No Clear Favorite for Final Four
Despite a record volume of wagers, very little separates the betting on the top three teams. UCLA has received 29.8 per cent of total wagers to date, followed by LSU at 28.5 per cent and Florida at 27.6 per cent. Even George Mason, the least regarded of the four, has garnered significant attention with 14.1 per cent of total wagers backing the Patriots.
"If this were a presidential race we'd be up until the early hours of the morning waiting to declare a winner," said Alex Czajkowski, Sportsbook.com. "What the trends show is that everybody has an opinion and everybody bets on March Madness."
Sportsbook.com has broken the betting trends down by state and at the moment UCLA and LSU have the backing from 16 states each, while Florida is the favorite in 12 states and George Mason is favored by bettors in six states. Sportsbook.com has created an electoral map of sorts and other than highlighting how close the race actually is, it brings to light some other interesting trends.
For example, of the nine states that are home to schools from the SEC, the conference represented in the Final Four by both Florida and LSU, eight are backing either the Gators or Tigers. Only bettors in Georgia are backing a non-conference school - UCLA. Does this mean hoops fans from the SEC have adopted their rival schools as their own? By contrast, Oregon, Washington and Arizona, states that house teams from the PAC 10, are decidedly against UCLA. In fact, each team is backing a different school with Oregon betting on George Mason, Washington betting on LSU and Arizona betting on Florida. Perhaps this shows a deep resentment toward the big bad Bruins by basketball fans in that region. Of the six states backing George Mason's improbable run, the most significant in terms of population and dollars wagered is Michigan. Perhaps the Patriots made believers of fans in Michigan with their first round upset of Michigan State.
What doesn't seem to matter with bettors is whether they are Republicans or Democrats. LSU is backed equally by fans in states that voted Republican and Democrat in the last election. UCLA is favored slightly by Republican states 10-6 while George Mason is favored slightly by Democrat states by a 4-2 margin. The only significant blip in this trend comes with regards to Florida, a key battleground state in each of the last two elections. Of the 12 states where the Gators are receiving majority backing 11 of them voted Republican in 2004.