Photo courtesy of The Daily Hoosier
The 2020-21 season has proved challenging for every school in the country, but the schools of the Big Ten can argue they’ve been among the most impacted. Between the lack of fans and the near month-long hiatus of the top-seeded Michigan Wolverines, this year has been anything but ordinary.
With the best time of the year moving into it’s final form, the best conference in basketball looks to crown a champion. Nine of the fourteen teams are projected to make the big dance, and an impressive run from Indiana could land a tenth. As well as that, four teams within this conference have a legitimate chance at this year’s National Championship, so what does the Big Ten Tournament have in store for basketball fans?
Wednesday March 10th
- (8) Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. (13) Northwestern Wildcats | 6:30 PM ET
In my eyes this game comes down to a “what have you done for me lately” situation. Northwestern won the final three games of their season after a rocky start while Minnesota lost their final seven. That doesn’t mean that this game is unwinnable for the Gophers, but with the Cats taking the only head to head matchup of the season it makes it tough to not take Chris Colins’ Northwestern team in this one.
- (11) Penn State Nittany Lions vs. (14) Nebraska Cornhuskers | 9:00 PM ET
This game is one that I think will be closer than many are expecting. Despite being the 11 seed, Penn State has been fairly solid this season and the duo of Seth Lundy and Myreon Jones is as dynamic as you’ll find. The reason this game won’t be the blowout that face value would make it out to be, however, is that these teams have already met twice. These meetings were split one-a-piece, and the series point differential was just 2 in favor of the Nittany Lions. I still think Penn State comes away with a win here, but wouldn’t be shocked to see a good fight from the Huskers
Thursday March 11th
- (8) Maryland Terrapins vs. (9) Michigan State Spartans | 11:30 AM ET
This game looks to be one of the more interesting predetermined matchups in the tournament. By interesting, in this case, I mean it could just as easily be a blowout as a Triple-OT Thriller. The only matchup between the two went to the Terps in a blowout, but that was followed up by consecutive losses to Northwestern and Penn State. Rocket Watts has been electric through the final stretch of the regular season, and I think he’s able to channel that into a win Thursday morning.
- (5) Ohio State Buckeyes vs. *(13) Northwestern Wildcats* | 1:00 PM ET
This is the game that Ohio State needs to snap their skid. Losing the last five games heading into March Madness would be catastrophic. The Buckeyes will presumably be looking for payback every step of the way in this one, and that starts with the Wildcats of Northwestern. EJ Liddell will be the key to Ohio State winning or losing this game. If he plays well, it’s a win, if not a loss. If him and Duane Washington both have a good game then it could get ugly. Bucks advance.
- (7) Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. (10) Indina Hoosiers | 6:30 PM ET
This my first real upset pick of the tournament, and it’s almost entirely due to Trace Jackson-Davis. Jackson-Davis being fantastic and Archie Miller coaching for his job is a recipe for success in my eyes. With Rutgers likely in the tournament no matter what, the more motivated team wins this one, Hoosiers.
- (6) Wisconsin Badgers vs. *(11) Penn State Nittany Lions* | 9:00 PM ET
The Badgers are better than the Nittany Lions, point set and match. Penn State was able to catch them early on in the season, but Wisconsin has essentially taken care of business against teams with less talent. They will keep that trend Thursday night.
Friday March 12th
- (1) Michigan Wolverines vs. *(9) Michigan State Spartans* | 11:30 AM ET
The Spartans blew out the Wolverines in their regular season finale, buuuttttttt, that was a meaningless game for Michigan. It did however, likely secure Sparty a spot in the tournament should they beat Maryland. With that being said, Hunter Dickinson is elite and Michigan is coasting into the semis.
- (4) Purdue Boilermakers vs. *(5) Ohio State Buckeyes* | 1:00 PM ET
The Boilermakers swept the Buckeyes in their season series, and Chris Holtmann’s team will be looking at this game with some intent to dominate. Not only would this win likely secure a 2-seed for Ohio State, it would open up a path to rematch that team up north in the semifinal, and I think that the Washington/Liddell combo will be too much to handle.
- (2) Illinois Fighting Illini vs. *(10) Indiana Hoosiers* | 6:30 PM ET
Trace Jackson-Davis is a very good basketball player, but Illinois has too much talent for him to keep this one close. Sorry Indiana, but the Illini are moving on with ease.
- (3) Iowa Hawkeyes vs. *(6) Wisconsin Badgers* | 9:00 PM ET
In a rematch of their regular season finale, both teams have a fair bit to prove. Iowa have battled back from a slow start, and want to clear the air about their controversial win last Sunday. Wisconsin came in as a title favorite, and have a fair argument that they should’ve been the victor in that game. I think that the offensive firepower of the Hawkeyes will shine through in this one, and Iowa will advance in a close one.
Saturday March 13th
- *(1) Michigan Wolverines* vs. *(5) Ohio State Buckeyes* | 1:00 PM ET
The Game. Didn’t happen in football this season so we may as well get it twice for basketball. The first matchup between these two was a game of the year candidate, and this one won’t be anything less. I think Holtmann and the Buckeyes will have a plan to minimize Hunter Dickinson, and the likelihood of another 11 made threes in a half seems to be low. Duane Washington will explode for 25+ and Zed Key, Kyle Young, and EJ Liddell will handle the low block.
- *(2) Illinois Fighting Illini* vs. *(3) Iowa Hawkeyes* | 2:30 PM ET
These have been arguably the two best teams over the entirety of the season, and it will also be my second favorite matchup of the weekend. The most physical team vs. the most offensively gifted team, and I can’t wait to see this. We’ve seen Illinois struggle a tad down the stretch, and without an equal tune-up to what Wisconsin will be may wind up hurting the Illini. The firepower will overpower, and Iowa will meet the Buckeyes in the Final.
Sunday March 14th
- (5) Ohio State Buckeyes vs. (3) Iowa Hawkeyes | 3:30 PM ET
The final. We’ve seen this game twice, and gotten 2 vastly different games. The first a blowout for the Buckeyes, and the second a complete reversal. This game will be a shootout that comes down to the last possession, and I think it will come down to depth. If, and only if, the Buckeyes play their best game then nobody in the country could beat them. I think they’re able to do just that on the road to a title and a 1-seed. Buckeyes 86, Iowa 83
Champion: Ohio State Buckeyes
Tournament MVP: Duane Washington