March Madness betting odds predict the highest scoring NCAA tournament in history

College basketball scores continue to climb and, according to oddsmakers, that has the opening round of the 2017 NCAA tournament on pace to be the highest-scoring Round of 64 in Big Dance history.

With the national tournament tipping off (after the “First Four”) Thursday, the betting totals for the opening matchups are on average the highest they’ve ever been. According to offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu, those games have an average Over/Under of 142.3 points, based on their opening odds.

That’s an increase from the 141.4-point average betting total from last year’s Round of 64, in which those 32 games produced an average of 145 combined points and finished with a 20-12 Over/Under mark – playing Over 62.5 percent of the time. 

Those results came on the heels of a 2015-16 regular season that posted 144 points per game (versus an average closing Over/Under of 143.9) thanks to the nationwide implementation of the 30-second shot clock. That jump in scoring production was significant, with the five years prior boasting an average combined score of only 133 points per game (versus an average betting total of 134.6). Those 2015-16 NCAAB regular season games finished with a 1,803-1,738-39 O/U count (50.9% Over).

Heading into the Round of 64, nine of Thursday’s 16 games and four of Friday’s tilts have watched their opening total move upward with action on the Over. There are 12 totals in the opening two days that been shrunk with money on the Under and five totals that remain unchanged as of Wednesday afternoon (two remaining matchups will be decided by Wednesday play-in games).

According to online sportsbook GTBets.eu, the Over/Under betting action hasn’t been huge for the Round of 64 but for the eight games that have taken significant money on their total, six of those games are drawing one-sided money on the Under, with basketball bettors searching for value on the opposite end of this scoring trend.

“Of the games with decent action thus far, the house needs the Over in 75 percent of them,” says a line manager for GTBets.eu, “which is the exact opposite of the norm.”

At SportsInteraction.com, a Canadian sportsbook, it’s business as usual when it comes to the NCAA totals, with the majority of basketball bettors siding with the Over and looking for more high-scoring results in the opening two days of March Madness.

“The public typically favors the Over on totals in most sports. Even with the higher totals, we’re still seeing mostly Over action,” says Greg Sindall of SportsInteraction. “It’s as if they bet the Under, they’ll be cheering for a boring game which they don’t want to do.”

This past regular college hoops season (2016-17), the second full year under the 30-second shot clock, scoring once again enjoyed an uptick to 145 points per game while betting totals climbed to an average of 145.1. College basketball games finished 1,791-1,744-50 Over/Under (50.7% Over). 

Looking at the past six NCAA tournaments (2011 was the first year the tournament expanded to 68 teams with the “First Four” format), and only two years have produced more Overs than Under in the Round of: 2016 (20-12 O/U) and 2014 (17-15 O/U).

Before last year’s 20-12 Over/Under count, the Round of 64 had produced a combined 67-89-4 Over/Under record (57% Unders) between 2011 and 2015 with an average final score of 133 points staying Under an average closing betting total of 134.6 points.

The largest total on the board in the Round of 64 is 161.5 points, set for the meeting between No. 3 UCLA and No. 14 Kent State. The Bruins boast the highest-scoring offense in the country, at 90.4 points per game. The Golden Flashes put up 76.9 points per contest.

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