One of the major sticking points between differing bills to legalize Massachusetts sportsbooks was whether to allow wagering on in-state colleges. The compromise reached was to forbid betting on college teams from Massachusetts, unless they were in a tournament, such as March Madness.
Well, March Madness begins next month and, as of now, no one has anything to worry about. There are nine colleges in Massachusetts eligible to play in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. As of Feb. 3, all of them are longshots to make it.
March Madness has added significance in the state because it hopes to launch Massachusetts sports betting apps and mobile wagering before the Madness begins.
Launching before the tournament tips off could lead to some massive numbers for top in-state operators like Caesars Sportsbook Massachusetts.
Looking for Hope from Conference to Conference
The team with the best chance to make it might be Stonehill, in the Northeast Conference. Stonehill, located in Easton and new to Division 1, is ranked as one of the bottom 50 teams in the country, but so is everyone else in the Northeast Conference. They’re presently in second place, a half-game behind Fairleigh Dickinson. The Skyhawks are led by seniors Isaiah Burnett, a Navy transfer, and Andrew Sims.
Right behind Stonehill in the Northeast Conference is Merrimack, from North Andover. Merrimack made the jump to D1 in 2020 and this year is led by senior Jordan Minor.
Another team with a shot is Harvard. The Crimson have talent, but are mid-pack in the Ivy League, trying to make it into the league’s four-team Ivy Madness to win the automatic bid. But Harvard is behind Princeton, this year’s Ivy Madness host, Cornell, Yale and Dartmouth and tied with Penn and Brown. The Crimson, led by senior Chris Ledlum, have a tough road ahead. Harvard last made the Big Dance in 2015, when, as a No. 13 seed, they lost a 67-65 thriller to fourth-seeded North Carolina in the first round.
UMass Lowell sits in third place in the tight America East but has the league’s second highest power rating, behind Vermont. The team is led by senior Abdoul Karim Coulibaly and has a respectable chance to win the America East tournament. UMass Lowell never has made it to the Big Dance but did make it to the Elite Eight of the DII tournament three times.
Those teams are at least in the mix.
Holy Cross, BC and UMass Among Longshots
New Orleans transfer Gerrale Gates leads Holy Cross, but the Crusaders are tied for fifth in the Patriot League, which now seems to be dominated by Colgate. Holy Cross owned the Patriot under coach Ralph Willard, from 2001 to 2007, but hasn’t been to March Madness since 2016, when the Crusaders snuck in after finishing ninth in the conference with a 5-13 record.
Northeastern is tied for seventh place in the CAA, a league in which Charleston and Hofstra appear to be the class. Northeastern does have a non-conference win over Davidson, so they could pull an upset in the CAA Tournament. Winning the whole thing would be a tall order. Northeastern last made it to the NCAA Tournament in 2019 and got shellacked by Kansas.
Boston College is tied for 10th in the ACC at 5-7. The Eagles, who were once a shining star in the Big East, have struggled in the ACC, regardless of coaching changes, and haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2009.
Looking to return to basketball glory – remember the days of Marcus Camby and Lou Roe? – UMass made a splashy hire in the offseason bringing in Frank Martin (formerly of South Carolina and Kansas State). But the rebuild is just beginning and the Minutemen are tied for 10th in the Atlantic 10. UMass hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2014, when it was pummeled by Tennessee.
In terms of odds of winning the NCAA Basketball Tournament, BetRivers Massachusetts sportsbook sees it this way: Boston College +30000, UMass +60000, Harvard +60000.
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