Bets that would have made you rich (03/15/16)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
Five college basketball bets that would have made you rich.

College basketball can be unpredictable. Six different teams were ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll over the course of the season, one off the record set in 1982-83. The No. 1 seeds in this year's tournament have a combined 23 losses, last year's top seeds only had nine blemishes on their record entering the Big Dance.

There were a bunch of surprises in the 2015-16 season, including underdogs that pulled upsets few imagined. If you like to gamble, there was a small fortune to be made if you knew which teams to back. Here are five college basketball bets that would have made you rich:

1. Western Illinois over Wisconsin (-26.5)

This was the biggest upset of the season. The Leathernecks, picked to finish last in the Summit League and ranked 293rd out of 351 teams in the preseason, shocked a team (69-67) coming off of back-to-back Final Four appearances. No other Division I team favored by more than 25 points lost outright all season. This is the equivalent of a No. 1 seed being knocked out of the tournament by a 16-seed – which has never happened (Kansas is favored by 26 over Austin Peay on Thursday).

A $100 bet on Western Illinois to win outright would have returned $5,000, plus the original $100 you wagered.

2. Sacramento State over Arizona State (-18.5)

The Hornets were 3-36 all-time against teams currently in the Pac-12 before upending Arizona State in the season opener. Cody Demps, a three-year starter for Sacramento State, scored eight points in the final two minutes (including consecutive 3-pointers) to give the team a 66-63 win. The Sun Devils led by as many as ten points (were 98 percent likely to win) with less than 12 minutes to play but couldn't hold off the pesky Hornets. The loss ruined Bobby Hurley's debut as head coach and set the stage for yet another disappointing season in Tempe.

If you backed Sacramento State on the moneyline you cashed a betting slip for a cool $2800 on a $100 bet.

3. Arkansas–Little Rock over San Diego State (-17)

Steve Fisher has built a heck of a program in San Diego. Coming into this contest, the Aztecs had won 27 straight non-conference games against unranked opponents and were 32-1 in their last 33 home games. So it was surprising when Little Rock forced 16 turnovers and held San Diego State to just 28 percent from the floor in a stunning 49-43 win. The Aztecs are one of the best at-large teams not included in the field of 68. Though San Diego State ranks 39th in our Power Rankings, losses like this kept them out of the tournament and propelled Arkansas LR into it.

The improbable win was a big payday for Little Rock supporters. A $100 moneyline wager netted a $1,500 return.

4. Northeastern over Miami (FL) (-17)

Quincy Ford's buzzer beater gave Northeastern a 78-77 victory over Miami, its first win over a ranked team since 1986. The Canes were 94 percent likely to win leading 70-63 with 4:23 to play but couldn't persevere the victory.

This loss was just a bump in the road for Miami. The Hurricanes, a No. 3 seed, have the 10th best odds to win the NCAA Tournament.

A $100 bet on Northeastern to pull the upset returned $1,500.

5. Pacific over BYU (-17.5)

T.J. Wallace scored 15 points including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:32 to play. The dagger from behind the arc was the biggest play of the game swinging Pacific's expected win probability from 30 percent to 56 percent. Wallace's shot was huge, but the rest of the Tigers were clutch down the stretch making 15 of 16 free throws in the final three minutes to topple BYU 77-72.

Pacific winning outright paid $2,400 on a $100 bet.

If you had wagered $100 on the Western Illinois to win on the opening day of the college basketball season and then pressed your luck and wagered an additional $100 on each of these big underdogs to win outright you would have turned $100 into over $13,000.

Betting can be fun, especially if you know the answers in advance!