2021 March Madness Odds & Betting Guide

Few cities have such a rich a basketball history as Chicago. A plethora of talent has come out of the Windy City through the years. Folks across the great state of Illinois know their hoops and are also in tune with one of the year’s biggest betting events.

For a few weeks each spring, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament takes center stage in the world of sports. Affectionately known as March Madness, this event sees the top teams from across the nation square off to crown a champ. Chicago has served as a regional hub for the tourney many times, while homegrown talents have more than made their mark.

Names such as Isiah Thomas, Kendall Gill and Deron Williams have lit up the scoreboard while delivering mesmerizing performances on the biggest stage. The March Madness tradition in Illinois is a strong one, and we can all get in on the fun and excitement like never before.

Legal sports betting is now a-go here in Illinois. There’s no need to take a trek over to neighboring Indiana any longer, as there are plenty of places to play here at home. Our guide to March Madness betting in Illinois covers all you need to know. Let’s tip it off by taking a look at the top places to play.

Best March Madness betting apps 2021

Options abound for betting on March Madness here in Illinois. Our recommended operators have some outstanding bonus offers for new users. Here are the best Illinois sportsbooks for you to get in on the games.

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Live March Madness Odds

See below for updated March Madness odds direct from Illinois online sportsbooks. Before the tournament you can bet on futures odds for teams to either make the Final Four or win the National Championship. Once the bracket is set you’ll find live games lines (point spreads, moneylines and totals) in the second tab. Click on any odds to go directly to the online sportbook, claim your bonus and start getting your March Madness bets in.

March Madness Final Four, Championship Odds
March Madness Game Lines

How to bet on March Madness online in IL

When it’s time to bet on March Madness, you’ll need a legal, regulated sportsbook to take care of business. Each of our recommended sportsbooks passes muster on that front. Even better, getting started is a quick and painless process.

First, click through our links to create an IL betting account and become eligible for exclusive bonus offers. You’ll be brought to the sign-up page to enter your name, email address and date of birth.

After that’s all set, you’ll click the submission button and your new account is official. You can take some time to browse around the college basketball betting markets, but be sure to take a second to download the app for your device from the sportsbook’s website.

Once you log in on mobile, you’ll have to add some funds — there are a several payment methods to choose from — and get ready to place your bets.

Keep in mind: Sports betting odds move fast, especially around March Madness time. The numbers won’t always be the same at each book, either. For example, BetRivers may have one price, while PointsBet is offering another.

There’s nothing wrong with having a favorite place to play, but signing up for multiple books via our links will help make sure that you’re ready to pounce on the best odds as they arise.

Bets for NCAA March Madness

For every game on the docket during March Madness, sportsbooks will offer odds and lines. The listings at online sportsbooks will feature the main bet types and look like this:

TeamPoint SpreadMoneylineTotal
Kentucky+1.5 (-110) +110O 139.5 (-110)
Duke-1.5 (-110) -120 U 139.5 (-110)

Right next to the two team names are the odds for the main bet types. For this example, Duke is a 1.5-point favorite on the spread and favored on the moneyline, while the projected total has been set at 139.5 points. Here’s a quick refresher on how these basketball bets work:

  • Point Spread: You can choose the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the number. The side that you pick has to cover the spread for the bet to be a winner.
  • Moneyline: A straightforward bet in which you have to pick the winner. Moneyline odds are negative for favorites and positive for underdogs.
  • Totals: Oddsmakers set a benchmark for the total number of points scored in the game. Bettors can place wagers on the over or under.

Each of those three bet types will attract tons of action during March Madness, but there are other offerings to consider as well. Here are some other ways to wager:

  • Props: These are side wagers on the individual games or on the tournament as a whole, such as which team will perform best in the first half of a game.
  • Live Betting: This type of bet you can place in real-time as games play out, with options including updated spread and moneyline wagering.
  • Parlays: For this wager type, you’re including multiple choices on a single slip. It’s a high-risk, high-reward bet as you have to be right on all selections to win the wager.

Bracket competitions are a great way to ramp up the excitement of NCAA March Madness. That said, it’s tough to beat single-game wagers as they open the door to even more ways to win. You can also play in a bracket contest or two while focusing your main efforts on the individual games.

Which Illinois teams are expected in March Madness this year?

Be aware that Illinois sports betting law states that wagering on in-state collegiate teams is prohibited. That means that if any of the local teams get invited to the dance, you won’t be able to wager on those teams.

While that’s less than ideal, there’s nothing to stop you from rooting along as they advance in the tourney. In fact, that may make it even better as you can keep your betting and rooting interests completely separate.

So, which local squads have the best shot at making the tournament next time around? Let’s take a look at how some of the state’s top programs fared last season and where they finished up:

  • Illinois Fighting Illini: 21-10, fourth in Big Ten
  • DePaul Blue Demons: 16-16, 10th in Big East
  • Bradley Braves: 23-11, third in Missouri Valley
  • Northern Illinois Huskies: 18-13, tied for first in MAC West
  • Southern Illinois Salukis: 16-16, fifth in Missouri Valley
  • Eastern Illinois Panthers: 17-15, sixth in Ohio Valley
  • Western Illinois Leathernecks: 5-21, ninth in Summit
  • SIU-Edwardsville Cougars: 8-23, 11th in Ohio Valley
  • Loyola-Chicago Ramblers: 21-11, second in Missouri Valley
  • Northwestern Wildcats: 8-23, 13th in Big Ten
  • UIC Flames: 18-17, fifth in Horizon
  • Illinois State Redbirds: 10-21, ninth in Missouri Valley
  • Chicago State Cougars: 4-25, ninth in Western Athletic

Of the above teams, Illinois, Bradley, Northern Illinois and Loyola-Chicago were in the best position for potential spots in March Madness. For the coming campaign, the Fighting Illini and Braves appear to be the top contenders.

3 best March Madness bets

The sheer number of games during March Madness can make wagering a bit intimidating. However, you can overcome that by taking a measured approach while focusing on the games you find the most appealing. Here’s a trio of things to keep in mind as you map out your March Madness betting strategy:

  1. Get in Early on Futures: Futures odds for the Final Four and national champion are released in the offseason. Be sure to review the numbers soon after they come out and stay engaged throughout the season. If you can find great prices on the team you think has what it takes to win it all, there could be a great return down the road if they do pull it off.
  2. Look for Potential Early-Round Upsets: Part of March Madness fun is the anything-can-happen nature of the first two rounds. Keep an eye out for lower-seeded teams on hot streaks facing off with higher seeds who may have backed in. The top four seeds in each bracket have a great overall win rate, but surprises can happen.
  3. Don’t Be Shy with the Moneyline: When a potential mismatch is on tap, there’s not much value on the moneyline. However, games that are tighter than that can be great spots to focus. The moneyline gets a bad rap, but odds of -200 or less are nothing to sneeze at, however. If you drop $100 at that number and get the win, you’re looking at a 50% return.

We mentioned keeping a watchful eye on the odds in the futures market, and the same applies to single-game bets. March Madness odds are released well in advance of tipoff, and you can be sure there will be line movement.

You should watch the line moves for some clues on which way the money is flowing. In addition, don’t be shy about checking out the prices at multiple operators. DraftKings may have a better price on one game, while William Hill may be tops on another, for example.

3 worst March Madness betting mistakes

At times, knowing what not to do can be just as important as knowing what to do. One of those times comes when you’re betting on sports. We’re all going to make mistakes and bad calls, and there’s no way to avoid that altogether.

However, there are also some betting pitfalls that you can steer clear of — provided that you know what to watch for, that is. Here are three potential landmines to steer clear of as you prepare to bet on March Madness:

  1. Betting Over Your Head: We get it. Exciting events such as March Madness can make you feel as if you want to go the extra mile with betting. Resist that urge at all costs. You should always stick to your personal comfort level. This is true when it comes to the number of bets you make, but especially for the amount of money you are putting at risk.
  2. Unfocused Research Efforts: A well-thought-out handicapping system can do wonders for your bottom line, while unfocused research efforts can have the opposite impact. To make sure you’re on the former track, stick to what really matters. Digesting too much information can lead to poor calls, so focus on what moves the needle for game outcomes.
  3. Not Taking the Time to Line Shop: A half-point on a spread or total may not seem like much, but it can absolutely impact your results. The same holds true with seemingly small ticks of difference on the moneyline. If you’re not line shopping while breaking down the games, you’re doing it wrong. Always look for the best prices before placing your bets.

In addition to avoiding the above missteps, you can mitigate even more of the potential damage by approaching March Madness with a clear plan. You should have a budget in place for how much you plan to wager, as well a targeted number of games per round.

For your bankroll, you can allocate a certain amount of money to single-game wagers and keep a portion aside for props and live betting. On the games, think through what you can reasonably handle and then whittle it down to your top options on the board.

What are March Madness bracket contests?

The release of the March Madness bracket is one of the most anticipated events of college basketball season. The bracket lays out the schedule for the tournament, and serves as the basis for a slew of contests.

Bracket contests can be as simple as one from your office or favorite watering hole. You can also find contests online, some of which are free to enter while others ask for an entry fee. In all cases, those with the best scoring bracket can win prizes.

The free contests can be entertaining, but most of the bigger contests attract loads of entries. As such, winning or making some noise is a tough trick to turn. Paid contests with fewer entrants provide a more realistic chance of winning.

Online and sportsbooks and sports betting apps also offer contests in both categories. We’ll cover what to keep an eye out for in a bit. Brackets are a great way to get engaged with March Madness, but there’s also a lot to be said for wagering on the games.

From the First Four through to the national title tilt, there are 67 games to consider. There are numerous ways to wager on each game to boot, and by extension, even greater chances to win some money.

Best online March Madness bracket contests

Now that sports betting has been legalized in Illinois, we can safely expect that the leading operators will go all out come tournament time. Beyond offering markets on all of the games, they’ll likely provide some big bracket contests.

While we don’t have the specifics yet, we can look toward what some of the top shops have done in other states in recent times. DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook have offered some rather big free-to-play contests in the past, for example.

They worked just like any other bracket contest: You pick the winner of each game for the entire tournament. Just be sure to fill your bracket out in full before the first game tips off. And check our guide to How to Predict March Madness Upsets, too.

There are prizes for the winner, but we once again have to point out that free games bring in plenty of users, so winning is far from easy. You should be on the lookout for paid contests from the top books.

The top-scoring brackets earn prizes, and DraftKings and FanDuel don’t have things on lockdown by any means. You should also keep your eyes open for March Madness contests from operators such as William Hill, PointsBet and BetMGM.

March Madness 2021 dates and locations

Another big part of March Madness excitement is that the early rounds take place at multiple venues across the nation. Well, that’s in normal times. It remains unclear if the 2021 edition will be like years’ past.

The 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled for the first time in history. The hope is that there won’t be any issues next time around, but we’ll have to wait and see on that front.

As originally planned, the 2021 tournament was scheduled to be held at multiple venues from the First Four through to the Elite Eight, with the Final Four and championship game held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The NCAA announced that the entire 2021 tournament will be held in Indiana. Here are the scheduled dates:

  • Selection Sunday: March 14
  • First Four: Mackey Arena and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall; March 18
  • First Round: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Lucas Oil Stadium; Mackey Arena Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall; March 19-20
  • Second Round: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Lucas Oil Stadium; March 21-22
  • Sweet 16: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse; March 27-28
  • Elite Eight: Lucas Oil Stadium; March 29-30
  • Final Four: April 3 and 5

Overall, whether the tournament is spread across multiple venues or held in a single spot will be relatively irrelevant to betting. There will still be a whole host of ways to take part legally and safely in Illinois, and we can anticipate that the overall interest level will be high.

March Madness FAQs

Where is the Final Four being played in 2021?

The Final Four is scheduled to be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on April 3, 2021. The national championship game is set for the same venue on April 5. This year’s tournament may be different from prior editions. NCAA officials have floated the possibility of holding the entire event in a single city as opposed to holding the opening rounds at multiple arenas across the nation.

Where is the closest location for March Madness this year?

The 2021 edition of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will be held exclusively in Indianapolis, and environs according to NCAA officials. If the tournament was being played in multiple sites as originally scheduled, first and second round games were scheduled for the Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.

How can I watch/stream March Madness online in IL?

The broadcast rights for the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament are held by CBS Sports and Turner Sports. Currently, games are scheduled to be carried on the following networks.

  • First Four: TruTV
  • First and Second Rounds: CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV
  • Sweet 16 and Elite Eight: CBS and TBS
  • Final Four and Championship: CBS

All of the above networks are available on multiple cable, satellite and streaming providers. You should also be able to watch via app on the network that’s carrying the game, but note that valid login credentials are usually necessary.

How do I get tickets to the Final Four?

For now, the best course of action is to visit NCAA.com and look for the men’s basketball section. You can sign up for additional information on the Final Four with your email address, and you’ll be contacted with specifics on prices and packages as soon as more details are available. Once tickets are released for sale to the public, you should be able to find them available via major ticket brokers and resellers.

What do Final Four tickets cost?

Prices will vary by year and venue, but you’re looking at an investment of at least $200. That’s also the list price, so keep in mind that the cost will be inflated even further for any tickets that make it to the resale market. For an average ballpark price, you’re looking at a minimum of $200-$300 for tickets, but likely more than that.

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