NCAA March Madness betting: Gonzaga's loss a reminder to bettors, there is no such thing as a lock

Frank Schwab
·3-min read

The easiest bet for the NCAA tournament, seemingly, was Gonzaga to win it all. 

In the Yahoo Tourney Pick'Em, 44.6 percent of brackets had Gonzaga winning it all. No other team reached 17.6 percent. No matter how much BetMGM lowered the odds on Gonzaga to win the championship, they couldn't stop bettors from taking the Bulldogs. More than one-third of all money bet on the NCAA champion at BetMGM was on Gonzaga. 

It's hard to win six NCAA tournament games, whether you're 1991 UNLV, 1999 Duke, 2015 Kentucky ... or 2021 Gonzaga. There were a lot of brackets finally ripped up, along with a ton of Gonzaga future bet tickets, when Baylor pulled off the upset on Monday night to win the NCAA title. 

It wasn't even that big of an upset. Baylor was a No. 1 seed, the second-ranked team in the entire tournament by the committee. But because we'd heard for so long that Gonzaga was such a lock, it seemed like a huge upset. 

There are no locks in sports betting. 

Baylor started fast, never looked back

Baylor started fast. The Bears were up 9-0 before everyone could even settle on the couch. The lead swelled as high as 19 points. 

On BetMGM, the in-game point spread kept rising with Baylor's lead. Gonzaga was an underdog on the moneyline fairly early into the game, then the in-game line rose to as high as +9.5 in the first half on the Bulldogs. The team one win from being the first undefeated champion in 45 years was nearly a double-digit underdog during the game. 

Gonzaga cut the deficit to 10 by halftime, got Baylor's lead to single digits in the second half but the Bears answered right back. The in-game line went above double digits. Baylor maintained a double-digit lead most of the second half, never allowing Gonzaga to start realistically considering a comeback win. 

It seemed inconceivable before the game started, but overwhelming favorite Gonzaga was in the process of getting blown out. 

Mark Vital (11) of the Baylor Bears reacts to play against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during Monday's national championship game. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Mark Vital (11) of the Baylor Bears reacts to play against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during Monday's national championship game. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Many future bets were on Gonzaga

When the championship matchup was set, BetMGM had a strong rooting interest in Baylor. The betting split on the point spread of Gonzaga -4.5 was about 50-50 at BetMGM, but there was a lot of action on Gonzaga to win it all. Those bets started before the season, when Gonzaga was +800 to win the title, and didn't stop. More than one-third of the money bet on the NCAA champion was on Gonzaga. Included in that was a $100,000 bet on Gonzaga to win it all at +150 odds. To a lesser extent, a Baylor win would have knocked out a lot of wagers at BetMGM on Gonzaga forward Drew Timme to win Most Outstanding Player. Of all the money bet on that market, 62.7 percent was on Timme, who dove from +900 odds to -120. 

BetMGM did take some huge Baylor bets on Monday and that evened things out a bit, but a lot of casual bettors were on Gonzaga. A lot of people who didn't watch much basketball still clicked Gonzaga in their bracket pool. The bettors found the Bulldogs either during the season when Gonzaga was blowing everyone out by double digits, right before the tourney when all the talk was about Gonzaga's undefeated season or after the Bulldogs easily covered the spread in each of their first four tournament games. 

There were a lot of Gonzaga fans on Monday night, and most don't live in Spokane. What looked like a great bet all season long was practically finished before halftime. 

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