Big 10 Tournament 2020: Schedule and Bracket Predictions for Conference Tourney

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 3, 2020

Maryland guard Anthony Cowan Jr. (1) drives to the basket against Michigan State guard Rocket Watts (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)
Terrance Williams/Associated Press

With the top six programs in the Big Ten standings separated by two games, the seeding possibilities for the Big Ten tournament are endless with one week left in the regular season. 

The Maryland Terrapins hold a one-game advantage over the Michigan State Spartans, Illinois Fighting Illini and Wisconsin Badgers, while the Penn State Nittany Lions and Iowa Hawkeyes sit two games back.

Finishing in the top four is important because those teams advance straight to the quarterfinal round that will be played March 13 in Indianapolis. 

Reaching the championship game will be more difficult for the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds, but it is not an impossible task, as the Michigan Wolverines proved in 2017 and 2018. 

Since the top six are bunched so close together, we will not have a clear idea of what the final bracket looks like until after Sunday's contests. 

                    

Big Ten Tournament Schedule

All times ET

Wednesday, March 11

No. 12 seed vs. No. 13 seed (6 p.m., Big Ten Network)

No. 11 seed vs. No. 14 seed (8:30 p.m., BTN)

      

Thursday, March 12

No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed (noon, BTN)

No. 5 seed vs. No. 12 vs. No. 13 winner (2:30 p.m., BTN)

No. 7 seed vs. No. 10 seed (6:30 p.m., BTN)

No. 6 seed vs. No. 11 vs. No. 14 winner (9 p.m., BTN) 

         

Friday, March 13

No. 1 seed vs. No. 8 vs. No. 9 winner (noon, BTN) 

No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 vs. No. 12/13 winner (2:30 p.m., BTN) 

No. 2 seed vs. No. 7 vs. No. 10 winner (6:30 p.m., BTN) 

No. 3 seed vs. No. 6 vs. No. 11/14 winner (9 p.m., BTN) 

           

Saturday, March 14

Semifinal No. 1 (1 p.m., CBS)

Semifinal No. 2 (3:30 p.m., CBS) 

       

Sunday, March 15

Championship (3:30 p.m., CBS) 

         

Bracket Predictions

1. Maryland

2. Wisconsin

3. Penn State

4. Iowa

5. Michigan State

6. Illinois 

7. Ohio State

8. Michigan 

9. Rutgers

10. Purdue

11. Indiana

12. Minnesota

13. Northwestern

14. Nebraska

The simplest bracket scenario features Maryland winning its final two games and avoiding any tiebreaker procedures. 

The Terps have struck a solid inside-outside balance between Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith, and they should be able to down the Rutgers and Michigan on Tuesday and Sunday, respectively. 

The Scarlet Knights suffered their first home loss to Michigan two weeks ago, and they won two of their eight games in February. 

Even though Maryland dropped two of its last three, it has enough to overpower the Knights, whose NCAA tournament hopes are shrinking by the loss.

Cowan, who scores 16.1 points per game, and Smith, who averages 15.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest, are tough for any opponent to handle, and they will be two of the main reasons why Mark Turgeon's team is successful in March.

If Maryland wins out, five teams have a chance to claim the No. 2 seed.

Wisconsin has the easiest path to a 14-6 conference mark, as it faces the Northwestern Wildcats and Indiana Hoosiers.

Michigan State and Penn State face off Tuesday at the latter's Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions won the first meeting in East Lansing. 

Iowa and Illinois meet on the final day of the regular season in a rematch of a game won by the Hawkeyes on February 2 at Carver Hawkeye Arena. 

Although the Ohio State Buckeyes are in seventh place with a 10-8 conference mark, they could make the biggest impact on conference tournament seeding, as they face Illinois on Thursday and Michigan State on Sunday. 

Chris Holtmann's squad has won three in a row and owns a 5-3 mark versus Top 25 teams, so even if it does not cause chaos in the next week, it could be a factor in the early rounds. 

COLUMBUS, OHIO - MARCH 01: Luther Muhammad #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after a play in the game against the Michigan Wolverines during the second half at Value City Arena on March 01, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The teams that do not earn a top four seed in the conference tournament will have to play a quartet of contests to earn the league's automatic bid. 

The opening rounds in Indianapolis will be important for the Indiana Hoosiers, Purdue Boilermakers and Rutgers to solidify their March Madness resumes. 

As of Monday, Indiana and Rutgers were among the last four byes, while Purdue was listed as one of the next four out by ESPN's Joe Lunardi

Each of those squads would likely face a Top 25 squad Thursday, and if they spring an upset there, would take on one of top four seeds Friday. 

The Big Ten tournament is no stranger to witnessing a deep run by a lower seed. In 2019, the Minnesota Golden Gophers reached the semifinals as a No. 7 seed and the Nebraska Cornhuskers won twice as a No. 13 seed. 

A similar thing happened in 2018, when 14th-seeded Rutgers won two games and seventh-seeded Penn State made a run to the semifinals before No. 5 Michigan won the tournament. 

In fact, the top two seeds did not play each other in the final over the last decade, which gives us yet another reason to believe the Big Ten tournament could be the most exciting one during championship week. 

Despite its recent struggles, Maryland is still the favorite to take the No. 1 seed, and if it wins the tournament, it could have an outside chance of earning a top seed in the NCAA tournament, but that would require a loss by either the San Diego State Aztecs or Gonzaga Bulldogs. 

No matter which way the Big Ten tournament plays out, the conference is expected to have the most representation on Selection Sunday come March 15. 

The final number of Big Ten programs entering March Madness will come down to the performance of the bubble teams Thursday and Friday. 

              

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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