College Basketball Betting Odds

Regular-season college basketball betting is a big deal, but college basketball’s real cachet is the way each season ends. March Madness crowns one team as the NCAA national champion. With 68 teams in the tourney, the winner doesn’t come from the same small pool of powerhouses. College football can’t match that variety.

Predicting how the tournament will go is such a quintessential part of the American fabric that even non-gamblers love to bet on March Madness. The state of Iowa has sent multiple teams to March Madness in the last three tournaments played.

Legal online sports betting means Iowa college basketball fans don’t have to confine themselves to filling out a workplace or family bracket anymore. Below, you’ll find all the ways you can bet on college basketball online in Iowa plus live odds from IA online sportsbooks.

Best Sportsbooks for College Basketball Odds

Live College Basketball Odds at Iowa Online Sportsbooks

Check the feed below for the latest college basketball betting odds at Iowa online sportsbooks. (Note: See the full odds board for NCAA basketball in our live odds feed. Click any odds to go directly to the online sportsbook, claim your bonus bets or bonus, and open a new betting account.

Most Popular College Basketball Bets

Basketball games tend to yield many excellent opportunities for sports betting. The amount of points and multitude of statistics means there are many opportunities to bet. Here are some of the more common betting types:

  • Point Spreads: A bet on the eventual margin of victory. The sportsbook will estimate the margin, and you can bet whether you believe the favorite will exceed the estimate or the underdog will overcome the estimate.
  • Moneylines: A wager on the eventual winner. The margin of victory is irrelevant in this bet. However, payouts are unbalanced to account for the favorite’s advantage.
  • Totals: A bet on the total points that the two teams will score. The sportsbook establishes its projected total, and players bet whether the actual number will be higher or lower. This wager is commonly known as an over/under bet.
  • Parlays: A wager that combines multiple games, or “legs,” into one bet. In order for a parlay to win, every single selection must prove to be accurate. Thus, parlays are an excellent example of a high-risk, high-reward situation.
  • Teasers/Pleasers: A form of parlay where the sportsbook adjusts each estimate by some number of points. In a teaser, the adjustment favors the player and comes with a reduced payout. In a pleaser, the adjustment favors the sportsbook but increases the profit potential.
  • Round Robins: A parlay of parlays. Your picks are broken down into multiple groupings, so every pick doesn’t need to be accurate for a round robin to pay out something.

NCAA Basketball Futures and Prop Bets

There are two kinds of college basketball bets that deserve a special mention.

NCAAB futures

Futures bets might seem like a confusing name. After all, all bets have to do with the future, so it might be difficult to see how they are different. However, futures bets have to do with end-of-season results. For college basketball, we’re talking about the eventual winners of conference tournaments and March Madness itself.

Just keep in mind: The transfer portal can dramatically shift a team’s prospects. Players no longer have to sit out a year before taking the court with a new team in many cases.

Iowa Hawkeyes Men's Basketball
Charlie Neibergall / AP

In-season futures bets are more practical. Take, for instance, these example listings for a previous Big Ten tournament:

  • Iowa: +250
  • Wisconsin: +350
  • Illinois: +350
  • Michigan State: +350
  • Michigan: +1,100
  • Indiana: +1,100
  • Rutgers: +1,200
  • Ohio State:+1,600
  • Purdue: +3,000
  • Maryland: +8,000
  • Minnesota: +15,000
  • Penn State: +25,000
  • Nebraska: +30,000
  • Northwestern: +30,000

From there, you could select which team you think will win.

There are, however, a couple of things to notice about the list. The first is that it is comprehensive and includes every school in the conference. Futures bets are often recognizable by their long lists of options, and players can bet on any team they like — even if it’s a team with little chance to win, like Nebraska or Northwestern.

The other thing to see is that each option is a positive moneyline. In other words, not one option is favored to occur — even the most likely team to win, Iowa, is a 2.5 to 1 underdog to some other school winning.

Futures listings with no favorite are extremely common. The collective chance that one of the other options will prevail is too great for most favorites to overcome, at least in terms of their chances.

It’s important to note that futures odds will change as the year unrolls. It pays to record the listings when they are published before the season. That way, you can keep track and take advantage of situations where the lines are beginning to move.

NCAAB props

Proposition bets, or prop bets, are a popular type of wager, with many offered as live bets at online sportsbooks.

Let’s talk about what a proposition is, though. A proposition is a type of wager that involves events largely unrelated to the game’s progress. Although they may use statistics generated within the game, prop bets may not depend on the team winning, losing, or scoring a certain number of points.

Instead, prop bets have to do with issues like which player will be the first to score, which player will have the most points, or which team will commit the most fouls.

Propositions can also come down to a simple yes-or-no response. The question could be some version of “will the team(s) achieve (X) statistic?” Note that Iowa law forbids in-game prop bets on individual Iowa college players. Here is a typical prop bet listing you might see:

Double result prop bets

Here’s an example of a bet about which combination of outcomes will occur in the first and second halves.

Northern Iowa (NI) vs. Richmond (R)

  • NI/NI: +500
  • R/R: -200
  • R/NI: +850
  • NI/R: +525
  • Tie/R: +2,000
  • Tie/NI: +3,000

This prop bet focuses on the “winner” of each half of the play. If we read between the lines, we can see that this sportsbook expects Richmond to lead at both endpoints. However, a spurt by Northern Iowa could change the way this prop resolves.

Live Betting on College Basketball Games

Live betting takes the concepts of pregame betting into games already in progress. When you live bet on college basketball, you can wager on questions like whether a team will score a certain amount in a given timeframe.

As you may find, live bets can involve extremely small events throughout a game. Since these opportunities can happen over and over, it is not uncommon for live betting to create more than 100 betting options for each game.

College Basketball in Iowa

Now that we’ve talked about all the types of bets you can make on college basketball games in Iowa, let’s discuss how games are going in Iowa now.

Iowa is home to four universities that compete in the NCAA’s Division I, the highest level of play. They are:

  • Iowa
  • Iowa State
  • Northern Iowa
  • Drake

The Hawkeyes and Cyclones received NCAA bids in the 2021-22 season. UNI won the Missouri Valley Conference and received an NIT bid. Drake accepted an invite to the CBI Tournament in Daytona Beach, FL.

Unsurprisingly, the most consistently successful team of the four is the University of Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ men’s basketball team has visited the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (March Madness) 28 times over the years. They have been seeded as high as No. 2 (1987 and 2021) and have reached the Final Four three times (1955, 1956, 1980).

Running a close second in terms of program prestige are the Iowa State Cyclones. The Ames-area squad has been to “the Big Dance” 21 times, including twice as a No. 2 seed (2000, 2001). It has been to the Final Four a single time (1944).

Northern Iowa does not have the cachet of the two larger state schools but has distinguished itself as a home for excellent basketball in the past decade. The Panthers have made the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament seven times since 2004. The program’s most notable wins came in 2010 when UNI defeated top-seeded Kansas and in 2016 when Paul Jesperson hit a half-court shot to beat sixth-seeded Texas at the last second.

Drake is the least-acclaimed of the four major basketball programs in Iowa. It has visited the NCAA Tournament four times but only twice since 1971. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs reached the Final Four and were the third-best team in 1969. The 2020-21 squad picked up the program’s first March Madness win in 50 years with a 53-52 win over Wichita State.

Betting on NCAA Basketball Rivalries

Like any sport, NCAA basketball has its share of rivalries. Although rivalries tend to happen because of geography, they have a habit of developing a life of their own. Here are some of the top rivalries that you’ll find when betting on NCAA basketball in Iowa:

  • North Carolina and Duke: The most storied rivalry in college basketball comes from two North Carolina schools eight miles apart. The two schools usually share a home-and-home series, so keep an eye on that.
  • Kentucky and Louisville: This rivalry involves two schools in the same state with long histories of success. Kentucky is one of the greatest programs in history, with eight national titles. Louisville has won it all three times, although the most recent championship (in 2013) has since been vacated.
  • Indiana and Purdue: Here’s another bit of bad blood generated over a turf battle for bragging rights in the schools’ home state. Although Indiana has had the greater overall success (five national titles), Purdue holds a commanding 122-89 lead in the series between the two schools.
  • Cincinnati and Xavier: It’s bad enough to have to share the same state with your hated foe. It’s worse to have to share the same city. In Cincinnati, however, that’s what the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University do. Games between these two schools are so heated that players have come to blows on multiple occasions.
  • Iowa and Iowa State: We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series. The series, which pits the two biggest schools in the Hawkeye State against each other, keeps track of performances across a wide selection of activities, including basketball.

How March Madness Works

For most people, the name “NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament” doesn’t instantly ring a bell. But say the phrase “March Madness,” and everyone knows what you mean. The two phrases describe the same event — one of the biggest in sports.

The field starts with automatic bids from the 32 Division I conference tournament champions. Even teams with a disappointing regular season can get their March Madness ticket punched with a well-timed conference tournament run.

The remaining 36 teams in the 68-team field are at-large selections. The NCAA Selection Committee crunches data to determine the best teams without an automatic berth in hand. Bracketologists at ESPN and CBS among others try to anticipate the “locks” and “bubble teams” as the season winds down.

The First Four round brings the last four automatic qualifiers and the last four at-large selections to Dayton.

  • Four low-major conference winners play for a pair of 16 seeds.
  • Then, four at-large teams play for an open pair of No. 11 or No. 12 seeds.

The Dayton First Four games are played on the Tuesday and Wednesday after Selection Sunday. Winners join the rest of the field for Thursday and Friday first-round games.

Teams in the state have experienced the early round as “last teams chosen,” by the way. Iowa lost to Tennessee 78-65 (OT) in a 2014 First Four game. Drake beat Wichita State 53-52 in a 2021 First Four game.

The tournament is a single-elimination competition that crowns one Division I college basketball team as the national champion each year. Some version of March Madness has determined the college champ since 1939.

Key March Madness 2024 Dates

Selection SundayMarch 17Reveal on CBS
First Four RoundMarch 19 and 20Dayton, OH
First RoundMarch 21 and 22Various
Second RoundMarch 23 and 24Various
Sweet 16March 28-29LA and Boston
Elite 8March 30 and 31Dallas and Detroit
Final Four and National Championship GameApril 6 and 8Glendale, AZ

Betting on NCAAB brackets explained

Of course, for most people, their exposure to betting on the NCAA basketball season starts and ends in March. According to the American Gaming Association, more than 36.7 million people filled out a whopping 149 million brackets for the 2021 tournament.

Since many bracket contests are free, they can be a fun way to involve yourself in betting on March Madness. Several media outlets and sportsbooks run their bracket challenges, complete with cash prizes for those who fill out their brackets (mostly) correctly. Examples from previous tournaments include:

However, Iowans don’t have to let a bracket be their final move on the season. Instead, you can bet on most of the games that will occur in March, including the Final Four and the national championship game.

Most sportsbooks will also offer futures odds for every team in the tournament. So, if you like a certain team to win the championship or be a part of the Final Four, you can make that wager.

If you’re feeling quite confident about a particular team, you can even try to ride that team to glory during each game. Bet on the first-round game, and if your team wins, pocket your original stake and bet the winnings. Repeat this process until your team busts or wins it all.

The truth about the seeds

One last thing to discuss is how to consider the seedings that you see for March Madness. Each team’s seed is determined by the Selection Committee, which sets the brackets on Selection Sunday, shortly after the last conference tournaments conclude. Selection Sunday is March 17, 2024.

Buzzer beaters and major upsets are the hallmarks of March Madness for most sports fans. Unless our team is the top seed, we’re usually pulling for the lower-ranked teams to prevail. Hopefully, they can do so with a last-second heave that goes in.

However, you need to realize that the seeds are fairly accurate predictors of the games. Statistically and historically, the only position in the upper half of seeding to lose the majority of its first-round games is the No. 8 seed since there’s usually not much separation between an eight seed and a nine seed.

As much as we root for UMBC to beat UVA, Florida Gulf Coast to reach the Sweet Sixteen or the Saint Peter’s Peacocks to prevail over Kentucky en route to the Elite Eight, the truth is that the higher seeds are rated that way for a good reason most of the time. Even though their unbeaten streak was broken in 2018, there is simply no good reason to bet against a No. 1 seed in the first round, for instance. Or a No. 2 seed. Or a No. 3 seed. Even a No. 4 seed will win its first game most of the time.

All of this is to say that you shouldn’t get carried away with the upset hype when you’re making your brackets or, especially, betting on the tournament. Look at each matchup with as much focus as you do the regular-season games, and those upsets won’t be such a mystery.

4 College Basketball Betting Tips

  1. Compare the Lines and Offers: Iowa is home to multiple online sportsbooks, so you should shop around to find the best sports betting option as often as you can.
  2. Become an Expert on One or Two Teams: It will be far more profitable for your bottom line if you don’t try to drink from the firehose and bet every single game on the slate. Instead, take the time to study a team or two. Bet on their games as they move through their respective schedules, and keep track of any developments that occur, like injuries.
  3. Study Smart and Local: Everyone knows that you’ll have to do your homework to determine good bets to make. You need to realize that specificity and details play a big part in determining how a team and its players will perform. You can only get that kind of in-depth analysis from local writers and experts on each team, so make sure that you study the smaller papers that cover your chosen squads. Leave the national media for broad strokes.
  4. Remember the Bigger Picture for Each Game: Sports are built on streaks, and college basketball is no exception. You need to pay attention to both a team’s recent past and near future to gauge its mindset. For instance, letdowns after big wins are common, so your team’s win over a ranked opponent might place it in danger for its next game. Look at the external factors, like injuries or distractions, that might fuel a performance one way or another.

Why you should bet on college basketball over other sports

You may be wondering why college basketball is worth the effort. After all, fluky wins are much more likely to occur, so it seems as though wagers would be subject to greater volatility. Ranked teams, even those in the top tiers, commonly lose to unranked teams. However, you can bet on college basketball because, quite simply, oddsmakers only have so many hours in the day.

There are roughly 350 NCAA Division I basketball teams. In a typical year, each team plays between 25 and 35 games. So, each NCAA basketball season features roughly 8,750 to 12,250 games, and that’s just at its highest level.

Even though the season is several months long, the oddsmakers simply don’t have the time to do adequate research on every game before setting the college basketball betting lines. Instead, they will focus their energies on the big schools and big games because that’s where most of the bets will go.

Hopefully, you can see what we’re saying. Games involving mid-major schools or below may not have the most accurate odds set for them, and you can find opportunities to capitalize on these inaccuracies much more easily than for bigger games.

Colleges are also hotbeds for budding journalists looking to cut their teeth or make their bones, so you can usually find decent to good reporting on each team, even if the school is a small one.

In short, you should be betting on college basketball because there is profit to be made. Stick to the smaller schools and make them your area of expertise, and you may find an advantage.

Where Do Odds on NCAA Basketball Games Come From?

A quick check of any Iowa sportsbook will reveal a host of odds for each NCAA basketball game. You may be wondering how these odds are generated, and how much lead time you have before the game. Oddsmakers tend to be extremely accurate. They have sophisticated computer programs and loads of experience to formulate their opinions about each game.

Most of the time, they begin with their prediction of which team will win the game and work from there. The first type of bet to receive a number is usually going to be the moneyline. Then, bookmakers will go about setting the spread, the total, the pregame props and anything else they feel confident predicting. For the most part, you’ll have only a day or so of lead time for each set of odds. With each team playing roughly 30 games in a season, information and expectations about teams change quite often. So, for the most part, you’ll need to have your system for analyzing a game ready to go on the day of the game.

NCAA Basketball FAQ

Yes, NCAA games are part of Iowa sportsbooks’ offerings.

Yes, Iowa state law specifically prohibits wagering on college athletes, not programs, so you can bet on the Hawkeyes, the Cyclones, the Panthers of Northern Iowa, the Bulldogs of Drake or any other team that calls Iowa home.

The only types of bets prohibited in Iowa are on athletes younger than 18. Prop bets on individual college players from Iowa are also not allowed. For the most part, college basketball games will not have a problem meeting those requirements. Sportsbooks in Iowa are also very careful about only displaying betting options that are legal for their Iowa customers.