Big Ten Tournament 2021: Schedule and Bracket Predictions for Conference TourneyMarch 2, 2021
The Big Ten men's basketball tournament should be the most exciting conference tournament in Division I.
Four of the top 10 teams in the AP Top 25 reside at the top of the conference, and it has the potential to produce a pair of No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.
Over the last few weeks, the contests between those teams have delivered some of the best games of the regular season.
If no upsets occur, the Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State Buckeyes, Illinois Fighting Illini and Iowa Hawkeyes could feature in a semifinal round worthy of a Final Four.
However, the Michigan State Spartans and Indiana Hoosiers could break up the Big Ten hierarchy by winning games that get them into the NCAA tournament.
According to ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi, Michigan State and Indiana reside on the "first four out" line and need to do work in the next week-and-a-half to join eight other Big Ten squads projected to be in the Big Dance.
All Times ET
First Round: Wednesday, March 10 (6:30 p.m., 9 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Second Round: Thursday, March 11 (sessions start at 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Quarterfinals: Friday, March 12 (sessions start at 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Semifinals: Saturday, March 13 (1 p.m., 25 minutes following first game, CBS)
Final: Sunday, March 14 (3:30 p.m., CBS)
Iowa Earns Rematch with Michigan in Final
Iowa just finished an up-and-down week in which it lost to Michigan by 22 points and beat Ohio State by 16 points.
The Hawkeyes could be viewed as the top threat to Michigan's run to the Big Ten tournament crown since the Buckeyes are on a three-game losing streak.
Iowa has the best scoring offense in the Big Ten, ranking fifth in Division I at 84.7 points per game, and its defense has gotten better over the last few weeks.
Since February 10, the Hawkeyes held every opponent in their five victories under 70 points. Michigan was the only team to eclipse that mark in the 79-57 triumph in Ann Arbor. Prior to that stretch, Iowa allowed eight opponents to score more than 70 points over 13 victories.
If Iowa's offense continues to thrive and its defense gets better, it could be on a collision course with U-M to square off in the championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Michigan controlled that Feb. 25 meeting by containing National Player of the Year favorite Luka Garza with freshman star Hunter Dickinson and by outshooting the Hawkeyes. Garza was limited to 16 points and four rebounds; he is averaging 24.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
The Wolverines shot 47.1 percent from three-point range compared to Iowa's 31.6 percent and erupted for a 47-point second half. Iowa is third in Division I in three-point percentage; Michigan is 11th.
If the Hawkeyes adjust in those two facets of the game, they could earn their best victory of the season right before the NCAA tournament begins or at least make the matchup much closer than the first affair.
Michigan State Makes Deeper Run than Indiana
Michigan State and Indiana will be compared to each other on a constant basis ahead of Selection Sunday.
Both teams need to put together a string of decent results in the next week-and-a-half to feel secure about their positions in the field of 68.
The two sides play Tuesday in East Lansing, but the games that will determine their Big Ten tournament seeding happen later in the week. Michigan State has to play Michigan on Thursday and Sunday (at home), while Indiana finishes the regular-season against the Purdue Boilermakers.
If the Spartans fail to beat Michigan twice, they could slip out of ninth place. While that may not be an entirely good thing, it would help the Spartans avoid another meeting with the Wolverines in Indianapolis.
In that case, Tom Izzo's team could catch some of the struggling Big Ten teams as the No. 10 or No. 11 seed in the bracket.
Illinois is currently short-handed with Ayo Dosunmu out with a facial injury, Ohio State is struggling, and the Wisconsin Badgers have lost three of their last four.
If two of those teams are aligned with the Spartans, it could present a much more favorable matchup, giving Michigan State another chance or two to earn a quality win.
If Indiana ends up as the No. 9 seed through a win over Michigan State, it could end up on Michigan's side of the bracket and have to face the Wolverines in the quarters.
Even if Michigan State beats Indiana, there is a situation in which it could fall back to the No. 10 or 11 seed since it has the two intrastate games after Tuesday.
Of course, Michigan State should want to win each of its remaining games, but losses to Michigan may not be the worst thing to set it up for a better Big Ten tournament run.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.