Palmer’s Picks: March Madness is here for now — make sure you’re entertained for later, too

For some, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. The bracket is established, and thousands will head to Las Vegas in the next couple days for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Gamblers will fill out an estimated 70 million brackets and bet more than $9 billion next week during March Madness. A CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll conducted last September found a majority of Americans — 55 percent— support legalizing sports gambling. That’s the first time their survey has returned a favorable result.

The negative stigma surrounding gambling is dying if it isn’t already dead. With that development comes new alternatives for when you just can’t find enough prop bets.

FameProject.org offers action for bettors who want to make money not on the random outcome of sporting events, but on predicting storylines that will dominate the headlines.

So instead of sifting through the algorithm-based prop lines from traditional books, you can bet on whether your favorite NFL player will stay with his current team in free agency. So that means there are 49ers fans out there who won twice the day Jimmy Garoppolo signed an extension to stay in Santa Clara.

Here’s how Fame Project works: Users “trade” their belief in the outcome of a future event by purchasing shares — which range from $0.01 to $0.99 — in an event happening. If said event occurs, the player’s contract becomes worth $1, if it doesn’t, it’s zeroed out.

If you bought Garoppolo-returning stock at $0.23, your correct hunch would yield a 335-percent gross profit when it resolves to $1.

The appeal of Fame Project is that pop culture and events regarding player movement are unpredictable.

They don’t follow a schedule like March Madness. As long as they have a final outcome, Fame Project can theoretically come up with any type of prop bet.

Fame Project isn’t a brand-new concept. It follows the model of PredictIt.com, a popular website for political prediction markets.

So when March Madness is over and football is still months away from returning, you’ll at least have an outlet to validate or disprove your hunches.

***

Palmer’s Picks — March Madness Edition

Futures bets to win it all

Duke +800

It frankly just feels like a Duke year. Sure, they flamed out in the ACC Tournament, but it’s so hard to get excited about any of the other high seeds.

Cincinnati +1575

According to the Action Network’s simulations, the Bearcats have an 8.5-percent chance of winning it all. So these odds represent significant value. They play tough defense and they have an edge. You could do worse taking a flier on a two-seed.

Futures bets on regional winners

East: West Virginia +765

The return isn’t there for top-seeded Villanova (+132) and Purdue (+293) is far too dependent on one player for scoring to be trusted. That leaves Bob Huggins and his high-pressure defense led by veteran guards to take this region. If anybody can figure out how to stop Villanova’s guards, it’s the Mountaineers. It’s far from a sure thing, but it’s better than betting on the chalk, I say.

Midwest: Duke +203

I won’t actually be playing this bet because I don’t think there’s a lot of value in it. But Duke is my pick to make it out of the Midwest and you’d never catch me wasting my hard-earned dollars on Kansas as a one-seed. The only options in this bracket are high-risk, low-reward, and I think Duke is better suited than Michigan State (+285) to advance into April.

South: Arizona +650

The best part about this pick: The NCAA can’t vacate your winnings if/when the Wildcats make the Final Four this year. Deandre Ayton is the best player in the country and that’s enough for me to take a chance on Sean Miller having the most consistently awkward postgame press conferences in the history of the Big Dance.

West: Michigan +560

The Wolverines have the weakest top seed and looked like a top team in the country during the Big 10 Tournament. Granted, that was nearly two weeks ago. But since this region is so open — North Carolina (+258) and Gonzaga (+350) are the favorites — riding with U of M and John Beilein works.

NOTE: These picks are solely my opinions and not meant to serve as a guide.

Contact Examiner Sports Editor Jacob C. Palmer at jpalmer@sfexaminer.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.

Jacob C. Palmer

Jacob C. Palmer is the sports editor of the San Francisco Examiner. Reach him at (415) 359-2729 and jpalmer@sfexaminer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jacobc_palmer.

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