The first men’s basketball March Madness since mobile Illinois sports betting registration was green-lit kicks off Thursday.
A pair of in-state schools — Illinois and Loyola-Chicago — look to give bettors reasons to cheer in the weeks ahead.
The same law that allowed mobile registration statewide also allows limited in-person betting on state college teams. But even if you don’t want to go to a sportsbook to bet on Illinois and Loyola-Chicago, the rest of the games in the tournament are available at your fingertips.
The Fighting Illini grabbed the fourth seed in the NCAA Tournament’s South Region and play Chattanooga at 5:50 p.m. Central time Friday on TNT.
The Ramblers grabbed the 10th seed in the South Region and face seventh-seeded Ohio State at 11:15 a.m. Friday on CBS.
Here’s a breakdown of the Illini and Ramblers odds.
Fighting Illini Among NCAA Title Dark Horses
The Fighting Illini enter March Madness looking to make it past the first weekend for the first time since losing the national championship game in 2005.
Coach Brad Underwood led Illinois to a split of the Big Ten regular season title, going 22-8 overall and 15-5 in conference play.
His team opens the tournament as a sizable favorite over the champions of the Southern Conference, with four major sportsbooks giving the Illini a 7.5-point edge over the Mocs.
The four — BetMGM Illinois, Caesars Sportsbook Illinois, DraftKings Sportsbook Illinois, and FanDuel Sportsbook Illinois — have moneyline odds of between -320 and -350 for the Illini.
As far as national title odds, Illinois sits at +4000 on BetMGM Illinois and Caesars Sportsbook Illinois, and +5000 on DraftKings Sportsbook Illinois and FanDuel Sportsbook Illinois.
With a win over Chattanooga, the Fighting Illini would play either Houston or UAB in Sunday’s second round.
Loyola-Chicago Looks to Continue March Magic
The Ramblers qualified for March Madness for the third time in the last half-decade (four tournaments due to the 2020 COVID-19 cancellation).
Loyola-Chicago is currently listed as a one-point underdog against the Buckeyes on FanDuel Sportsbook Illinois. The game is a pick-em on Caesars Sportsbook Illinois, and the Ramblers are a 1.5-point favorite on BetMGM Illinois and DraftKings Sportsbook Illinois.
For those looking to make a moneyline wager, both BetMGM Illinois and DraftKings Sportsbook Illinois have the Ramblers at -120, while FanDuel Sportsbook Illinois has them at -102, and Caesars Sportsbook Illinois has Loyola-Chicago at -145.