Fred Faour: Futures strategies for the NCAA Tournament, including all the Texas teams

Mar 4, 2023; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies head coach Buzz Williams and guard Wade Taylor IV (4) embrace after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide at Reed Arena. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Fred Faour: Futures strategies for the NCAA Tournament, including all the Texas teams

Betting futures in the NCAA Tournament is a lot like playing a one-team bracket. Let’s say you like Kansas. Well, the Jayhawks win the tournament, you might not win your bracket if someone was better in the early rounds. But if you just take your money and bet it on Kansas futures right now at 7-1, you don’t have to worry about how the bracket falls.

Two of my favorite things are to bet futures on the NCAA Tournament (and Stanley Cup playoffs). Ideally, you find a couple of double-digit long shots that are live. Once you get deeper into the tournament, you can hedge. For instance, if you bet UH but they wind up playing an A&M team you believe can win, you bet Aggies money line as a saver. Worst case, you break even. As you hedge, you may turn your 10-1 into 3 or 4-1, but that’s still a nice profit.

Another way to approach this is what is called a “mechanical parlay,” a term coined by RJ Bell of The concept is to take a team – in this case, we will use UH – and bet them money line every game, then roll the original bet plus winnings into the next game. Most often, if they wind up winning the whole thing, you will do better than 6-1 (current listed odds). And you also have the advantage of ejecting at any level if you feel you have made enough of a profit.

So let’s say you start with $100. You bet that on UH in Game 1. Your likely payoff will only be $10, but you then bet $110 in round 2. Win that, and let’s say you have $200. You roll that into the Sweet 16. By the time they reach the Final Four, you will likely have more than the 6-1 to win the whole thing.

But there is value in futures as well, and the Texas teams all offer some opportunities. Let’s take a look:

Houston (6-1). The Cougars have a legit shot, but with the Marcus Sasser injury, who knows? (I would definitely sit him one more game). I love UH, but there is little value at 6-1 right now. They were 10-1 preseason, so if you got that, then good luck. If playing UH, I would consider the mechanical parlay strategy above as opposed to betting them at 6-1 to win the tournament.

Texas (18-1). The Big 12 Tournament champs have a nice price, but they also will likely have to get through an under-seeded A&M squad (40-1) and Houston just to get to the Final Four. Good value if you like them, however. But they are 18-1 as much because of the bracket as anything else.

Baylor (20-1): Boy, if not for the last few games (2-4, including back-to-back losses to Iowa State), you would love this price. But that is why they are 20-1 and not 12. This team is tournament proven, however, and their side of the bracket is loaded with question marks (No. 6 Creighton, No. 2 Arizona. These are teams Baylor can beat. But the top side features Alabama or Virginia, which will be tough outs. However, if you believe in the Bears, 20-1 is great value. This might be a spot to take Baylor and Texas and hope for the best.

TCU (33-1). Boy, before last week, this would have been a gift. But with a key player gone, TCU will be up against it. Worth a few bucks if you are a Frogs fan because the bracket is full of question marks. Gonzaga is not the Gonzaga of old, and UCLA has injury problems. If they get past that, an Elite Eight matchup with Big 12 foe Kansas would loom. Impossible? No, but likely? Also no.

Texas A&M (40-1). Like Texas, the Aggies will likely have to beat their old in-state rivals and get past Houston. But they have been one of the hottest teams in the country and deserved better than a 7-seed. Their early season losses came back to bite them. But this is a well-coached, hot team at the right time. The price is right if you want to take a long shot swing.

Texas A&M-CC (1000-1). No shot here.

TSU (1000-1). Again, nice team, but like A&M-CC, one win would be a victory.

Some non-Texas value plays worth considering: Memphis at 90-1. They would presumably get perennial tournament failures Purdue in the second round, and if you get past that, you are looking at a Sweet 16 team at 90-1. Also, Arkansas at 100-1. The Hogs did not live up to expectations this year, but they have the talent to upset Kansas in Round 2, and like Memphis, you could be sitting on a live Sweet 16 price. Of course, it’s not likely, but there is value there.

Good luck, and let’s have some fun this tournament.

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