Big Ten Tournament 2021: Schedule and Conference Bracket Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 4, 2021

Illinois guard Adam Miller reacts to a basket against Michigan in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The Illinois Fighting Illini delivered a statement win in Big Ten play on Tuesday, but they are still expected to finish behind the Michigan Wolverines in the conference standings. 

With Michigan and Illinois projected to be on different sides of the Big Ten tournament bracket, we could witness a showdown on Selection Sunday with Ayo Dosunmu potentially available for the Fighting Illini. 

The 21-year-old's presence in Indianapolis could change the complexion of the tournament, as it would make his team the possible favorite to win the competition. 

Beneath Michigan and Illinois, there is plenty left to play for in terms of seeding, as the teams in third, fourth and fifth are separated by a half-game in conference record, and the next four have less than two games between them. 

The Purdue Boilermakers are the hottest team in that collection of programs, and their current run could turn into postseason success in their home state. 


Big Ten Tournament Schedule

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)


Bracket Predictions

Illinois' Results Land No. 1 Seed In NCAA Tournament

Jim Mone/Associated Press

Illinois' win over Michigan put it in front of the pack for the fourth No. 1 seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. 

The Gonzaga Bulldogs and Baylor Bears should join Michigan on the top seed line, but the recent losses for the Ohio State Buckeyes have opened up the fourth No. 1 seed to a handful of teams. 

Illinois entered Monday as the No. 4 team in the AP Top 25, and it now has wins over four of the other five teams in the top six of the Big Ten. 

Brad Underwood's team can move that total to five if it takes care of Ohio State in its regular-season finale on Saturday. 

Illinois was always going to be a dangerous team this month, but its potential to make a deep run in March was dented without Dosunmu on the floor. 

If the star guard returns for the Big Ten tournament, the Illini could reel off a few games to solidify a position on the top seed line. Underwood listed Dosunmu as day-to-day due to a facial injury he suffered against the Michigan State Spartans, per Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune. 

With Dosunmu on the hardwood, Illinois has one of the best inside-outside duos in the country with him and Kofi Cockburn. They both average over 17 points per game, and the center is close to averaging a double-double at 9.8 rebounds per game. 

If the supporting cast, led by Trent Frazier, shows up in the same way it did against Michigan, they could propel the Illini to even greater heights. 

Frazier produced 22 points in the triumph in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while Andre Curbelo chipped in 17 points. 

Frazier and Curbelo do not have to score at that high of a rate when Dosunmu returns, but if they add at least 10-12 points each game, Illinois could have one of the more unstoppable offenses in March. 

At the moment, the Iowa Hawkeyes and Wisconsin Badgers would be on Illinois' side of the Big Ten bracket. The Illini beat both teams by five points and can negate their paint presences with Cockburn. 

If they beat Ohio State on Saturday and then add another ranked win or two in Indianapolis, the Illini should fill out the final spot on the No. 1 seed line.


Purdue Extends Hot Run Into Indianapolis

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Purdue possesses the longest winning streak in the Big Ten at four games. 

In fact, Matt Painter's team is 10-3 since January 8, and its only defeats have come at home to Michigan and on the road against the Maryland Terrapins and Minnesota Golden Gophers. Maryland should be in the field of 68, while Minnesota was a bubble contender until a week ago. 

Purdue's best victory of its latest stretch occurred on Tuesday against Wisconsin, when 7'4" center Zach Edey earned 21 points and seven rebounds. 

Edey, who averages 8.6 points per game, has four double-digit performances in his last six games and has been able to stay out of foul trouble for most of conference play. He has committed four fouls once since January 1. 

The hard-to-guard center and freshman guard Jaden Ivey, who has four straight double-digit point games, have provided Purdue with more scoring depth of late. 

In addition to getting hot at the right time, Purdue will have some of the smallest travel time of any Big Ten tournament and March Madness participants since both competitions are happening in Indiana. 

If Purdue remains in its comfort zone, it could be a finalist in the Big Ten tournament and could improve its NCAA tournament seeding if a few of those wins are over Top 25 teams. 

Painter guided Purdue to two Big Ten tournament finals in the last four seasons in which it was held, and he led the program to three straight Sweet 16 appearances from 2017-19.

With some red-hot scorers and a coach who knows how to win in March, Purdue could end up as a popular pick to make noise in the coming weeks. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.