Iowa March Madness Odds And 2021-22 Preview: Picking The Champion Isn’t A Layup

Written By Russ Mitchell on October 29, 2021 - Last Updated on July 22, 2022
2022 march madness betting preview

If you think the college football season has been crazy, wait a couple of weeks when the 2021-22 chase for March Madness gets underway.

Bally’s Interactive Sports Trader Jordan Rongaus said Bally Bet Sportbook Iowa is looking forward to its first March Madness bets. He also offered an outlook for Iowa’s four Division I programs. Iowa, Iowa State, Drake and Northern Iowa all begin play on Nov. 9.

“College basketball is an incredibly popular betting market and we will offer just about any market you can think of. Also, we currently offer a new and innovative game called ‘Bally Baller’ for the NBA, which consists of predicting the last digit of both teams’ total points in each quarter of a game. The game pays progressively, based on the correct number of selections, with a chance to win up to one million dollars. We’re always looking to innovate at Bally Bet and patrons should keep their eyes out for games like these and many more coming for the college basketball season.”

Big Four March Madness guide

Gonzaga favorite to win March Madness

The AP released its preseason top 25 on Oct. 18. The sportswriters — and oddsmakers like Rongaus — agree that Gonzaga is the top choice to win the national championship. But Rongaus said picks aren’t as clear-cut as they can be compared to college football.

“When setting or pricing college futures, the biggest difference is March Madness. Realistically, each year how many college football teams have a chance to win it all? Maybe four? Or, in a crazy year, call it eight or so. Odds are the playoff is going to consist of one or two SEC teams and a combination of the winners of the Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and ACC.

“When you start talking about March Madness, you need to account for how teams receive tournament bids. Any team that wins their conference tournament gets a bid to the big dance.”

2021-22 March Madness odds

Rongaus said Gonzaga enters this season with the nation’s top newcomer, Chet Holmgren, a 7-foot-tall recruit from Minneapolis. The Bally’s trader said Holmgren “may just be the missing piece Gonzaga needs to make their championship run.”

“Taking Gonzaga out of the picture, there is a lot of buzz around UCLA this season. UCLA is returning four and adding a 5-star recruit, Peyton Watson to the lineup. UCLA is currently priced at 13/1 to win the National Championship.”

March Madness dark horses

One of the Rongaus’ favorite dark horses this season is Auburn, at 70-to-1 odds.

“In 2019, Bruce Pearl took Auburn to their first final four in program history. In the process, they knocked off Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky, joining the elite company as one of the only two teams in NCAA history to beat the three winningest programs in college basketball history in the same season. This season he will have Jabari Smith, one of the nation’s top freshmen, and UNC transfer Walker Kessler leading the team. Look out for Auburn to win the SEC and make a splash in the tournament this season.”

Rongaus also tells Bally Bet customers in Iowa to keep an eye on Virginia Tech at 45-to-1.

“Last year, Virginia Tech entered the tournament as a 10-seed and had a first-round exit, losing to Florida by 5. This season, Virginia Tech is returning four players, three of which were starters last season. With last year’s ACC champions, Virginia, looking slightly weaker this season, keep an eye on Virginia Tech to take home the ACC and make a little run in March.”

Iowa schedule highlights and odds

National Championship odds at Bally Bet: 90-to-1

Rongaus, at Bally’s Interactive, said:

“Iowa is fresh off a disappointing second-round loss last year in March Madness as a 2 seed, with the star player and Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year Luka Garza on the team. Garza moved on to the NBA and Iowa will have to play in a very competitive Big Ten. There’s not much preseason love for the Hawkeyes as they are projected ninth in the conference power rankings this season. With that being said, Fran McCaffery is an experienced coach who has taken four D1 programs to the postseason, including an NIT final four appearance from Iowa in 2013.”

The non-conference schedule is? Not great.

But that might help coach Fran McCaffery as he sets substitution patterns ahead of the conference season. Altogether, the Hawkeyes get 18 games in Iowa City. Sophomore forward Keegan Murray is a member of the preseason All-Big Ten team and should help Iowa Hawkeyes odds.

Most programs schedule multi-team events (MTEs) like an in-season tournament or showcase doubleheaders on a neutral court. The Hawkeyes are an exception this year.

Six home games start the Iowa season

  • Longwood
  • Kansas City
  • North Carolina Central
  • Alabama State
  • Western Michigan
  • Portland State

Tougher tests after the turkey

The matchups get more challenging right after Thanksgiving. There’s a mix of conference and non-conference games:

  • at No. 25 Virginia
  • at No. 7 Purdue
  • No. 11 Illinois
  • at Iowa State and
  • vs. Utah State in Sioux Falls, SD

SE Louisiana and Western Illinois offer the final tuneups before Big Ten Conference play.

Conference play

The Big Ten isn’t a double-round robin. The “just at home” conference opponents for 2021-22 are Indiana, Michigan State and Northwestern.

The away-only conference opponents are No. 17 Ohio State, Rutgers, and Wisconsin.

The home and away opponents are:

  • No. 6 Michigan
  • No. 7 Purdue
  • No. 11 Illinois
  • No. 21 Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Penn State

Iowa State schedule highlights and odds

National Championship odds at Bally Bet: 200-to-1

Rongaus said:

“Last year Iowa State had one of their worst seasons in program history. After just two wins in 24 games last year (0-18 in the Big 12), the Cyclones made a coaching change and brought in T.J. Otzelberger. It looks like Iowa State will be taking the floor this year in the middle of a full rebuild, with five new starters projected to be in the lineup. Early projections have the Cyclones finishing last in the Big 12.”

The non-conference schedule is? Mixed to good. First-year coach T.J. Otzelberger inherits a 2-22 team with a group of talented transfers coming in.

  • The Cyclones welcome Oregon State and Iowa to Ames.
  • Two NIT Season Tip-Off games (Xavier, then either Virginia Tech or No. 12 Memphis) bookend Thanksgiving Day in Brooklyn, NY.
  • They’ll go to Creighton for the Big East Battle and host Missouri for the SEC Challenge.

Low majors, low stress?

Iowa State rounds out the non-conference home slate with:

  • Alabama State
  • Grambling State
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff
  • Jackson State
  • SE Louisiana
  • Chicago State

Conference play

The Big 12 has a double-round robin, so all Big 12 conference members play home and away. Iowa State jumps right into 2022 when they host Baylor for a New Year’s Day conference opener. The Big 12 Conference Tournament starts Wednesday, March 9, in Kansas City.

The Big 12 has three AP preseason top 25 teams and they’re all in the top eight: No. 3 Kansas, No. 5 Texas and No. 8 Baylor. Iowa State is picked to finish last in the Big 12 preseason coaches poll. The Cyclones won’t be favored often once the conference season begins.

Drake schedule highlights and odds

National Championship odds at Bally Bet: 200-to-1

Rongaus said:

“Drake earned an at-large bid to the tournament last season and won a First Four game, but they were unable to piece a run together and get out of the round of 64. Drake is currently more competitive than UNI. … Preseason projections are expecting Drake and UNI to battle all year with each other and with Loyola, as the power rankings have them 1-2-3 respectively.”

The non-conference schedule is? A typical mix of mutts and purebreds. Drake spent time in the top 25 and picked up its first NCAA Tournament win in 50 years. That was enough to catch ESPN’s attention. The network booked the Bulldogs for the ESPN Events Invitational on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Sunday, Nov. 28. Belmont is the Thanksgiving opener. Iona or No. 14 Alabama await in the next round. The Sunday opponent will come from either Dayton vs. Miami FL or North Texas vs. No. 3 Kansas.

The Bulldogs have “Holiday Hoopsgiving” with ESPN as well. They play Clemson on Dec. 11 in Atlanta.

Drake hosts Coe College for its Nov. 9 opener. Other non-conference opponents are:

  • South Dakota
  • Richmond
  • St. Thomas (MN)
  • at Omaha
  • Jackson State
  • Chicago State
  • St. Louis (in Las Vegas)
  • Mount Marty

Conference play

Members of the 10-team Missouri Valley Conference play each other twice each season — home and away. The Bulldogs host the Valparaiso Beacons for its conference opener on Dec. 2. The conference begins play in earnest after the new year.

Drake will join UNI for Arch Madness (March 3-6). Fans will be familiar with the surroundings. The MVC joins the Big Eas as the only Division I athletic leagues to hold their men’s basketball tournaments in the same city for 30 or more consecutive years.

The Bulldogs are the preseason favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference and receive a March Madness bid.

Northern Iowa schedule highlights and odds

National Championship odds at Bally Bet: 300-to-1

Rongaus said:

“UNI isn’t a walkover, as they had high hopes last season but were hit with the injury bug and went just 10-12 the rest of the season.”

The non-conference schedule is? Still changing, apparently. On Oct. 11, UNI announced the addition of three home games. Vermont is coming to Cedar Falls on Veterans Day. The Panthers will now host Division III neighbors Dubuque (Nov. 14) and Wartburg (Dec. 29). The Panthers start the season on Nov. 9 with a Nicholls State visit.

UNI’s at-large resume also might get some help from two challenges — at No. 16 Arkansas (Nov. 17) and at No. 23 St. Bonaventure (Nov. 27). A Dec. 5 visit from Richmond should be a quality test as well.

The Panthers are in the Diamond Head Classic Dec. 22-23 and 25 in Honolulu. They open against Liberty, then face Stanford or Wyoming in the next round. The Christmas Day opponent comes from BYU vs. South Florida or Vanderbilt vs. Hawaii.

The Panthers host Jackson State and travel to Marshall before their trip to Hawaii.

Conference play

UNI has a Dec. 1 Missouri Valley Conference test at Bradley. Its run of 17-straight conference games begins on Jan. 2 when Evansville visits Cedar Falls. They’re picked to finish third in the MVC preseason poll and received some first-place votes. The Missouri Valley Conference tournament is March 3-6. The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

March Madness begins in November

November games

Tuesday, Nov. 9Longwood at Iowa
Kennesaw State at Iowa State
Nicholls State at UNI
Coe at Drake
Thursday, Nov. 11Vermont at UNI
Friday, Nov. 12Kansas City at Iowa
Oregon State at Iowa State
Sunday, Nov. 14South Dakota at Drake
Dubuque at UNI
Tuesday, Nov. 16North Carolina Central at Iowa
Alabama State at Iowa State
Wednesday, Nov. 17UNI at No. 16 Arkansas
Thursday, Nov. 18Alabama State at Iowa
Saturday, Nov. 20Richmond at Drake
Sunday, Nov. 21Grambling State at Iowa State
Monday, Nov. 22Western Michigan at Iowa
Wednesday, Nov. 24Iowa State vs. Xavier (NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn, NY)
Thursday, Nov. 25Drake vs. Belmont (ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando)
Friday, Nov. 26Portland State at Iowa
Iowa State vs. Memphis or Virginia Tech (NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn, NY)
Drake vs. Alabama or Iona (ESPN Events Invitational)
Saturday, Nov. 27UNI at St. Bonaventure
Sunday, Nov. 28Drake vs. Dayton-Miami FL or Kansas-North Texas (ESPN Events Invitational)
Monday, Nov. 29Iowa at Virginia (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)

December games

Wednesday, Dec. 1Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Iowa State
UNI at Bradley
Thursday, Dec. 2Valparaiso at Drake
Friday, Dec. 3Iowa at Purdue
Saturday, Dec. 4Iowa State at Creighton (Big East/Big 12 Battle)
Sunday, Dec. 5Richmond at UNI
St. Thomas (Minn.) at Drake
Monday, Dec. 6Illinois at Iowa
Wednesday, Dec. 8Drake at Omaha
Thursday, Dec. 9Iowa at Iowa State
Saturday, Dec. 11Drake vs. Clemson (Holiday Hoopsgiving in Atlanta)
Sunday, Dec. 12Jackson State at Iowa State
Tuesday, Dec. 14Jackson State at UNI
Thursday, Dec. 16Jackson State at Drake
Saturday, Dec. 18Iowa vs. Utah State (in Sioux Falls, SD)
UNI at Marshall
Sunday, Dec. 19SE Louisiana at Iowa State
Chicago State at Drake
Tuesday, Dec. 21SE Louisiana at Iowa
Chicago State at Iowa State
Wednesday, Dec. 22UNI vs. Liberty (Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu)
Drake vs. St. Louis (in Las Vegas)
Thursday, Dec. 23UNI vs. Stanford or Wyoming (Diamond Head Classic)
Saturday, Dec. 25UNI vs. BYU-South Florida or Vanderbilt-Hawaii (Diamond Head Classic)
Tuesday, Dec. 28Mount Marty at Drake
Wednesday, Dec. 29Western Illinois at Iowa
Wartburg at UNI

January games

Saturday, Jan. 1Baylor at Iowa State
Sunday, Jan. 2Evansville at UNI
Drake at Missouri State
Monday, Jan. 3Maryland at Iowa
Wednesday, Jan. 5Texas Tech at Iowa State
Valparaiso at UNI
Drake at Southern Illinois
Thursday, Jan. 6Iowa at Wisconsin
Saturday, Jan. 8Iowa State at Oklahoma
UNI at Missouri State
Indiana State at Drake
Tuesday, Jan. 11Iowa State at Kansas
Indiana State at UNI
Wednesday, Jan. 12Illinois State at Drake
Thursday, Jan. 13Indiana at Iowa
Saturday, Jan. 15Texas at Iowa State
UNI at Southern Illinois
Drake at Evansville
Sunday, Jan. 16Iowa at Minnesota
Tuesday, Jan. 18Iowa State at Texas Tech
Wednesday, Jan. 19Iowa at Rutgers
UNI at Valparaiso
Bradley at Drake
Saturday, Jan. 22Penn State at Iowa
TCU at Iowa State
Drake at UNI
Wednesday, Jan. 26Iowa State at Oklahoma State
UNI at Evansville
Drake at Illinois State
Thursday, Jan. 27Purdue at Iowa
Saturday, Jan. 29Missouri at Iowa State (Big 12/SEC Challenge)
Illinois State at UNI
Sunday, Jan. 30Loyola-Chicago at Drake
Monday, Jan. 31Iowa at Penn State

February games

Tuesday, Feb. 1Kansas at Iowa State
Wednesday, Feb. 2Bradley at UNI
Drake at Indiana State
Thursday, Feb. 3Iowa at Ohio State
Saturday, Feb. 5Iowa State at Texas
UNI at Drake
Sunday, Feb. 6Minnesota at Iowa
Tuesday, Feb. 8Iowa State at West Virginia
Wednesday, Feb. 9Southern Illinois at UNI
Missouri State at Drake
Thursday, Feb. 10Iowa at Maryland
Saturday, Feb. 12Kansas State at Iowa State
Drake at Bradley
Sunday, Feb. 13Nebraska at Iowa
UNI at Loyola-Chicago
Tuesday, Feb. 15Iowa State at TCU
Wednesday, Feb. 16UNI at Illinois State
Evansville at Drake
Thursday, Feb. 17Michigan at Iowa
Saturday, Feb. 19Oklahoma at Iowa State
Drake at Loyola-Chicago
Sunday, Feb. 20Missouri State at UNI
Tuesday, Feb. 22Michigan State at Iowa
Wednesday, Feb. 23Iowa State at West Virginia
UNI at Indiana State
Drake at Valparaiso
Friday, Feb. 25Iowa at Nebraska
Saturday, Feb. 26Iowa State at Kansas State
Loyola-Chicago at UNI
Southern Illinois at Drake
Monday, Feb. 28Northwestern at Iowa

March games

Wednesday, March 2Oklahoma State at Iowa State
Thursday, March 3Iowa at Michigan
Missouri Valley Tournament First Round
Friday, March 4Missouri Valley Tournament Quarterfinals
Saturday, March 5Iowa State at Baylor
Missouri Valley Tournament Semifinals
Sunday, March 6Iowa at Illinois
Missouri Valley Tournament Championship
Wednesday, March 9Big Ten Tournament First Round
Big 12 Tournament First Round
Thursday, March 10Big Ten Tournament Second Round
Big 12 Tournament Quarterfinals
Friday, March 11Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals
Big 12 Tournament Semifinals
Saturday, March 12Big Ten Tournament Semifinals
Big 12 Tournament Championship
Sunday, March 13Big Ten Tournament Championship
Selection Sunday
Photo by Paul Sancya / AP
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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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