Bet On March Madness at Iowa Online Sportsbooks

When March rolls around, basketball rules. March Madness is one of the biggest sporting events of the calendar year. For three epic weeks, there’s a whole slew of basketball games with incredibly high stakes.

The excitement of March Madness translates into lots of eyeballs glued to the TV, year after year. Watching the action and rooting for your team is loads of fun. It’s even more exciting when you have a little skin in the game. Legal online sportsbooks and sportsbooks apps are now available in Iowa with plenty of ways to bet on March Madness.

Our guide to March Madness betting in Iowa will cover everything you need to know, from what bets to place to bracket-picking tips and the latest live odds from Iowa online sportsbooks.

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Live March Madness odds at Iowa online sportsbooks

Check our live NCAA Tournamnet bracket below to see consensus odds for each match-up. Then check the live odds feed below the bracket for how the current odds look at individual Iowa online sportsbooks.

You’ll see both live game lines (point spreads, moneyline, totals) and live futures odds for making the Final Four and winning the National Championship. Click on any odds in the feed below the bracket to head to that sportsbook, claim your bonus and start getting your bets down.

How to bet on March Madness online in Iowa

You can bet on March Madness legally and safely in Iowa. Sports betting was legalized in May 2019, with the official rollout coming just a few months later. To get in the betting game, you’re going to need a place to play. The top options are all featured on this site, and getting started is easy. To begin, follow our exclusive links. You’ll arrive at a site’s sign-up page and possibly gain access to a bonus.

At the sign-up page, you’ll be prompted to enter share some basic info about yourself, including your name and date of birth. You’ll then verify that all your information is correct, check off some boxes and click on the submit button. That’s it. We’re talking a few minutes at the most. Next, take the time to download the app for your device directly from the sportsbook’s website. The sportsbook app will give you on-the-go access no matter where you are in Iowa. After you log in online and with the app, your account is ready to roll.

From there, it’s time to add some funds to your sportsbook wallet and select a wager. Deposit options will likely include debit cards and bank transfers, while the upcoming college basketball games you can bet on will appear on the list of sports available. The games will appear in the main betting lobby. Once you find the game you want to bet on, click on the odds for your choice. It’ll transfer to the betting slip, where you just have to add in your bet amount, verify that all is well and click “Submit” to make it official.

What is a bracket in March Madness?

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee sets the field for March Madness. There are 31 automatic qualifiers — teams that win their conference tournaments — and 37 at-large teams for 68 clubs. The schedule is laid out in bracket format.

The bracket is broken down into four regions with 16 teams in each. To get to that number, eight teams compete in the “First Four” games to whittle down the total number of squads to 64. From there, the tournament is single-elimination. Winners will advance, while losers will go home. That’s how the bracket works for tournament purposes, but there’s a lot more to see. There are bracket contests that you can play for the chance to win real prizes.

Local pools with friends and coworkers are a popular option, but you can also find plenty online. For the online contests, some are free, while others require an entry fee. The free contests may offer big prize pools, but the chances of winning are slim. That’s because they attract legions of contestants, so you’ll have to do well to make any kind of noise. The typical contest requires users to fill out the bracket in its entirety. You get points, depending on how many picks you get right.

Bracket competitions can be lots of fun and potentially lucrative if the stars line up right. However, they’re also tough to win. You may end up finding better luck wagering on single games throughout the tournament. We’ll explain how that works in a bit.

Best online March Madness bracket contests

March Madness is a big time of the year for sportsbooks. Each game attracts lots of betting action, and you can also expect to see themed promotions and bonuses available as books look to bring in as much business as possible. Additionally, you’ll find some bracket competitions to consider. Some of them may be free to play, while others might require an entry fee. While we can’t say for sure what sportsbooks, such as DraftKings IA and PointsBet in Iowa, have up their sleeve, we expect it to be something good.

For example, DraftKings Sportsbook IA has a section on its website dedicated to betting pools. There are some free options to sort through, as well as some that require an entry fee. Scoring and payouts may vary, but some offer the whole pot to the winner. Other options may include some of those massive online bracket competitions we mentioned earlier. Online sportsbooks may offer something similar, but the same note of caution applies. You can look to these contests for entertainment, but don’t bank on winning.

How betting on March Madness works

From the opening game straight through to the national title tilt, you’ll have plenty of betting options to explore during March Madness. Sportsbooks will post odds for each game for your consideration. When you scroll through the upcoming slate of games, you’ll see individual listings like this:

 Point SpreadMoneylineTotal
Minnesota+3.5 (-110)  +135 O 129.5 (-110)
Iowa-3.5 (-110) -155 U 129.5 (-110)

The three sets of numbers following the team names are the odds and lines for point spread, moneyline and total wagers on the game. For the spread and total, there’s a baseline number that the oddsmakers set, followed by the odds for the bet.

On spread and moneyline bets, negative numbers indicate favorites, while underdogs get positive numbers. For this example, the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team is favored by 3.5 points over Minnesota Gophers. The Hawkeyes also are favored on the moneyline in a game with a projected total of 129.5. Here’s how the three bets work.

  • Point Spread: When you place a point spread wager, the side you choose has to “cover the spread.” In this case, Iowa has to win by four or more points to cover, while Minnesota covers by keeping the margin to three points or fewer or by winning outright.
  • Moneyline: When you opt for a moneyline bet, you simply have to guess the winner of the game. When the range between the two sets of odds is close, oddsmakers see a close game. If there’s a wide span, the game projects as a potential mismatch.
  • Totals: Also known as an over/under bet, oddsmakers will set an estimated number of total points for the two teams to score and you have to decide whether the total will be over or under the estimate. For our example, 130 points or more is a win for over bets, while under bettors want the points to be 129 or fewer.

All three of these bet types will attract plenty of volume for each game on the docket, but they aren’t the only ways to wager. Here’s a quick explanation of some other popular bet types:

  • Props: A prop is a side bet on an individual game or the tournament as a whole. Examples include which team will score the most points in the first half of a contest or which player will be named most outstanding for the tournament.
  • Parlays: A parlay is a bet that can carry a high risk and high reward. It includes multiple selections on the same bet slip, but you have to be right on each pick to have a winner. Parlays can be lots of fun on busy tournament days, but don’t go overboard.
  • Teasers/Pleasers: These bets afford you the chance to move the spread on multiple games, with the potential return adjusted accordingly. Just like a parlay, you have to be right on all selections to win.

Also, keep in mind that you’ll have the chance to place live bets on many games. Online sportsbooks will release updated March Madness odds as the games play out that are available for wagering. Please note that Iowa prohibits prop bets on college players.

In a bracket competition, you have to be right on many games to have a reasonable chance at winning. Meanwhile, you only have to make the correct call on a single outcome when betting on individual games. As such, those looking for a realistic chance at turning a profit during March Madness may want to shift their focus over to the wagering side.

What are March Madness futures?

A futures bet is a wager you can place on a full-season or championship outcome. For college basketball, many of the most popular futures bets revolve around March Madness. Here’s a peek at what you can bet on:

  • National championship
  • Team to reach Final Four
  • Winners of the individual regions
  • Most outstanding player of the tournament

For the outright winner and Final Four, you’ll see March Madness betting odds released in the offseason. These two markets are active with bets coming in all season long. The odds are usually listed in descending order, with favorites on top and long-shots at the bottom. Here’s what the numbers might look like for a few favorites:


The idea is to find the selections you want at the best possible prices, naturally, in hopes of landing on the winner. For your reference, a winning $100 bet on Iowa at odds of +850 would return a whopping $850. Odds for other March Madness futures will come out closer to tournament time, and offerings may vary by the sportsbook. Additionally, keep in mind that there can be differences in futures odds between books. You should always shop around in a bid to find the best prices.

Which Iowa teams have a shot at March Madness?

There are four Division I men’s basketball programs in the state: Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa and Drake. The Hawkeyes lose all-time leading scorer Luka Garza as he pursues his NBA dreams, but Iowa should have a solid core coming back for the 2021-22 season.

Drake reached the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference championship game and received an at-large bid to 2021 March Madness with a 26-5 record. The Bulldogs have a solid group in line for a return to campus. They’ll add Tucker DeVries — a top 100 recruit who happens to be the son of coach Darian DeVries.

With a losing record, Northern Iowa’s season came to a close at the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference tournament. UNI is a good candidate for a turnaround, depending on the health of 2021 preseason conference player of the year AJ Green. The Panthers lost Green in the third game of the season to hip surgery and the team struggled in his absence.

Iowa State wrapped up a historically-bad season in 2021 and parted ways with coach Steve Prohm. He was succeeded by T.J. Otzelberger. The former UNLV and South Dakota State coach is familiar with Ames. He served under three different Iowa State coaches and is noted for his recruiting prowess. Otzelberger is 99-63 as a Division I coach.

Here’s a look at how the four programs fared last season and during their most recent appearance in March Madness:

  • Iowa Hawkeyes
    • 2020-21 Record: 22-9, third in the Big Ten
    • Last March Madness: 2021 — lost in the second round to Oregon
    • All-Time Appearances: 27
  • Iowa State Cyclones
    • 2020-21 Record: 2-22, last in Big 12
    • Last March Madness: 2019 — lost in the first round to Ohio State
    • All-Time Appearances: 20
  • Northern Iowa Panthers
    • 2020-21 Record: 10-15, tied for fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference
    • Last March Madness: 2016 — lost in the second round to Texas A&M
    • All-Time Appearances: 8
  • Drake Bulldogs
    • 2020-21 Record: 26-5, second in the Missouri Valley Conference
    • Last March Madness: 2021 — lost in the first round to USC
    • All-Time Appearances: 5   

March Madness betting strategy and tips 

If you have experience with betting on hoops, you can apply the same basic handicapping principles to March Madness. For example, you should examine the matchups to look for edges and weaknesses while also paying attention to the stats that move the needle. Beyond the basics, here’s a handful of tips:

  • Lean on Higher Seeds for Early Round Games and Overall Winner: Upsets happen, but teams that are seeded one to four in each region have a great overall winning percentage in the early rounds. Additionally, the most likely overall winner is one of the higher seeds. If you can make a legitimate case for an upset, don’t be shy. That said, respect the seeds and don’t reach for something that’s not there.
  • Understand the Importance of Momentum: Each March, there are teams that begin soaring as March Madness approaches and others that wind up backing into the tournament. For the early rounds especially, dig much deeper than overall records and look at how the teams have performed over the last five to 10 games. This can be a great clue for when upsets may be in the offing.
  • Shop Around for the Best Prices: There’s a huge amount of betting action for March Madness. Naturally, that’ll lead to movement on the odds board. The NCAA March Madness betting lines won’t be the same everywhere, so be sure to shop around for the best prices. Those small differences on spreads, totals and moneylines may not seem like much, but they add up.

Bets you should avoid when betting on March Madness

Having a good handle on how you want to approach March Madness can be a key component to finding success, but there’s also a lot to be said for knowing what to avoid. Here are three bets that fall into that category:

  • Moneyline Bets on Huge Favorites: This is a wager that can seem like a sure thing, and it could be in some cases. However, the return that you’ll get on a huge moneyline favorite doesn’t outweigh the upset risk. A big favorite isn’t going to pay much. If you don’t feel comfortable with the spread on those games, take a pass and look for other options.
  • Futures Bets on Extreme Long-Shots: A winning futures bet on a long-shot at odds of +20,000 would pay off handsomely. But what are the chances of it happening? The answer is somewhere in the neighborhood of slim and none. In other words, too many bets of this nature can be a serious drain on your overall bankroll and should be avoided.
  • Any Spread or Total You Don’t Have a Good Read On: You’ve broken down a game from top to bottom, and you simply can’t make heads or tails on the spread or total. Now what? While you could take a roll of the dice, it’s a better idea to simply take a pass and focus your efforts on other games.

Avoid these common mistakes 

Actionable tips and knowing the bets to shy away from making for a great start, but that’s not all. There are some mistakes that bettors of all experience levels make over and over again. Don’t be that person and avoid the following:

  • Playing Too Many Parlays: Parlays are a popular bet type because it offers the chance for great returns from small outlays. However, winning these bets is challenging as you have to be right on every leg of the wager. If you want to take a crack with a small-dollar parlay for fun, go for it, but playing too many can impact your bottom line.
  • Getting Too Cute with Upset Picks: A good part of the excitement with March Madness is the potential for upsets. Finding them before they happen can also lead to some nice returns. That said, it’s important to be realistic with your calls. If you’ve spotted something that points to a potential upset, that’s great, but don’t go fishing in barren waters.
  • Information Overload: If you think that knowing every stat imaginable will bring you that much closer to cracking March Madness, think again. In fact, too much information can have the opposite effect and cloud your judgment. Instead of doing that, focus on what matters while tuning out the noise. A focused approach can lead to making better calls.

Sportsbook house rules for March Madness

When betting on basketball at online sportsbooks, the house rules cover all the ins and outs, including bet placement and settlement. Each legal sportsbook has a set of rules, but some practices are pretty standard across the industry. Here are some of the most important points:

  • All bets are considered action once the game tips off. Wagers are based on the complete result, including overtime, unless stated elsewhere in the terms of the bet.
  • Bet settlement is based on official results and statistics. The sportsbook will not entertain any disputes on what the bettor views as a bad call or miscalculation.
  • Placed bets can still be considered valid regardless of any changes in start time or venue. In the event that a game is delayed after tipoff, it’ll remain live as long as the contest is expected to be completed in a reasonable amount of time.
  • If a game or the entire tournament is canceled, the sportsbook will void and refund bets. This includes any and all futures bets on the tournament outcome.

While that covers the basic gist of what you need to know, it’s still good practice to review the house rules at the sportsbook sites and apps. Unusual circumstances could pop up, so it’s a good idea to know how a sportsbook will handle them to save yourself from any confusion or surprises.

5 best NCAA Tournament players of all-time

The modern era of March Madness goes back to 1985 when the field was expanded to 64 teams, while the inaugural NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament was held in 1939. Through the years, there have been a lot of memorable individual performances. Comparing eras can be challenging, so let’s begin by looking at five stellar performers from back in the day:

  1. Bill Bradley, Princeton
    • Final Four Most Outstanding Player 1965
    • Averaged 35.4 ppg over five games in 1965
  2. Elvin Hayes, Houston
    • Led team to Final Four in back-to-back years
    • Most rebounds in NCAA tournament history — 222
  3. Jerry West, West Virginia
    • Final Four Most Outstanding Player 1959
    • Averaged 35.0 ppg over three games in 1960
  4. Austin Carr, Notre Dame
    • Average 52.7 ppg over three games in 1970, 41.7 over three in 1971
    • Naismith College Player of the Year in 1971
  5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, UCLA
    • Helped lead team to three straight titles from 1967-69
    • Named Most Outstanding Player of Tournament all three times

There are plenty of players worthy of inclusion on the all-time list from the early days of the NCAA Tournament, and the same holds true for the modern era. That said, a handful stands out and are among the first names bandied about whenever the debate pops up:

  • Steve Alford, Indiana
    • Four seasons — 1983-87
    • Team won it all in 1987
    • 2,438 career points
  • Bobby Hurley, Duke
    • Four seasons — 1989-93.
    • Team made Final Four three times and won two titles
    • 1,731 career points
  • Danny Manning, Kansas
    • Four seasons — 1984-88
    • Team made Final Four twice and won it all in 1988
    • 2,951 career points
  • Patrick Ewing, Georgetown
    • Four seasons — 1981-85
    • Team made Final Four three times and won it all in 1984
    • 2,184 career points.
  • Christian Laettner
    • Four seasons — 1988-92
    • Team made Final Four a total of four times and won it all twice
    • 2,460 career points

2021 March Madness schedule and dates

Normally, the early rounds of March Madness are at several arenas across the nation. When it’s time for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, regional hubs take over, while there’s a host city for the Final Four and national championship game. This time around, the events will be a bit different.

The NCAA will host the entire tournament in Indianapolis. The dates for all rounds have been announced, and the tourney kicks off with Selection Sunday on March 14, followed by:

  • First Four: March 18
  • First Round: March 19-20
  • Second Round: March 21-22
  • Sweet 16: March 27-28
  • Elite Eight: March 29-30
  • Final Four: April 3
  • National Championship: April 5

Regardless of whether the tournament is held in multiple locations or a single city, it shapes up to be a fun and exciting ride as usual. If we look at the futures market, the following teams are consensus favorites to make it to the Final Four:

  • Gonzaga
  • Baylor
  • Michigan
  • Illinois

Behind that group of teams is another batch of serious contenders, a list that includes programs such as Iowa, Florida State, Ohio State, Houston and Alabama. We can expect the futures market to stay active as additional twists and turns develop throughout the season, so be sure to stay engaged and keep your eyes open for opportunities.