College Basketball Odds in Illinois

Sports betting is legal in Illinois. If you are 21 years or older, you can legally place bets on NCAA Division I men’s basketball.

When it comes to college basketball betting, you have lots of options. You can wager on futures, parlays or brackets and, of course, moneyline bets, point spreads and totals. In Illinois, you can use online sportsbooks and apps to place live bets.

One thing to note about NCAA betting is Illinois law makes it illegal to place wagers on state-based teams. While you can’t bet on the Fighting Illini or the Ramblers, there’s a wealth of other college teams and tournaments to fill the gap.

We’ve put together a college basketball betting guide for you to begin your NCAA sports betting journey. We cover the basics, including wager types and how to read the odds, and we even have some NCAA basketball betting tips for you to consider.

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Live NCAA Basketball Odds at Illinois Online Sportsbooks

See below for a snapshot of current live college basketball odds posted at Illinois online sportsbooks. See the first tab below for point spreads, moneylines and totals for upcoming games; see the second tab for futures odds for the National Championship, Final Four and Conference titles. To see the full expanded NCAAB odds board, check our live sports betting odds feed. Click on any odds to go directly to the online sportsbook, claim your bonus and start getting your NCAAB bets down.

NCAA men’s Division I basketball

College basketball is one of the most popular sports in the US. In Illinois, it has faithful followers who will now be more involved than filling out a yearly bracket for betting on March Madness.

There are currently 32 conferences for fans to cheer for, comprising 351 teams across the country. The season typically starts in late November, and most teams hit the hardwood with one goal: to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The next national championship tournament — known as March Madness or “the big dance” — will start with a selection show on Sunday, March 14, 2021, and proceed into the single-elimination tournament. It’s a winner-take-all format that culminates with the national championship on April 5, 2021.

Every season, there seems to be at least one team from Illinois that makes it to the dance. Loyola and Illinois are the most recent entrants in the men’s bracket. However, in any given year, you never know who could break out and make the selection committee take notice.

Is it legal to bet on college basketball in Illinois?

Absolutely! In fact, 2020 was the first year that sports betting became legal, thanks to the passage of the Sports Wagering Act in 2019.

The basic rules for sports betting in Illinois are simple:

  • You must be at least 21 years and be within the state lines to place a bet, even if you’re using an app for a sportsbook.
  • All wagers must occur at a legal and regulated sportsbook, which can be a retail or an online version.

The Illinois Gaming Board oversees the regulation and licensing within the state for not only sportsbooks but also for casinos.

The only restriction of note for sports betting in Illinois when it comes to NCAA basketball is that Section 25-25.d of the state’s law makes it illegal to accept a wager “for a sports event involving an Illinois collegiate team.”

Unlike other states, Illinois law is not as restrictive as it could be. In New Jersey, Virginia and Washington, DC, wagers are not allowed on any college event within state borders. So, when the Big Ten Tournament arrives in Illinois, sports bettors will still be able to wager on the outcome as long as it’s not an Illinois team.

Sports bettors can wager on any other NCAA basketball team for which they can find odds at Illinois sportsbooks — and there will be plenty of odds to find.

How to bet on college basketball in Illinois

The chances are that you’ve already been involved in some form of gambling when it comes to college basketball. Even nonsports people often get corralled into an office pool for March Madness. With the new laws and sportsbooks open in Illinois, the options beyond filling out a bracket.

If you’ve had any previous betting experience, then you’re in luck. Making a wager on NCAA basketball is similar to placing a bet on basketball or any other sport. The basics are the same, and there isn’t anything unique to college hoops betting.

Speaking of the basics, here is a breakdown of the five most common bet types you’ll hear about when it comes to college basketball wagers.


This wager is the simplest of all the bet types. The oddsmakers look at a game between two teams and decide which they think is going to win. They give that team odds with a negative number, which indicates it is the favorite, while the team that is expected to lose will have a positive number, making it the underdog. For example:

Michigan State -110
Iowa State +225

You can see that Michigan State is favored, so it has a negative number. If you wanted to win $100 on a successful moneyline bet on the Spartans, you’d need to wager $110. The winning bet would then pay you back $210 — your stake, plus the $100 profit.

On the other hand, if you placed a $100 wager on Iowa State and it pulls off the upset, you’d get $325 back — your $100 wager, plus $225 in profit.

Point spread

While slightly more complicated than a moneyline bet, the spread still is relatively easy to understand. At a sportsbook, you’ll see the spread odds along with the information that gives you the teams, the time and date of the matchup, and the odds for the other bet types. The way a point spread works is the oddsmakers determine the favorite and then set an estimated margin of victory.

You decide if you think the favorite is going to win by more than that margin. If it does — which is called covering the spread — then a bet on the favored side would be a winner. If the favorite wins by fewer points than the indicated spread, or it loses outright, then such a bet would be a loss. So, a bet on the underdog would win. Here’s an example:

Villanova -6.5 (-110)
Temple +6.5 (-110)

As you can see, the book believes Villanova will win this game and by more than 6.5 points. As a bettor, if you have done your research and you agree, you could place a $110 bet on Villanova to win a profit of $100. The catch is that if Villanova wins, but by only three points, then your bet would lose. Temple, meanwhile, just has to lose by fewer than 6.5 points, or win outright for bets on it to win.


You may have heard of a totals bet, aka, the over/under. The way it works is sportsbooks list an estimated combined score for a game. You can then bet on whether you think the two teams’ score will go over or under that total.

So, it doesn’t matter who wins; the total final score is what matters. Here’s a quick example of a fictional game between Wisconsin and Marquette:

Over: 135.5 (-110)
Under: 135.5 (-110)

If you bet on this game and choose the over, and the final score was 75-67, then you’d win the bet. However, if the final ends up being 67-60, then you would lose.

As with the point spread, the line often is set at a half-point to avoid the number being hit exactly, which would result in a “push” and a refund of all bets.


Parlays combined two or more bets onto a single slip, which increases the payout if the choices you’ve made are correct. However, the risk increases with each addition as well, so you have to weigh those factors.

You can make a parlay wager with the above single bet types, but remember that all your selections have to be right for your bet to pay out. Even one wrong answer and you lose.

Live betting

This kind of wager is sometimes known as an in game bet. It allows you to make wagers on NCAA basketball games as they are happening in real-time. The college football odds on, e.g., quarter totals, player props and more continue to adjust throughout the live matchup, and you’re able to wager at any point during the game.

Live betting is almost exclusively the province of online sports betting sites and apps because the odds can instantly adjust as the action plays out on the court.

NCAA basketball futures and props

Sportsbooks are willing to let you glimpse into the future. Do you think you know who will be the national champion even before March Madness begins? Do you think you can predict the over/under on a specific team’s wins? How about the coach of the year?

Well, if making wagers about events that haven’t happened yet is something that piques your interest, then you’ll want to look into the college basketball futures market. Futures markets begin in the offseason and continue throughout the season, with the college basketball betting lines adjusting as things play out. If a team is making a good run with wins against quality opponents, you may see the March Madness odds change to reflect that.

Meanwhile, proposition bets, or props, are wagers on people or events that are separate from the actual outcome of the game. For instance, a wager on whether the final score will be odd or even would be a prop bet.

NCAA regular season, conference tournaments and March Madness

The regular college basketball season has three parts.

First, you have the regular season in which teams compete for the best record while trying to earn a shot at the NCAA Tournament.

One guaranteed way to get a berth is by winning the conference tournament, the second phase of a season. Conference tournament winners receive an automatic bid to the big dance, with the remaining teams selected outside of those squads.

The final part of the season is the NCAA Tournament, commonly known as March Madness.

  • Regular Season: Most teams at the Division I level will play around 25 to 30 regular-season games. The schedule typically runs from late November to early March, during which time the team will compile a record that will help determine its seeding in the conference tournament. Its record may also help get it a berth into the NCAA Tournament if it does not win its conference tournament.
  • Conference Tournaments: At the end of the regular season, the 32 conferences each hold a tournament to determine a champion. These tournaments are typically the first half of March, and the winners of each of the tournaments will earn automatic bids into the NCAA Tournament.
  • NCAA Tournament: If it’s March, then the madness is about to begin. It all starts with Selection Sunday when the selection committee announces the teams that have made the tournament, including the conference tournament champions and at-large bids. The tournament itself takes place during a couple of weeks. It’s a great time to try the various bet types and get in on some live NCAA basketball betting action.

How to watch NCAA basketball in IL

Throughout the regular season, you’ll have plenty of ways you can watch NCAA men’s basketball in Illinois.

First and foremost, you have the regular cable and network channels, such as ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN2, FS1, Fox, CBS Sports and CBS. Beyond that, you can also get channels that feature only the teams from a specific conference, like the Big Ten Network.

When the NCAA Tournament rolls around, you’ll see games on CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV. Don’t worry if you don’t have those channels at home — sports bars all over the state will be playing the games, and you can follow online.

You can also check out or get the March Madness app for your iOS or Android mobile device to follow along.

Illinois NCAA basketball teams

There are many colleges in Illinois and basketball programs to go with them. For the sake of local fandom, here is a rundown of the teams that play at the Division I level in the state:

  • Illinois: The Fighting Illini have been making a little noise as of late. They had a nice run in the 2019-20 season and earned a national ranking. The future could be bright.
  • DePaul: The Blue Demons have had some up-and-down years, but 2019-20 was pretty solid, and they could continue to build on those successes.
  • Loyola: The Ramblers seem to be in each and every game they play and are always in the conversation about the best team out of Illinois. They also have some nice NCAA Tournament history.
  • Bradley: The Braves had a slow start to the 2019 season, but they bounced back nicely, which is a credit for the team and the coaches.
  • Northwestern: The Big Ten can be an unforgiving conference to play basketball in, and the Wildcats have struggled to keep up with the conference’s best. But they have stretches of solid play.
  • Northern Illinois: The Huskies went 17-17 in 2019-20 and had a nice little run in the MAC Tournament, even upsetting Toledo before falling in the semifinals.
  • UIC: The Flames have some loyal fans, and those fans know this program is capable of producing more wins than it has been getting.
  • Southern Illinois: The Salukis played down to their opponents in 2019-20, and it showed. They were a better team than their record gave them credit for.
  • Illinois State: The Redbirds have made some noise in the Missouri Valley Conference recently, and they hope to keep doing so.
  • SIU-Edwardsville: The Cougars finished the 2019-20 season at 8-23, but only had three seniors on the roster. Hopefully, all the returning players will pay off.
  • Eastern Illinois: The Panthers didn’t have the worst season last year, but they also play in a pretty weak Ohio Valley Conference. They can get wins, but it’s hit and miss when playing solid opponents.
  • Western Illinois: This is a team that confounds some folks. The Leathernecks often have a very talented squad with decent coaching, but the wins seem difficult for most years. The last nice run was 2012-13.
  • Chicago State: The 2019 season was not kind to the Cougars and was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. The team struggled to a 3-29 record.

Tips for betting on college basketball

If you’re ready to take the plunge and start making bets on NCAA basketball games, then you should try to assemble the absolute best betting strategy you can build. Don’t worry; it won’t be perfect at the start. You should always be looking to adjust and improve how you make your wagers as you gain more experience.

For newcomers to Illinois sports betting, we’ve assembled some college basketball betting tips:

  • Don’t Try to be an Expert: There are 351 Division I college basketball teams across the country, which means that there are far too many to follow. Instead, pick a team (or two or three) and get to know everything you can about your choices. Use that scouting to make informed bets.
  • Be a Fan: Watch the games. Learn how basketball works and what strategies coaches employ. How do teams treat a large lead? How do they play when they are behind? There is no better way to become knowledgeable than by becoming a fan.
  • Be Smart with Your Money: It’s easy to get sucked into the idea that paying for information and data is easier and more valuable than spending your time researching on your own. Keep in mind that almost every piece of information you can get from paid sources is available for free online. Use national sources such as ESPN or CBS Sports. Follow your favorite basketball Twitter personalities for all kinds of information. Create a pool of varied sources to get your daily dose of NCAA news and summaries, and you will find free information is as valuable.
  • Know your History: Do the teams you follow tend to play well against conference rivals? Have they been known to play big against nationally ranked teams? If you know the history and how your teams perform, you could find opportunities that oddsmakers have overlooked.
  • Follow the Money: Make sure to know if the college basketball lines see significant movement for the games you’re interested in wagering. If there is, find out why — is there an injury or other team news? Is there a big favorite? There are betting opportunities when lines are moving, so be aware and keep track of multiple sportsbooks to get the most out of them.

Related Reading: How to Spot March Madness Upsets

College basketball national champions from Illinois

It may be a surprise to folks who follow college basketball in Illinois. However, once upon a time, a team from the Land of Lincoln hoisted the national championship trophy.

In 1963, Loyola, led by coach George Ireland, won the NCAA Tournament title over Cincinnati. The game was played in Louisville, KY, and it took an overtime period to determine the winner. But when all was said and done, the Ramblers had a 60-58 victory and a national title.

Before the big dance was ever created, the Illinois Fighting Illini had two national titles of their own. In 1915, Illinois was 16-0 on the year and was named the national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation. The team was coached by Ralph Jones.

Nearly 30 years later in 1943, Illinois, now coached by Douglas Mills, went 17-1 for the season and was named the national champ by the Premo-Porretta Power Poll.

College Basketball Betting FAQs

Which IL basketball team has the most recent Final Four appearance?

The Loyola Ramblers were the most recent Final Four team from the state of Illinois. They were a Cinderella team in 2018, taking an 11th seed all the way to the Final Four. There they lost to the University of Michigan, which was a No. 3 seed, 69-57. Along the way, they defeated No. 6 Miami, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 7 Nevada and No. 9 Kansas State.

What team from Illinois was the last to make it to a national championship game?

The Fighting Illini from the University of Illinois were the most recent team to make it to the national championship game. They played against North Carolina in the national title game in 2005 but lost, 75-70.

Can I bet on March Madness if an Illinois team is playing?

You can! You can bet on the game-by-game contests throughout, or even futures bets and in game betting. The only catch is that Illinois law prevents you from wagering on a team that is from the state.

Can I bet on NCAA basketball games with my app while out of state?

No. State law requires that bettors — who have to be at least 21 years old — be within state lines when placing a wager. Your sportsbook app uses geolocation software to ensure you are where you claim to be.

Who selects the teams for the NCAA Tournament?

The 32 conference winners get automatic berths for winning their respective tournaments. After that, the NCAA Selection Committee, which is composed of former coaches and players, chooses the other 36 teams that have earned a bid. That committee also seeds the teams and determines which teams will play in the First Four games in order to make it into the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

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