season title by four games this season and then the conference tournament, are the clear favorites to take the crown a second straight year and for the fifth time since 1999. For instance, they are listed at at BetMGM and at DraftKings.

But there’s a sizable difference at the two sites with regard to which tournament team has attracted the most betting dollars.

Let’s take a look at where DraftKings and BetMGM are seeing the most betting volume heading into March Madness. 

Odds to reach 2024 Final Four

Here are the latest odds to reach the Final Four at the top U.S. sportsbooks:

UConn, Houston drawing most March Madness betting volume

At BetMGM, the Huskies have drawn 20.7% of the handle on 12.1% of the tickets sold, both highs among the remaining 64 teams.

But DraftKings reported that it’s the University of Houston that has generated the most cash flow with 20% of the handle despite having only 6% of tickets sold. Makes you wonder if famous high-stakes bettor “Mattress Mack” of Houston had any part in that.

At BetMGM the Cougars had only 8.9% of the handle.

The Huskies also are the heaviest favorite in the 32 first-round games, being listed as a 26.5-point favorite over Stetson. But UConn had better not sleep-walk through its opener considering what happened to No. 1 seed Purdue last season. The Boilermakers were a consensus 23.5-point favorite in the first round over Farileigh Dickinson and were quickly KO’d.

That was FDU’s only victory in seven appearances in the main bracket.

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March Madness bettors leaning North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan State

Second in popularity among bettors at BetMGM is North Carolina (+1200) with 10.8% of tickets sold and 11.4% of the handle. Up next is Kentucky (+2500) with 8.5% of tickets sold and 9.6% of the handle.

At DraftKings, UNC ranks only fourth in handle at 11% with Kentucky (+2200) joining UConn tied for second at 14%.

Among long shots of +10000 or more, Michigan State (+10000) leads the way in betting activity with 2.1% of tickets sold and 2% of the total handle at BetMGM. That’s pretty much the same at DraftKings, which has the Spartans at 2% in both categories.

North Carolina State, which was at +100000 at BetMGM before its five-game run to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament crown, now stands at +20000. Wolfpack bettors have accounted for 1.6% of tickets sold and 1.1% of the handle.

The numbers are a tick lower at DraftKings, with the handle of 1% and 1% of tickets sold.

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Long shots drawing March Madness betting interest

There are even two teams listed at +200000 that have attracted bettors at BetMGM, albeit at a 0.2% rate — No. 16 seed Grambling, which rallied to win its its play-in game against Montana State on Wednesday, and the 15th-seeded St. Peter’s Peacocks.

St. Peter’s was the darling of the 2022 tournament when it also was seeded 15th and reached the Elite 8. According to data provided by sportsoddshistory.com, the Peacocks’ pre-tournament odds were 3,000-1.

But what chance do any of this season’s long shots have of winning the crown? As mentioned in a story on March Madness long shots earlier this week, over the past 45 years the team with the longest odds entering the tournament to cut down the nets was UConn in 2014 when it went off at +9500. 

However, in the past three tournaments three long shots have reached the national semifinals at pre-tourney odds of +12500 or longer: Florida Atlantic last season at +20000, North Carolina in 2022 at +12500 (even reaching the final) and UCLA at +12500 in 2021. The Bruins did so after advancing through the play-in round.

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