Indiana has long considered itself the Land of Basketball.
Never will that be more true than in spring 2021.
The NCAA announced this week it will hold the entire March Madness basketball tournament in Indiana. Most of the tournament’s 67 games will be played in Indianapolis.
Many hope the momentous development bolsters the state’s lagging economy and hospitality industry. Leaders like Gov. Eric Holcomb have celebrated the move, saying the state will be “spruced up and ready to go.”
But what will be the role of COVID-19? And how will it impact Indiana’s betting industry?
NCAA commits to quasi-bubble environment in Indiana
The NCAA made it official: Indiana is the home to March Madness.
“This is a historic moment for NCAA members and the state of Indiana,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.
“We have worked tirelessly to reimagine a tournament structure that maintains our unique championship opportunity for college athletes.”
The NCAA will hold Selection Sunday on March 14, and it scheduled the Final Four on April 3 and 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The tournament will be played at the following venues (Indiana teams will not be allowed to play at their own home sites):
- Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis) (two courts; one game at a time)
- Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)
- Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler)
- Indiana Farmers Coliseum (IUPUI)
- Mackey Arena (Purdue)
- Assembly Hall (Indiana University)
TBS, CBS, TNT, and truTV will broadcast the games.
To ensure player, coach, and staff safety, the NCAA will partner with local health officials to provide COVID-19 testing within what it’s calling a “controlled environment.”
That environment will include practices at the Indiana Convention Center. All 68 teams will stay at Marriott hotels with skywalk connections to the convention center.
Teams will be on “dedicated hotel floors” with restricted-access, physically-distanced gathering areas, and “secure transportation” to games.
“This is going to be complicated and difficult; there’s no question about that,” acknowledged NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt.
The NCAA will also work with local governments to promote a “Mask Madness” initiative that will include mask donations throughout Indiana.
March Madness betting impact depends on fan attendance
It remains unknown how much of a boon the NCAA’s decision will create for Indiana’s betting market.
Whether or not NCAA officials choose to permit fans at playing sites will determine that.
Officials have said they will decide by February whether to allow fans to purchase tickets for tournament games. Right now, only family members of players and coaches are allowed to attend.
That decision will rely heavily on the progress of Indiana’s COVID-19 situation.
The state has begun in earnest a vaccination process that recently started age-based administrations. Officials expect vaccinations to progress in coming weeks. That would increase the likelihood fans could attend games.
Still, nothing is guaranteed with a virus that is continuing to spread throughout the state.
Fans given the OK to attend, however, would certainly be a good thing for betting in Indiana.
Traveling from across the country to central Indiana, watching games at various sites, outside fans would undoubtedly generate a major betting boon for the state’s March figures.
A year later, it would represent a joyous turnaround from what was, in March 2020, a shell-shocked sports world and betting industry left without March Madness and American professional sports.
That said, March is likely to be a strong betting month in Indiana regardless of whether fans can attend games.
Indiana loves college basketball more than any other state. With a tournament in its backyard – likely filled with Big Ten teams, including IU and Purdue – Hoosiers won’t hesitate to pull out their phones and bet.
Who do books like to win the title in Indy?
Could this be the year Gonzaga finally breaks through and wins the national championship?
So far, sportsbooks have settled on the Zags – 10-0 and already with four wins against ranked opponents – as heavy favorites.
Here are the top-10 teams in terms of futures odds at DraftKings:
- Gonzaga: +350
- Villanova: +700
- Baylor: +800
- Wisconsin: +900
- Houston and Texas: +1100
- Illinois: +1200
- Iowa and Tennessee: +1300
- Kansas: +1400
It’s possible Gonzaga could become an even heavier favorite by March.
Much-revered KenPom has given Gonzaga a roughly 50% shot at finishing the regular season undefeated. Winners of 14 straight, 44 at home, and 22 in a row in West Coast Conference play, the program is certainly trending in that direction.
Most importantly, an undefeated season would guarantee the Zags the tournament’s number-one overall seed, and with it the easiest road to a national championship.
Of course, the tournament is one of American sports’ most unpredictable events, meaning bettors may find more futures values in teams running behind the Zags.
Interested in betting on a local team? IU right now has +4000 odds, while Purdue sits at +8000. Butler is at +10000.