March Madness First To 15

Updated: March 2, 2021

Clock Icon Mar 2, 2021 – 2:00 PM ET

No basketball bet embodies the excitement and unpredictability of March Madness like the First to 15 prop. 

This unique wager is a favorite among college basketball fans due to its quick-hitting thrills and simplicity: Just pick which team will score 15 points first. 

Also known as “Race to” props, which can differ in point range (Race to 20, Race to 30), there is no better way to get your blood pumping come tourney time like a March Madness First to 15 bet.

First to 15 prop bet

The name of the bet pretty much tells you everything. Bookmakers post odds on which team will be the first to score 15 points and bettors simply select the team they think will cross that finish line first.

First to 15 popularity

The “First to 15” prop has picked up in popularity over the past decade, specifically for the NCAA Tournament.

Its back-and-forth nature has bettors sweating almost every possession, cheering for those 3-point makes and cursing out foul calls and And-1’s for the other side. That intensity rises the closer the teams get to 15 points.

These March Madness props don’t take long to play out and because it takes place over a small segment of the game, there’s a greater chance for deviation and surprise results in those first 15 points.  

March Madness First to 15 odds

March Madness First to 15 props are posted shortly after the point spread and total are set for a game. These odds are displayed in moneyline format, with an implied probability tied to each team and their chances of reaching 15 points first. The team that’s favored to win the game is most often the favorite to win the race to 15 or whatever point total you’re betting to.

First to 15 betting tips

Tempo and pace

Before jumping into the “Race To” odds, make sure you know the tempo and pace of the two teams. Measuring things like possessions per game can give you an idea of how quickly a team likes to get up and down the floor. Once you figure out pace vs. pace, determine which team can impose their preferred tempo on the other. 

3-point shooting & defense 

What’s the quickest way to 15 points? From beyond the arc, of course. Sharp-shooting teams can hold an edge in the “First to 15” prop, especially if they come out swinging from three-point range. Take a look at recent performances from outside and if their top three-point threats have the hot hand. 

On the flip side of this, find out how well a program defends the three-point arc. Do they get their heels above the line and force opponents to look inside or do they sag off and allow the space for 3-point looks? 

Starts/Current Form 

Some teams love to come out firing early and set the tone and tempo for the game while others ease into the offense, finding their footing in the second half. Recognize the approach on offense for the teams involved and dig into their recent efforts, seeing how often they’ve won the race to 15 in the past few games. Also, be aware of any injuries to starters or key contributors that may stall or slow a team’s scoring or defensive ability.

First to 15 history

Derived from the first team to score prop, the First to 15 props started showing up at MGM sportsbooks in Las Vegas back in the mid-2010s and were originally set as a race to 20 points. 

However, more often than not, the favorite was cracking the 20-point plateau first and oddsmakers adjusted to 15 points, hoping to produce more unpredictable results.

The First to 15 prop became a staple of the March Madness betting board — not just in Vegas but at online and mobile books — and has gained more and more popularity with every NCAA Tournament.

“For First to 15, you wouldn’t believe how often one team is at 13 when they go to the first TV timeout, or the game goes to a commercial,” Jeff Stoneback, director of trading for MGM sportsbooks in Nevada, told Covers. “In the back office here, you could have the TVs completely off, not know the score at all, and you can tell by the crowd reaction that one team is close to 15 points. Every missed or made basket, there’s a cheer.

“It’s an exciting bet, and you’ve almost always got a chance. It’s very rare that you get blown out on the First to 15. You’ve always got a shot.”

March Madness First to 15 FAQs

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