Big 10 Tournament 2021: Predicting Bracket Before Sunday's Regular-Season Finale

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 7, 2021

Big 10 Tournament 2021: Predicting Bracket Before Sunday's Regular-Season Finale

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Although Michigan still has one regular-season game remaining, it's secured its seeding for the Big Ten tournament. The Wolverines won the conference's regular-season championship for the first time since 2014, and they will be the No. 1 seed for the tourney.

    However, with four Big Ten regular-season games still to take place Sunday, the bracket for the Big Ten tournament isn't set, and several teams still have an opportunity to improve their seeding before the tourney.

    The Big Ten tournament begins Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and will conclude with the championship game March 14. Last year's tournament was canceled after the first round because of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning No. 9 Michigan State is the defending champion.

    Here are predictions for what will happen in Sunday's regular-season finales and how the bracket will look for this year's Big Ten tournament.

Big 10 Tournament Seeding Predictions

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Sunday Predictions

    No. 5 Iowa over No. 25 Wisconsin.

    Northwestern over Nebraska.

    No. 2 Michigan over Michigan State.

    Maryland over Penn State.


    Predicted Big Ten Tournament Seeding After Sunday

    1. Michigan (15-2 conference record, .882 conference win percentage)

    2. Illinois (16-4, .800)

    3. Iowa (14-6, .700)

    4. Purdue (13-6, .684)

    5. Ohio State (12-8, .600)

    6. Wisconsin (10-10, .500)

    7. Maryland (10-10, .500)

    8. Rutgers (10-10, .500)

    9. Michigan State (8-12, .400)

    10. Indiana (7-12, .368)

    11. Penn State (6-13, .316)

    12. Northwestern (6-13, .316)

    13. Minnesota (6-14, .300)

    14. Nebraska (3-16, .158)

Michigan Wins Finale to Build Momentum for Tourney

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    If Michigan loses its regular-season finale at Michigan State on Sunday, it will still be the No. 1 seed for the Big Ten tournament. However, the Wolverines wouldn't be heading into the tourney with much momentum, so there's reason for them to be motivated to win this contest.

    After suffering only one loss in its first 19 games, Michigan lost to Illinois at home Tuesday, falling in a lopsided 76-53 affair. But the Wolverines bounced back with a 69-50 win over Michigan State on Thursday, and they will look to beat their in-state rival for the second straight game to end the regular season.

    This will be the last time that Michigan is in action until the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament Friday. What better way to build some momentum for the conference tourney then by notching one final impressive regular-season win?

    Expect the Wolverines to handily defeat the Spartans for the second time in four days. And after losing in the championship game of the Big Ten tournament in 2019 (after they won the tourney in both 2017 and 2018), they could be a difficult team to beat.

Iowa Secures No. 3 Seed with Victory

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Iowa has already secured a double bye for the Big Ten tournament, meaning it will play its first game of the tourney in Friday's quarterfinals. However, the Hawkeyes could be either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed depending on what happens in their regular-season finale against Wisconsin on Sunday.

    After enduring some midseason struggles, Iowa has been playing well of late, winning six of its past seven games. That stretch includes a 77-62 win at Wisconsin on Feb. 18. If the Hawkeyes can beat the Badgers again, they will be the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten tournament. If they lose, they will fall to No. 4 and Purdue will be the No. 3 seed.

    Not only is Iowa leading the Big Ten in points per game (85.3) and three-point percentage (39.9), but it's also averaging a conference-best 40.6 rebounds per game. So even if the Hawkeyes aren't knocking down their outside shots, they can get numerous field-goal attempts on a possession with their strong ability to control the boards.

    It's a formula that led to Iowa's convincing win over Wisconsin in February, and it should be successful again Sunday. The Hawkeyes are a hot team that could be building momentum at the right time.

Maryland, Northwestern Improve Seeding in Finales

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Maryland will play its first game of the Big Ten tournament in Thursday's second round, while Northwestern will have to play a first-round contest Wednesday. That's not going to change no matter what happens Sunday.

    However, the Terrapins and Wildcats can both improve their seeding with wins Sunday, and it's always nice to end the regular season with a victory to go into the conference tournament on a strong note.

    After having its five-game winning streak snapped by Northwestern on Wednesday, Maryland will bounce back with a home victory over Penn State. And with Wisconsin losing to Iowa, it will cause a three-way tie in the middle of the conference standings between Maryland, Wisconsin and Rutgers. The Terps will be in the middle of that tiebreaker, making them the No. 7 seed for the Big Ten tourney.

    Northwestern is 13th in the Big Ten standings, but it can move up a spot with a win Nebraska (which is in last place). The Wildcats lost their first 13 conference games of the season before notching wins over Minnesota and Maryland in their past two games, so they are establishing some late momentum.

    Although Maryland and Northwestern may be lower seeds, both teams are playing well entering the tournament and could keep building momentum with wins Sunday.