Anyone have $100 burning a hole in their pocket?
If so, DraftKings Sportsbook has launched a version of the usual office pool NCAA March Madness men’s basketball brackets.
The “Championship Series Millionaire Bracket for March Madness” contest — where the top three prizes are at least $1 million, $250,000, and $125,000, respectively — offers $2 million all told in guaranteed prize offerings.
New Jersey is one of five states where the contest has been approved, though DraftKings officials say they hope for more state approvals in the next seven to 10 days. Colorado, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and West Virginia are the other states where hopefuls can enter.
DraftKings’ “Championship Series” also includes football survivor pools, daily fantasy, and casino platforms, each with its own Tournament of Champions. The company plans to award $150 million in prizes overall on these contests.
“This is our first time doing this contest in this specific way, and although March Madness contests have been done in the past, they mostly have been through office pools. We now have the technology to execute this type of contest,” DraftKings Head of Sportsbook Johnny Avello told CO Bets. “March Madness is one of the biggest events of the year and was sorely missed in 2020, therefore this is going to be extraordinarily popular.”
Gamblers are advised to know the specific rules of this contest — such as the fact that contestants can try up to 20 entries. That could entice “sharps” who can easily afford $2,000 in entry fees to set up a variety of scenarios that could leave them sitting pretty entering the Final Four.
Also, picks can be made and modified only until the start time of the first game of the tournament that is played. In addition: “Picks for an entry cannot be made by any individual other than the owner of the DraftKings account that registered for the Contest (i.e., no proxy play allowed).”
A COVID-19 wrinkle: “If a team is removed from the tournament in advance of contest lock, the replacement team will show up on the app in place of the original team. Users will be allowed to change their selection until the contest locks. If a team is replaced after the contest locks, users who selected that team will automatically be given the replacement team as their selection.”
The points per round are fairly standard: 10 for each first-round (that’s the Round of 64) correct pick, then 20, 40, and 80 points per correct pick in the respective next three rounds. Getting a Final Four pick right gets you 160 points, and nailing the title game is worth 320 points.
Those finishing 4th through 10th earn a guarantee from $75,000 down to $12,500. An entrant can finish as low as 151st and win at least $1,000 — or 10 times the entry fee. The guaranteed payouts go as low as 1,500th place, receiving $150.
There will be tiebreakers
“If more than one user has the same number of points (or may potentially have the same number of points after the Championship game of the Tournament) going into the Championship game of the Tournament, such users will be asked to predict the final total points scored in the Championship game. The user with the closest predicted score to the final total points scored in the Championship game will win the Contest.”
Fun fact: Entrants must be 21 or older in all five states except for New Hampshire, where one has to be just 18 years old.
“Force majeure” — or “Act of God” — disclaimers normally are not worth mentioning, but these aren’t normal times. So: “A ‘Force Majeure’ event shall mean the interruption of or material interference with DraftKings’ ability to grant any Prize or Grand Prize, or any other compensation, consideration, or any other thing of value to the Prize Winners by any cause or occurrence not within DraftKings’ reasonable control, including, but not limited to, fire, flood, epidemic, earthquake, explosion, hurricane, terrorist threat or activity, public health emergency (e.g., COVID-19 or SARS), act of God or public enemy, satellite or equipment failure, riot or civil disturbance, war (declared or undeclared), or any federal, state or local government law, order or regulation, or order of any court.”
There’s always a Jersey twist
Of the five states on board so far, only New Jerseyans are given this disclaimer: “Due to NJ law, laws prevent you from betting on college teams from that state. If one makes the tournament, their opponent will automatically be selected for you.”
There are eight Division I programs in New Jersey, with Princeton — alongside all of the Ivy League schools — not playing this season due to safety concerns.
Fairleigh Dickinson University did not qualify for the Northeast Conference’s truncated four-team tournament bracket, and NJIT was a first-round loser in the America East tournament.
Three New Jersey teams play in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Rider is in last place with one regular-season game to play and likely will be eliminated in preliminary-round action on Monday.
St. Peter’s will finish third or fourth in the MAAC, leaving them with somewhat of an uphill battle for the lone March Madness berth at stake when the Peacocks play in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Monmouth, the other MAAC squad, has a better chance due to finishing second in the regular season and facing a far weaker quarterfinal opponent on Wednesday. Siena, from upstate New York State, is the MAAC regular-season champion and beat Monmouth in back-to-back games on Jan. 3-4.
Rutgers, Seton Hall cutting it close
Then there are the two “major” programs in the state, Rutgers and Seton Hall — both of which have been expected to gain at-large bids all season but whose late-season hiccups have called that into question.
Rutgers, which was ranked in the national Top 25 for several weeks this season, suffered an embarrassing 72-51 loss on Monday to hapless Nebraska, the Big Ten doormat at 3-15 even with that victory.
The Scarlet Knights have a share of 7th place at 9-10 entering the regular-season finale on Saturday at noon at 6-13 Minnesota. Another loss to a Big Ten also-ran would put enormous pressure on Rutgers to score a quality win or two in next week’s conference tournament.
ESPN’s Bracketology as of Friday morning had Rutgers getting one of the last four “byes” into the field of 64. As has been the case in recent years, the “last four in” selections go head-to-head in a pair of play-in games to earn a spot into the main bracket.
Of all the hundreds of Division I men’s basketball programs, Seton Hall currently is listed as the lead in the “first team out” group. That means the Pirates (10-8 in Big East play), who have lost three straight at the worst possible time of year, would be wise to both knock off fellow “Bubble Boy” St. John’s (9-9) on Saturday night and to at least advance to the semifinals of the Big East conference tournament.
If any New Jersey programs do gain a ticket to The Big Dance, their bet-minded fans who want to risk money on them outside the DraftKings contest but don’t wish to go the illegal offshore betting route can head across the Pennsylvania border and open a mobile betting account there.