The Big Ten was widely regarded as a top-two league this year. At one point, it appeared they were on pace for 11 of the 14 conference teams to make it to March Madness. That ship has sailed, but they still have nine really solid teams. Now that the regular season has ended, it is time for the Big Ten tournament.
2020-21 Big Ten Tournament Predictions
Round One- Wednesday, March 10
No. 12 Northwestern Wildcats vs. No. 13 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota was looking like an NCAA Tournament lock in early January and then lost 10 of their next 12 including their last seven. They have plenty of talent but it just has not produced wins at any point. It now seems that Richard Pitino is going to be on his way out and Minnesota is in a world of trouble.
Northwestern started the year 3-0 in the Big Ten and was ranked but then lost 11 straight and will be missing the tournament. One thing that the Wildcats have is effort. They play hard in every single game and that is why they are always close to winning. That effort will get them over the hump here and send Minnesota home.
No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions vs. No. 14 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska started to win some games down the stretch and has played really hard. They just are not that talented. That talent is even worse as their star player, Teddy Allen, has left the program. They will compete but it will not look pretty.
Penn State is coming off a huge win at Maryland. They have been struggling all year after the firing of Pat Chambers from a bad situation, but they definitely have the talent and can compete with some of the Big Ten’s best. The Nittany Lions win this one.
Round Two- Thursday, March 11
No. 8 Maryland Terrapins vs. No. 9 Michigan State Spartans
Maryland is known for its inability to win games down the stretch. Mark Turgeon has a terrible record in Big Ten tournament play. The Terps have not won a Big Ten tournament game in five years. They also play to their level of competition which is a blessing and a curse. However, one thing that is synonymous with Maryland is offensive ineptitude. That is coming from a Maryland alum.
Michigan State finished the Big Ten regular-season schedule with a great win over Michigan. They are rolling into tournament play and need to solidify their spot in the Big Dance. They did just lose to Maryland in a game that was not competitive. However, they will turn the tides here and extend the losing streak for the Terrapins.
No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 12 Northwestern Wildcats
Ohio State is probably the best five seed of all time. They are loaded with talent and have matchup nightmares all over the court. The Buckeyes will have to play well here but they should win. EJ Liddell is a legitimate All-American and the supporting cast is good enough to get to a Final Four.
No. 7 Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. No. 10 Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana is another team that struggled down the stretch and played their way out of the NCAA Tournament. They lost six of their last seven with the only win coming against Minnesota. Trayce Jackson-Davis is an All-American as well but he has gotten almost nothing from his guards. Archie Miller’s tenure may be coming to an end as well.
Rutgers stamped their place in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in an eternity. They are on cloud nine but they will be playing hard for sure. They are a really tough defensive team with microwave-type scorers on the other end. That combination is conducive to victories against Indiana. They sneak this game out from a desperate Hoosiers squad.
No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions
Wisconsin is a veteran team that wins games heading to March Madness typically. This year will be no different. The experienced cast surrounding D’Mitrik Trice will be more than enough to knock off the Nittany Lions. They need to use this game to get hot shooting and help their bigs find their footing again. A preseason top-five team should not be struggling this bad with this much experience.
Quarterfinals- Friday, March 12
No. 1 Michigan Wolverines vs No. 9 Michigan State Spartans
This game will be a rematch from Sunday. In that game, Michigan State got huge performances out of their guards and dominated on the defensive end. Michigan was never able to find their stride and the Spartans looked like the better team.
This time around, it will be different. The Wolverines will come into this game locked and loaded and play much better. Expect a much better game out of Hunter Dickinson and a more effective game plan. The Spartans are still going dancing though thanks to that last win.
No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers
The Boilermakers are probably the most surprising team in the Big Ten. That is a mistake by us for not realizing Matt Painter would get his team to figure it out as always. They are young but super skilled and will be a top-10 team next year. Purdue is huge and will cause a lot of problems with their frontcourt.
Ohio State is going to struggle to defend the bigs from Purdue but they are more skilled all around. I expect the Buckeyes to use this tournament to start rolling for the Big Dance. Liddell is a matchup nightmare for any of Purdue’s bigs and that will carry the Buckeyes to a win here.
No. 2 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. No. 7 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers is running into the buzz saw that is the Illinois Fighting Illini. Illinois has won three straight road games against Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State. Not too shabby, especially without Ayo Dosunmu for two of them.
The Scarlet Knights are really tough but just not as good as Illinois. Dosunmu and crew score the ball at will and have been nearly perfect the last two weeks. The most important thing for Illinois is the success of the supporting cast and they stepped up in a monstrous way when Dosunmu was sidelined. Illinois steals this one.
No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers
This will be another rematch from Sunday’s games. Iowa won that game 77-73 sending Luka Garza out on a high note for senior night. The bad news for Iowa is their second-best player, Joe Wieskamp, suffered a lower leg injury in that game and will likely miss this rematch. He is a key contributor for that offense when it starts to stall.
Wisconsin makes you earn everything offensively. While Iowa did sneak out the win last week, Wisconsin outplayed Iowa after the Wieskamp injury. They are not nearly as good as the Hawkeyes but they will win a really close, lower-scoring game here. Expect a huge game out of Trice to carry his Badgers team to a win.
Semifinals- Saturday, March 13
No. 1 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes
Michigan won the last matchup by five points with huge performances by everyone. They made 11 threes including 10 in the first half and that set the tone for the rest of the game. Ohio State also made 11 threes and was very competitive. The issue for the Buckeyes was guard play. The Wolverine guards absolutely dominated the game and controlled every aspect.
This time around, the Buckeyes will respond. Justice Sueing will have a much better game and the Buckeyes hang on to win it. Expect another high-scoring affair that will be appointment television.
No. 2 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers
Illinois is going to roll in this game. Wisconsin will play hard and be tough to beat but Illinois is the hottest team in the country. On any given night, there are five different Illini that can have 20-point games. That is something not many teams can say.
If the Badgers shoot the lights out they can keep this game competitive but I do not believe they can score with the Illini. Brad Underwood gets his team ready and advances to the Big Ten championship game.
Finals- Saturday, March 14
No. 2 Illinois Fighting Illini vs No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes
The five seed versus the two seed. The Buckeyes are going to rely on Liddell and Duane Washington to outplay the Illini duo of Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. The two teams split the season series with the stars playing like superstars on both occasions.
The big difference-maker will be Andre Curbelo. The freshman guard has been outstanding of late and had a huge game in the last matchup with the Buckeyes. Curbelo added 19 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds in that game and looked like a superstar. He will be a name to remember moving forward. He will also be the difference-maker in this game as the Fighting Illini continue their huge winning streak. Even though the number one seed is already locked up for Illinois, they add a Big Ten conference championship to the resume.
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