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NCAA March Madness betting: Which coaches should you trust with your money?

Sam Cooper
·8-min read

The NCAA tournament is finally here.

If you’re in the process of filling out your bracket, you’re looking for any edge you can get to make the right picks. That goes for bettors too, who are doing in-depth breakdowns of first-round point spreads.

While you should definitely study specific matchups and the ways teams have performed against the spread during the 2020-21 season, it’s also worth diving into the NCAA tournament histories for head coaches in March Madness.

Which coaches have done well against the spread in the NCAA tournament? Whose teams tend to play in games that go under the total? There are plenty of trends worth your attention.

Below are some of the coaches who have been especially profitable for bettors during their careers.

Matt Painter, Purdue

Matt Painter has made 11 NCAA tournament appearances as the head coach at Purdue, and the Boilermakers have been extremely profitable for bettors in the first round.

Under Painter, Purdue is 9-2 straight-up and 9-2 against the spread in its Round 1 matchups. The Boilermakers have been a favorite in all 11 of those matchups. The two times they failed to cover the spread came as a No. 5 seed — when they were upset by Arkansas Little Rock (then coached by current Texas Tech coach Chris Beard) in 2016 and when they knocked off Northern Iowa 61-56 as 8.5-point favorites in 2009.

This year, Purdue is the No. 4 seed in the South Region and is currently favored by 7.5 over No. 13 seed North Texas at BetMGM. Purdue is 2-0 ATS as a No. 4 seed under Painter, covering against Siena in 2010 and Vermont in 2017. Against Siena, Purdue was a 4.5-point favorite and won 72-64. Against Vermont, Purdue was favored by 8.5 and won by 10, 80-70.

Another trend worth noting: The over is 8-2 in Purdue’s last 10 NCAA tournament games. The current total for Purdue’s game against North Texas at BetMGM is 126.5.

Dana Altman, Oregon

Oregon has been a perennial NCAA tournament contender under Dana Altman, and the Ducks have made a few deep runs during his tenure. That includes two Sweet 16s, an Elite Eight and a Final Four in 2017.

The Ducks have been tremendous against the spread in tournament play under Altman — 15-4 overall, including a streak of six consecutive covers entering this year’s tournament. Oregon also has a perfect 6-0 mark in the first round under Altman.

Oregon’s seed line has varied, ranging from a No. 1 seed in 2016 to a No. 12 seed in 2013 and 2019. This year, the Ducks are the No. 7 seed in the West Region and are 5.5-point favorites against No. 10 seed VCU.

Additionally, Oregon is 8-1 against the spread as an underdog during NCAA tournament play under Altman. As a favorite, Oregon is 5-3 ATS.

Jim Boeheim, Syracuse

Jim Boeheim has a long track record of NCAA tournament success at Syracuse, and the Orange have done well for bettors. In their last 30 tournament games, the Orange are 20-10 straight-up with an 18-12 mark against the spread. That includes an 8-2 ATS mark over Syracuse’s last 10 tournament games.

In Syracuse’s last 15 first-round matchups (dating to 2000), it is 11-4 against the spread. This year, Boeheim’s team is in a rare spot in Round 1: It is an underdog.

Syracuse is the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region and is a three-point underdog against San Diego State, the No. 6 seed. Dating back to 1996 (betting databases only go back so far), Syracuse has been an underdog in an NCAA tournament game 23 times and is 15-7-1 ATS.

Only two of those games, however, have come in the first round: 2006 vs. Texas A&M and 2018 vs. TCU. Syracuse beat TCU 57-52 as a 4.5-point underdog in 2018, but lost 66-58 to A&M as a one-point dog in 2006.

Bill Self, Kansas

Kansas has performed extremely well against the spread in its first-round matchups under Bill Self. From a betting perspective, that’s especially been true in recent years. The Jayhawks have 16 tournament appearances during Self’s tenure and are 14-2 straight-up with a 10-6 mark against the spread. Entering this year’s tournament, Kansas has covered the spread in its last six Round 1 matchups, doing so by an average of 12.4 points.

This year, Kansas is the No. 3 seed in the West Region and favored by 10.5 points against No. 14 seed Eastern Washington. That spread would have been much larger, but Kansas is expected to be without David McCormack, Jalen Wilson and Tristan Enaruna. McCormack (13.4 ppg) and Wilson (12.1 ppg) are two of KU’s leading scorers.

Kansas head coach Bill Self during the overtime of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Kansas head coach Bill Self during overtime of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas on Feb. 23, 2021, in Austin. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Jay Wright, Villanova

Any coach who has led his program to two national titles is going to make a list like this. In its last 20 NCAA tournament games under Jay Wright, Villanova is 15-5 against the spread. The Wildcats covered the spread in all six games they played in both national championship runs (2016 and 2018).

This year, Villanova is a No. 5 seed and has a really tough matchup against Winthrop, the Big South champion with a 23-1 record entering the tournament. Villanova is favored by 6.5, despite the fact that senior point guard Collin Gillespie is out with a knee injury.

Winthrop is a popular upset pick, but there’s a trend in Villanova first-round games that you should keep an eye on. The under is 9-4-1 in Villanova’s 14 first-round games under Wright. The under has hit in four of Villanova’s last six games entering the tournament. On the other side, the under has hit in 11 of Winthrop’s last 13 games.

Chris Beard, Texas Tech

Though he doesn’t have the experience of the coaches listed above, Chris Beard has made a name for himself on the sport’s biggest stage.

Back in 2016, Beard coached Arkansas Little Rock to a first-round upset over Purdue before moving on to Texas Tech. In his second season at TTU, Beard coached the Red Raiders to the Elite Eight. In his third season, it was a trip to the national championship game.

At Texas Tech, Beard has an 8-2 record straight-up with a 7-3 mark against the spread. Including his year at Little Rock, Beard is 8-4 against the spread in NCAA tournament games.

This year, Texas Tech is a No. 6 seed and favored by five points against Utah State. Under Beard, TTU is 6-2 in tournament games with a single-digit point spread.

Andy Enfield, USC

Andy Enfield is most-known for leading Florida Gulf Coast — the team known as “Dunk City” — to the Sweet 16 in 2013. FGCU covered the spread in all three of its games during that run. At USC, Enfield’s teams have also performed well for bettors.

This season will be the third tournament appearance in Enfield’s eight seasons. In the two previous tournament trips, the Trojans are 4-0 against the spread (including the win in the First Four against Providence in 2017), giving Enfield a perfect 7-0 ATS mark in tournament games.

This year, USC is a No. 6 seed. The Trojans will face the winner of the First Four matchup between Wichita State and Drake.

Other trends to know

  • Under Leonard Hamilton, the under is 11-5 in Florida State’s NCAA tournament games, including a 5-2 mark in first-round games. FSU is 5-1 against the spread as an underdog in tournament games under Hamilton. In those six games where FSU was an underdog, the under is 6-0.

  • West Virginia is 11-4 straight-up and 10-5 against the spread as a favorite in NCAA tournament games under Bob Huggins. WVU is a 13-point favorite over Morehead State.

  • Florida is 3-0 against the spread in first-round games under Mike White. The game went under the total in all three of those games. UF was a single-digit favorite in those three games. This year, Florida is a one-point favorite in the first round vs. Virginia Tech.

  • In Iowa’s seven NCAA tournament games under Fran McCaffery, the over is 5-2 overall and 5-0 in its last five.

  • Between Greg McDermott’s stops at Northern Iowa and Creighton, the under is 8-2-1 in NCAA tournament games.

  • Under Greg Gard, Wisconsin is 3-1-1 against the spread as an underdog. In those five games, the under is 4-1.

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