Guide To First-Time March Madness Betting in Ohio

Written By Mike Breen on March 9, 2023
Souley Boum Ohio March Madness Betting

In February, the Super Bowl gave Ohio fans their first huge sporting event on which they could legally place bets, following the statewide launch of Ohio sports betting on Jan. 1.

Ohioans can now set their sights on the next major U.S. sports event — March Madness.

If you’re still finding your sports betting footing here in Ohio, read on as we go over some March Madness basics, including where to bet on the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which Ohio teams you can bet on and five tips for beginners wagering on the tournament for the first time.

Ohio to host 2023 NCAA tournament games

The 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament runs March 14-April 3.

If you want to attend the games in person, two Ohio cities are hosting tournament games this year.

The opening First Four games are set for March 14-15 in Dayton, Ohio at the University of Dayton Arena.

ColumbusNationwide Arena is also one of the sites hosting NCAA tournament games this year. Nationwide will have first and second round games March 17-19.

The Final Four games take place in Houston on April 1, with the championship game following on April 3.

Where to place March Madness bets in Ohio

The easiest way to place a bet on March Madness is by using one of the following online sportsbooks available in the state:

Betr is another online sportsbook option, though you don’t use it to bet in the traditional sense on games. Betr offers live microbetting during games, which allows users to wager on quick outcomes, like which team will score next or what type of score it will be (two-pointer or tree-pointer?).

If you’re up for more of a social experience, Ohio’s 13 retail sportsbooks should be brimming with excitement during March Madness. Here’s the current list of Ohio retail sportsbooks:

Unique to Ohio, there are also more than 860 sports betting kiosks located throughout the state in bars, restaurants, shops and other venues where you can place bets on the games. (Note: wagers like futures, in-game and prop bets are not permitted at these kiosks.)

Tip 1: March Madness brackets betting

From office pools to popular sports outlets like ESPN, Yahoo Fantasy and CBS Sports, betting the NCAA tournament brackets has grown in popularity over the past several decades — way before sports betting was legalized in Ohio.

The full 68-team bracket is revealed on Selection Sunday — March 12 — beginning at 6 p.m.

Once you have the brackets, go through and choose the winners for each game in each round, all the way through to the championship. Depending on where you’re playing and how many people are participating, the top brackets with the most correct choices win a percentage of the prize pool.

Some Ohio online sportsbooks also offer the chance to engage with the NCAA tournament via bracket pools, which are usually free to play.

Bet365 Sportsbook has been advertising its free Bracket Challenge in Ohio with a television commercial campaign. The overall top performer wins $100,000 and cash prizes are paid out to the top 5,000 leaderboard places. Do the (almost) impossible and nail down a perfect bracket and Bet365 will give you $10 million.

DraftKings, Fanduel, Betrivers and BetMGM all also have free bracket contests set for 2023.

Tip 2: Betting on individual games

You can also use Ohio’s sportsbooks and betting kiosks to bet on single games throughout the NCAA tournament. There are a few different routes to go when wagering on individual games.

You can bet the moneyline. When you bet the moneyline you are simply picking which team you think will win based on the odds set by the sportsbook.

You can also choose to bet the point spread. In spread betting, you’re betting on the margin of victory in a game. If you bet the favorite (the team with the minus sign), that team must win by more than the spread for you to win the bet. If you bet the underdog (the team with the plus sign), for you to win your bet, the team must either win the game outright or lose by less than the spread.

Sportsbooks also give you the option to bet the over/under on individual games. Over/under betting isn’t concerned with who wins or loses, it’s based on the total number of points in a game. You bet on whether the point total shown will be exceeded (over) or not (under), based on odds presented by the sportsbook.

Tip 3: Pick the tournament winner

Futures bets in the NCAA tournament are wagers on who will win the whole tournament. Some sportsbooks also offer futures bets on which teams will make it to the Final Four.

Odds vary and are set by the different sportsbooks. The Houston Cougars are currently favored to win it all, with Ohio sportsbooks setting the odds between +550 and +650.

Ohio’s best shot at having a team make it to the Final Four or win the tournament is Xavier University (see below). Xavier’s odds of making it to the final four are currently at between +1000 and +1500, while their odds of winning it all are between +4500 and +6000, depending on which sportsbook you use.

Compare that to Ohio State, who are a long-shot to even make the tournament. If you want to take a chance, Caesars Sportsbook is currently showing them with +100000 odds to win the championship.

Tip 4: Parlay betting

Parlay betting is when you bundle multiple bets together for a chance at a higher payouts. The risk is also higher. When combining two or more bets into a parlay, all the bets must hit in order for you to win.

Parlays can include a wide range of bets. During the tournament you could, for example, bet the moneyline on one game, the over/under on another, a prop bet (see below) for a player to grab over 1.5 rebounds and a futures bet on the tournament winner, all in one parlay. (Heck, you’re not even limited to the same sport — you could throw in a World Baseball Classic bet in there, too.)

If you’re using online sportsbooks, be sure to look around to see which ones have the best parlay offers. DraftKings, for example, is currently running a College Basketball Stepped Up Parlay promo where you receive a 20% profit boost on a 3-leg parlay and garner larger profit boosts with each additional leg.

Tip 5: Prop bets

Prop bets are wagers on specific events or statistical occurrences in a game, relating to either the team, the game or specific players.

Prop bets can get kind of wacky, though Ohio does not allow certain novelty bets. Examples of prop bets in the NCAA tournament you can wager on in Ohio might include:

  • Whether the combined total points scored by both teams will be odd or even.
  • How many points, assists or rebounds a specific player will have.
  • Whether or not the game will go to overtime.
  • Which team will make it to a specific point total first in the game.
  • Some sportsbooks offer live in-game prop bets on things like the result of the next field goal attempt or which team will score next.

Which Ohio teams are going dancing?

It’s not an especially great year for Ohio college basketball teams going to the NCAA tournament, but there are a few to root for.

Cincinnati’s Xavier University will be the highest-seeded Ohio team in the tournament, with ESPN and FOX Sports predicting them to be a 4 seed. Coach Sean Miller is leading the Musketeers to their first appearance in the tournament in four years.

Miller — who took X to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight in the ’00s — is in the first year of his second stint as the Musketeers’ head coach.

There will be a fun Ohio Cinderella to cheer on in the tournament, with most experts predicting the Toledo Rockets to make the field of 64 based on the team’s 25-6 regular season record. Most experts currently have them at around a 13-seed. The Rockets haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1980.

Teams that win their league tournaments earn automatic berths to the NCAA tournament. If Toledo doesn’t win it, the MAC tournament could see another Ohio team — like Kent State or Akron — sneak into the big dance. The MAC tournament championship game takes place March 11 in Cleveland.

Cleveland State fell just short of making the NCAA tournament, losing the March 7 Horizon League championship game to Northern Kentucky University by just 2 points.

Ohio NCAA tournament regulars like Ohio State, Cincinnati and Dayton will need to make a run and win their respective league tournaments for a chance to the big dance in 2023.

Be sure to tune into Selection Sunday to find out which Ohio teams are in and when and where they’ll be playing.

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Mike Breen

Mike Breen covers Ohio’s budding sports betting industry for PlayOhio, focusing on online sportsbooks and the state’s responsible gambling initiatives. He has over two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture in Ohio.

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