NCAA March Madness 2021 Predictions, Location and Odds

After a whole year without the thrilling conclusion to NCAA basketball, March Madness is returning in 2021 starting with the First Four games on March 18th and ending on April 5th. Fans will also be allowed at a 25% capacity for all rounds in the tournament. 

The upcoming March Madness tournament will also be the most accessible to sports bettors, with online sportsbooks in more than ten states taking action on the games.  That means betting on 67 top college basketball games in less than a month.

Looking through the sportsbook odds on the tournament we can see how they will line up against the NCAA rankings. Let’s get prepared for March with this betting preview on the 2021 March Madness competition. 

March Madness 2021 Schedule: Locations, Date and Times

This year’s March Madness tournament will begin on March 18th and run through March and into April ending on the fifth with the championship game. After the First Four, the first round will begin the next day on March 19th. 

Dates for each round of the tournament have been set, as well as the locations. This year, the entire competition will take place in Indiana, with three different cities being selected to host the tournament. 




First Four

March 18

West Lafayette, Bloomington

Round 1-2

March 19-22

West Lafayette, Bloomington, Indianapolis

Sweet Sixteen 

March 27-28


Elite Eight

March 29-30


Final Four

April 3rd


Title Game

April 5th


*Game Sites: Mackey Arena (First Four, Rounds 1-2), Assembly Hall (First Four, Rounds 1-2), Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Rounds 1-2, Sweet Sixteen), Hinkle Fieldhouse (Rounds 1-2, Sweet Sixteen), Indiana Farmers Coliseum (Rounds 1-2), Lucas Oil Stadium (Rounds 1-2, Elite Eight, Final Four). 

Tournament Number One Seeds 

Throughout the history of NCAA’s March Madness tournament, the number one seeds have won nearly 80% of their total games, or 454 games out of 569. The teams given the overall number one seed have a major advantage going into the tournament. 

This is especially evident in the first round, when they play the number 16 seeds. The only No. 16 seed in 136 games to win that first matchup was when University of Maryland dominated Virginia 74-54 in 2015. 

For the 2021 March Madness tournament, four teams have nearly secured the top spots for each region, and are projected to hold them despite some leftover variables deep in the season. 

*Confirmed Number 1 Seeds


Big Ten

Big Ten

Big 12

Gonzaga (+300)

Michigan (+450)

Illinois (+1000)

Baylor (+325)

The two Big Ten teams Michigan and Illinois have both been excellent this season, despite the conference being one of the most competitive throughout the season. Two other Big Ten teams including Iowa and Ohio State were also contenders for the No.1 seeds up until the final week. 

Both Baylor and Gonzaga were the strongest and most convincing teams. From the West Coast Conference, Gonzaga went undefeated throughout the season, with a 25-0 overall record. Baylor only lost once overall, to Kansas, in a Big 12 matchup.

Four out of the top eight projected number one seeds were from the Big Ten halfway through March. Other teams just barely missing out included Houston and Alabama.

Conference Championship Winners

Big TenBig 12ACCSECPac-10Big EastAAC
IllinoisBaylorGeorgia TechAlabamaOregon St.VillanovaHouston

Title Favorites According to Sportsbooks

The general consensus for 2021 NCAA Champion sportsbooks lies with the number one seeds. Any teams carrying that number one seed into the tournament have historically had such a massive advantage. 

Seven championship title games have featured matchups between two number one seeds. So far throughout the tournament number one seeds have a record of 22-12 in the title game. Out of this year’s four number ones, Gonzaga is the most favored by sportsbooks, followed by Baylor, Michigan and Illinois. 

  • #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (+300)
  • #2 Baylor Bears (+325)
  • #4 Michigan Wolverines (+450)
  • #3 Illinois Fighting Illini (+1000)
  • #5 Iowa Hawkeyes (+1800)
  • #15 Florida State (+2000)
  • #6 Alabama (+2000)
  • #7 Houston Cougars (+2200)
  • #9 Ohio State Buckeyes (+2200)
  • #14 Villanova Wildcats (+2500)

The Big Ten Conference has the most favored outcomes, with three of the top ten teams in sportsbook odds. While Gonzaga is a consistently highly rated team when it comes to March, the team has yet to ever win a national championship despite appearing in the tournament every year since 1999. 

Notably absent from the top spots are both North Carolina (+5000) and Duke (+10000), who both had disappointing seasons in the ACC by their standards. The two teams have won 11 national championships between the two of them, but despite the experience neither team looks to be a major contender in 2021. 

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March Madness Predictions for Top-25 Teams

Filling out the brackets or making that bet on which team will win the whole tournament is what makes March Madness so great. Both Gonzaga and Baylor are consensus favorites to win the title right now, and it’s nearly impossible to see either missing out on the Final Four at least. 

The position of these two teams is given and evidenced by the low odds given by the sportsbooks. So, who else has a shot to take the title? March Madness is unpredictable as it gets, but let's take a look at other teams we truly believe have a chance to win it all this year. 

Note: one team from each conference per category. 

True Contenders and Good Bets in March

#3 Illinois (+1000): With four teams from the Big Ten being favorites for number one seeds, it's not hard to imagine at least one of the teams making a deep run. While all teams are realistic contenders, Illinois, at the number two seed is our most convincing out of the four. Illinois has a Big Ten record of 14-3 and is the conference’s number two seed. Michigan is the most obvious choice, but the Fighting Illini have already beaten both the Wolverines and Ohio State in March, and are coming into the tournaments with great form. 

#11 Kansas (+3000): Kansas basketball has seen yet another successful season after a near top ten national ranking and cruising to a 12-6 conference record to become the Big 12s number two seed. While West Virginia and Texas are other strong, strong choices for a Big 12 team, we think Kansas has proven more with an outside the conference win against No. 17 Creighton and the recent dominance over No. 2 Baylor. Seeding will play a big part for these Big 12 teams, but with Kansas’ experience and current form, we are betting them to go furthest outside of Baylor. 

#14 Villanova (+2500): While not as competitive as the Big Ten this year, the Big East Conference has featured a number of good basketball teams, as it usually does. Villanova has so far come out on top despite a tough schedule, which should make the team contenders to at least hit the Elite Eight in the 2021 March madness tournament. Right now, Villanova’s offense is the key factor in the team’s title run. However, if Jay Wright can get his defense to play more efficiently, then the team will be one to fear no matter who the team faces in the brackets. 

More Contenders: #7 Houston (+2200), #15 Florida State (+2000), #17 Creighton (+3000). 

Potential Dark Horse Teams

#9 Ohio State (+2200): In terms of the grand scale, Ohio State is generally not referred to as an underdog. However, when looking at the Big 10’s top teams, Ohio State is the one that falls behind. The team finished ranked number nine in the country, making them the fourth and final team from the conference in the top team. Just because they are fourth out of four does not mean it should be counted out, however. Ohio State has a major chance to make the title with the talent they have in the team. A good seeding and this team will be a major threat to anyone around them. 

#22 Virginia Tech (+10000): There may not be a truer dark horse candidate than Virginia Tech, who finished third in the ACC Conference. The team recently beat the conference’s top ranked Virginia team, before losing the next game to unranked Pittsburgh. Still, Virginia Tech has finished with a successful record and season, and with the right seeding will definitely be a fun potential bracket buster through March. 

#24 USC (+6000): While USC was actually quite dominant in the Pac-10 this season, an Oregon team that dealt with injuries all season actually ended up finishing first in the conference. The Pac-10 was also not nearly as competitive a division, with no teams coming out as heavy favorites in the tournament. However, the team has one of the best NCAA defenses, along with the best player in the country. With a good offense balancing things out, USC could certainly make a run deep, but how far is a great question. 

Other Dark Horses: #10 West Virginia (+2500)

Pretenders and Risky Bets

#13 Texas (+3000): The problem with coming out of either the Big 12 or Big Ten for teams is that there is always gonna be bad blood come March, and very possibly more than just one game. While Texas is considered to be one of the stronger Big 12 teams, finishing the season ranked 13th, the team has gone 4-6 against ranked opponents since January. It also lost a non-conference game to Villanova early in the season. The team has been by no means terrible, but having the first game in the Big-12 tournament against a Texas Tech team that has beaten them twice already does not look good for the team’s March Madness seeding.

#16 Virginia (+3000): The ACC has not been great this year, especially with the absence of strong Duke or North Carolina teams. Virginia has certainly taken advantage of this with a great defensive unit, finishing top of the conference and ranked 16th in the nation. The team just isn't the same as the 2019 team that won the title. Defensively, the team is good, but a good offensive night for a ranked opponent could easily take out the unbalanced team. Virginia is also in terrible form entering the tournaments, and has gone 0-3 against ranked opponents this year.