NCAA March Madness betting: Georgia Tech, highest-bet team to win ACC, in finals due to COVID-19 forfeit

Frank Schwab
·4 min read

When Duke had to drop out of the ACC tournament, BetMGM refunded all bets on the Blue Devils to win the conference tourney. The same will go for Virginia, who also bowed out due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program Friday. That will presumably be the policy through the NCAA tournament.

There's a flip side, and it's something bettors need to be aware of as the NCAA tournament starts next week. If the ACC had two teams drop out during its five-day tournament, it is obviously possible the same could happen over the 19-day NCAA tournament.

Many bettors who took Georgia Tech at as high as +2500 before the tournament at BetMGM are now holding a ticket on a team that is in the championship game without having to win in the semifinals. The Yellow Jackets were the team that advanced when Virginia had the positive COVID-19 test in the program.

Something similar could happen in the big dance.

Georgia Tech had a huge percentage of bets to win ACC

Georgia Tech was a popular underdog before the tournament started. The Yellow Jackets opened at +2500. They were bet on heavily and dropped to +1000. According to BetMGM's numbers on Thursday, a day before Virginia had to drop out of the ACC tournament, 34 percent of the bets on the ACC tournament winner were on Georgia Tech. No other team registered more than 12 percent. The team with 12 percent was Duke, and those bets were refunded.

Presumably Yellow Jackets players didn't want to make the tournament final based on a forfeit due to a positive test. Athletes and coaches want to compete and they want the experience of playing in a marquee event like the ACC tournament, win or lose. Bettors, on the other hand, are unlikely to complain. If you have a 25-to-1 ticket and just got a free win and spot in the conference tournament finals, you're not offering to give your bet back to the sportsbook.

More than anything, it's all worth noting now because over the next three weeks, betting on the sport will explode. And COVID-19 isn't going away.

Bubba Parham and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets moved on to the ACC championship game. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Bubba Parham and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets moved on to the ACC championship game. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Pools, bets could be affected if teams drop out

The NCAA put in some contingency plans for the tournament. If a team that has to withdraw from the NCAA tournament it would be replaced by one of the first four teams out. But that's only if a team withdraws by next Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, about 48 hours after the bracket is revealed on Sunday. No replacement teams will go into the bracket after then.

What we saw in the ACC, first with Duke and then with Virginia, could happen after that NCAA tournament deadline. And it will be nearly impossible to handicap for bettors or the millions who casually enter a bracket pool. If there is a COVID-19 test that knocks a team out and causes a forfeit, you can't predict if it will be a No. 1 seed or a No. 16 seed. It's unlikely but possible you could see a major long shot walk into the Final Four playing only a couple games. A team like Winthrop, a projected 13 seed and a 500-to-1 shot at BetMGM to win the title, could make a great run to the Sweet 16 ... and then its third- and fourth-round opponents have to bow out of the tournament with positive tests. That scenario is unlikely, and it will be impossible to predict which teams it will affect. But it is possible and could create some unprecedented chaos.

Pools will be affected if that happens too, even if you wait until the last minute to fill out a bracket. Your No. 1 seed you have winning it all could win its first-round game, have a positive test the next day and be out of the tournament. Perhaps your pool commissioner will have an extensive list of 2021-specific rules that deal with those scenarios, but more likely you'll just be out of luck.

There are far, far more important things surrounding the possibility of positive COVID-19 tests than what happens to basketball games and how bets are affected. But millions of people will be betting the NCAA tournament and COVID-19 tests could impact that action. Plenty of people who bet Georgia Tech to win the ACC can attest to that.

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