What’s In And What’s Out For NJ March Madness?

Written By Dave Bontempo on March 14, 2022 - Last Updated on December 12, 2023
College basketball heats up with March Madness in New Jersey

New Jersey bettors observe a mixed pre-March Madness bag regarding the NCAA’s Big Dance, which kicks off Wednesday.

Three teams they can’t wager on, Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. Peter’s, can be handicapped for bracket considerations only.

But Garden State gamblers also have Pennsylvania-based Villanova, just over the Walt Whitman bridge from southern New Jersey, as a perennial powerhouse to back.

Villanova is +300 to reach the Final Four according to DraftKings and +1600 to win the championship according to the Caesars Sportsbook odds board.

The Wildcats can also be targeted for single-game wagers.

DraftKings extended the betting options Monday, offering an excellent promo that essentially gives sports bettors $50 while the offer lasts.

Here are overviews both from the gambling and brackets-only vantage points for March Madness in New Jersey.

First, the games

  • Wednesday: Rutgers, a play-in selection, battles Notre Dame at 9:10 p.m. The winner advances to play Alabama in the second round of the West bracket.
  • Thursday: St. Peter’s of Jersey City, which won the MAAC tournament in Atlantic City, is a No. 15 seed against No. 2 Kentucky in the East at 7:10 p.m.
  • Friday: Villanova, the No. 2 seed in the South region, faces No. 15 Delaware at 2:45 p.m. Seton Hall, the No. 8 seed in the South, battles No. 9 TCU at 9:57 p.m.

Betting angles

Start with the promo.

DraftKings provided a significant gift to players on Monday, offering +100 odds on Gonzaga to beat Georgia State on Thursday.

In the real world, Gonzaga is favored by 23.5 points at DraftKings and the moneyline odds are -10000-1 (100-1). No way you’d lay $100 to win $1, but this offer opened with a $50 maximum wager on even-money betting odds.


Simply opt-in, follow instructions and grab the odds boost. To make sure you have followed perfectly, check the “My Bets” section of your account right afterward. It should say that you wagered $50 to win $100.

This has been one of DraftKings’ patented strategies before major events. These incentive offers usually accompany the first week of the NFL season, the first time the NBA hits primetime or the NCAA championship football game.

Bettors have swarmed to its Hammer the Over promos in those cases for the last couple of years.

It’s not known whether this latest offer is partially time-sensitive. Some bettors have reported receiving lesser amounts if they are getting in late on some other promos. 

This is one to check right away.

Why it’s not too good to be true

What’s the catch? Zero.

Bettors benefit because this offer is earmarked for everyone, not simply first-time players. For the market segment that plays every day, across many sports, this is some free fuel for the gas tank.

The promo is prime-the-pump marketing for the sportsbook, which can measure its outreach efforts by the number of people who participate. The word-of-mouth advertising from the promo is an intangible benefit.

The book also knows that the gamblers will put the $50 profit into play somewhere else. Incremental wagering action will probably come from that too.

Why it’s better than previous offers: It’s $50, not $25, representing a meaningful bonus to more players.

Going beyond the promo

New Jersey bettors can focus on that offer and then back a team they have always followed, Villanova.

The 26-7 Wildcats have deep tournament expectations and are expected to romp against Delaware.

Odds have fluctuated between Villanova -15.5 and -17 across the sportsbooks.

The Villanova moneyline is unplayable, of course, but the over-under total in the low 130’s should attract action on both sides.

Bettors may also use the Villanova moneyline on an odds-enhancing parlay with other selections.

Keep watching for odds boosts and promos as the games draw near.

Caesars put one up briefly on Monday, for Villanova, Providence, UConn and Creighton to win their first-round matchups. It paid +1100, far more than +424 without the promo.

It quickly went down and was replaced by other games. The odds boost may or may not reappear, as games are constantly added and odds updated. Keep looking.

Bettors can mix and match anyway. Villanova, Providence and UConn, for instance, are all favored in their first-round matchups. Take all three and it’s +144.

Add Creighton, a slight dog, and it’s +424.

This is one of countless examples players can use to build their dream ticket.

Big-money bettors are famous for multi-legged moneyline parlays. The beauty of the wager is that one can put in prospective matches and see the real odds before making the bet.

Game overview: Is Villanova battle-tested or unable to put teams away?

The Wildcats won the Big East despite early adversity. They needed to wipe out a 17-point deficit to squeak past St. John’s, win a three-point nailbiter against Connecticut and then capture a tight eight-pointer against Creighton.

Some teams perform as if the wind is at their back after overcoming the deficit Villanova did against St. John’s.

The Wildcats have some of the most balanced scoring in the tournament. There are no big players, but there are four in double figures:

  • Collin Gillespie averages 15.9 points per game
  • Justin Moore has 15
  • Jermaine Samuels averaged 10.4
  • Caleb Daniels delivered 10.1

Eric Dixon led the team with 6.3 rebounds per game.

This gives them more depth than a team with one prolific scorer and a dropoff.

Delaware enters at a 22-12 record and the CAA championship as a 5 seed.   

The winner of this game takes on No. 7 Ohio State or No. 10 Loyola-Chicago in the round of 32.

Non-gaming overview: Rutgers – which team will show up?

The 18-14 Scarlet Knights took the wild-card ride into the tournament.

The seeds of their tournament berth were likely planted in a four-game February hot streak, in which they dispatched Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Illinois. The Knights also compiled wins versus Purdue, Iowa and Indiana over the course of the season.

They are a Jekyll-and-Hyde team. The February win streak was followed by three straight losses.

The Knights enter off a Big 10 tournament defeat to Iowa.

Nonetheless, the Knights are in the Big Dance for two straight years for the first time since 1976.

Players to watch:

  • Ron Harper led the team in scoring with 15.6 points per game
  • Clifford Omoruyi had 7.9 rebounds per game
  • Paul Mulcahy led the way with 5.3 assists

The Knights will have their hands full with 22-11 Notre Dame, which lost 87-80 Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament. Virginia Tech went on to spank North Carolina and Duke by bigger margins to win the tourney as a No. 7 seed.

Does the Va. Tech run mean Notre Dame is better than Rutgers? We’ll find out.

Will the Hall hit the Wall?

Seton Hall has the look of a good-but-not-good enough team. The 21-11 Pirates have gotten beaten when they step up, as in the 62-52 Big East tournament loss to Connecticut.

Still, they are in a toss-up game to start.

Jared Rhoden leads the Pirates with 15.9 points per game. Alexis Yetna is the top rebounder with 7.8 boards and Kadary Richmond averaged 4.1 assists.

TCU enters at 20-13.

St. Peter’s will battle long odds to show that Midnight hasn’t come to Cinderella.

The Peacocks reached the Big Dance for the first time since 2011, capturing an exciting MAAC tournament in Atlantic City as the No. 2 seed.

St. Peter’s, 19-11, enters off a seven-game win streak and is the No. 2 seed, facing No. 15 Kentucky.

The Peacocks will try to roll with one of the nation’s top defenses against opposing field-goal percentages.

Dave Bontempo Avatar
Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and others. He writes about all major sports in the booming legal New Jersey sports betting industry. Dave also hosts the Why Eagles Why podcast. Dave is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame and the Atlantic City International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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