Big Ten Tournament 2021: Indianapolis Schedule, Bracket, Storylines to Watch

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistMarch 8, 2021

Michigan celebrates after winning the Big Ten title with a victory over Michigan State in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

A year after Michigan's basketball team was pulled off the court ahead of their scheduled game against Rutgers after the Big Ten Tournament was canceled in its second day of games due to COVID-19, the men's college basketball postseason is once again poised to tip off.

This time, it would be nice to get through even the entire Big Ten Tournament; time and COVID-19 protocols will tell if we're able to make it through all of March Madness to crown a champion for 2021. 

COVID-19, of course, still continues to impact this year's tournament. For one thing, it was moved from the United Center in Chicago to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in the interest of more centralized testing and efficient protocols, the Big Ten announced in February. The tournament is set to return to Chicago in 2023. 

Because the 2020 tournament was canceled, 2019 champion Michigan State are the reigning champs heading into this year's big dance. This year, Michigan went 19-3 overall (14-3 in the Big Ten) to secure the title for the 15th time and its first regular-season championship since the 2013-14 season.

The top four seeds (No. 1 Michigan, No. 2 Illinois, No. 3 Iowa and No. 4 Purdue) will get two byes into the quarterfinals. Seeds this year were determined by winning percentage in Big Ten games, since not all teams played the full 20-game schedule.

The Big Ten Network will air the first 10 games of the tournament through the quarterfinals, with the semifinals and the final to be broadcast on CBS. All BTN on-air games can be streamed online and through the FOX Sports App; the CBS Sports broadcasts can be streamed live on Paramount+.

Let's take a look at the schedule for the upcoming tournament to determine this year's Big Ten Conference champion, as well as storylines to follow throughout the action. 


Big Ten Tournament 2021 Schedule

Wednesday, March 10

First Round

6:30 p.m. ET: No. 12 Northwestern vs. No. 13 Minnesota (Big Ten Network)

25 minutes after Game 1: No. 11 Penn State vs. No. 14 Nebraska (Big Ten Network)


Thursday, March 11

Second Round

11:30 a.m. ET: No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 9 Michigan State (Big Ten Network)

25 minutes after Game 1: No. 5 Ohio State vs. winner of Minnesota/Northwestern (Big Ten Network)

6:30 p.m. ET: No. 7 Rutgers vs. No. 10 Indiana (Big Ten Network)

25 minutes after Game 3: No. 6 Wisconsin vs. winner of Penn State/Nebraska (Big Ten Network)


Friday, March 12


11:30 a.m. ET: No. 1 Michigan vs. winner of Maryland/Michigan State (Big Ten Network)

25 minutes after Game 1: No. 4 Purdue vs. Ohio State/Northwestern/Minnesota (Big Ten Network)

6:30 p.m. ET: No. 2 Illinois vs. winner of Rutgers/Indiana (Big Ten Network)

25 minutes after Game 3: No. 3 Iowa vs. Wisconsin/Penn State/Nebraska (Big Ten Network)


Saturday, March 13


1 p.m. ET: Friday afternoon winners (CBS)

25 minutes after Game 1: Friday evening winners (CBS)


Sunday, March 14


3:30 p.m. ET: Saturday winners (CBS)


Big Ten Tournament Seeding

1. Michigan

2. Illinois

3. Iowa

4. Purdue

5. Ohio State

6. Wisconsin

7. Rutgers

8. Maryland

9. Michigan State

10. Indiana

11. Penn State

12. Northwestern

13. Minnesota

14. Nebraska


Given its double-bye by virtue of its No. 1 seed, Michigan kicks off tournament play at 11:30 a.m. ET on Friday, March 12, against the winner of the matchup between No. 8 Maryland and No. 9 Michigan State.

If Michigan State defeats Maryland, it will set up a third meeting between Michigan and Michigan State in a nine-day period. 

Michigan had a higher winning percentage in Big Ten games than Illinois (20-6, 16-4), but it would be foolish to sleep on the Illini. Illinois' No. 2 seed in the tournament is its highest since 2009, when it also earned the second seed. Illinois set a new mark this season with 16 conference wins, the most in program history. 

Illinois will face the winner of No. 7 Rutgers vs. No. 10 Indiana on Friday. 

This year marks the highest seed No. 3 Iowa (20-7, 14-6) has earned in the Big Ten Tournament since clinching the No. 2 seed in 2006. That was the year the Hawkeyes defeated Ohio State 67-60 to win their second-ever Big Ten Tournament championship. 

No. 4 Purdue earns a top-four seed for the sixth time in the last seven years. The Boilermakers, who begin play on Friday, are enjoying a Big Ten-best five-game win streak heading into the postseason.

The Big Ten championship final will be Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET, and the NCAA tournament selection show will air afterwards.