Kansas got a tough road to the Final Four, and that had to make sportsbooks happy.
The Jayhawks are the biggest liability for BetMGM to win the NCAA tournament. Kansas got 15.8% of the amount of money bet on the tournament winner as of Monday at BetMGM. Houston was a distant second at 10%. The biggest bet on Kansas before this week was $10,000 to win $90,000 when the Jayhawks were +900 odds. Kansas also had a big lead on most bets to win the NCAA tournament, at 11.6%. Houston was second at 7.1%.
A lot of those bets came in before the bracket was revealed, and also before Kansas was blown out in the Big 12 tournament by Texas.
Kansas didn't get a good draw. In the West region the Jayhawks are the No. 1 seed, with arguably the best No. 2 seed (UCLA), No. 3 seed (Gonzaga) and No. 4 seed (UConn). Facing the winner of the Arkansas/Illinois game in the second round isn't easy either.
Kansas is still the second-most popular pick to win it all in Yahoo's men's tourney pick'em, at 13.3%. Alabama is the most popular pick as the champion in 21.8% of brackets. KU is the defending champion and one of the biggest brands in the sport, and it's easy to back them. Many bettors have already.
As far as betting on first-round games goes, the biggest problem for sportsbooks isn't a blue blood. It's a 13 seed that most people probably haven't seen play this season.
Bettors like Furman to cover
Do you know where Furman is located? We'll wait to answer that.
Furman won the Southern Conference tournament and got the auto bid to the NCAA tournament. It's the first NCAA appearance for the Paladins (it's OK if you didn't know their nickname either) since 1980.
Furman isn't the most well-known program in the field, but it is the team that is getting the most bets among the first-round games at BetMGM. Furman against Virginia is the most-bet first-round game. There is more money on Furman +5.5 and more tickets on the Paladins than any other team in the first round.
It seems to be less of an endorsement for Furman and more of a fade of Virginia by bettors. Virginia didn't play well down the stretch and their low-scoring style isn't appealing to bettors.
Maybe Furman can go back to Greenville, South Carolina, with an NCAA tournament win. Or at least a first-round cover for all those bettors.
Other popular bets
The second and third most-bet sides for the first round, in terms of money wagered, are a pair of underdogs. Drake +3.5 over Miami and Penn State +3.5 over Texas A&M are second and third in handle. The second and third-most popular sides in terms of number of bets are Arizona State -2.5 in a First Four game against Nevada and UC Santa Barbara +10.5 against Baylor.
In terms of totals, the three most popular over bets (in order) are Arizona State vs. Nevada (133.5), Utah State vs. Missouri (154.5) and NC State vs. Creighton (148.5). The most popular under bets are UC Santa Barbara vs Baylor (143.5), Furman vs. Virginia (132.5) and West Virginia vs. Maryland (137.5).
March Madness is one of the biggest betting events on the sports calendar. This week a lot of bettors are getting to know schools they either didn't know or hadn't thought of in years, until the bracket was revealed.