Big Ten Tournament 2021: Round 1 Schedule, Live-Stream Info, Bracket Predictions

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 10, 2021

Big Ten Tournament 2021: Round 1 Schedule, Live-Stream Info, Bracket Predictions

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The Big Ten has been one of the most competitive conferences during the 2020-21 men's college basketball season. With five teams ranked in the AP Top 25 poll (including four in the top nine), there are several programs that could be poised to have strong showings during March Madness.

    Before the NCAA tournament arrives, though, the 14 Big Ten teams will battle it out in the conference tournament, which is set to begin Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

    There will be two games on the opening day of the tourney featuring the four teams that finished at the bottom of the Big Ten regular-season standings.

    For Penn State, Northwestern, Minnesota and Nebraska, it would take five victories to win the conference tournament and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney. And while it's unlikely any of those teams will knock off the favorites, anything is possible in March.

    Here's the schedule for the first round of the Big Ten tournament, along with predictions for both games.

Round 1 Schedule

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Wednesday, March 10

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

    No. 11 Penn State vs. No. 14 Nebraska, 25 minutes after previous game, Big Ten Network

    Games can be live-streamed on Big Ten Network+ via the Fox Sports app.

Northwestern over Minnesota

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    After a 6-1 start to the season (which included a trio of conference victories), Northwestern lost 13 straight games, a losing skid that extended into late February. However, the Wildcats fared better over the last two weeks of the regular season, winning three successive games heading into the Big Ten tournament.

    The first of those three victories was a 67-59 win at Minnesota on Feb. 25, the lone meeting between the two teams during the regular season. And now, the Wildcats will be looking for similar success against the Golden Gophers in the opening game of the Big Ten tournament.

    Minnesota struggled down the stretch after opening the season with 13 wins in its first 20 games. After that, it lost seven straight games to end the regular season, finishing with a 13-14 record and a 6-14 mark in conference play.

    All 13 of Minnesota's wins this season have come on its home court, as it has an 0-10 record on the road. That could spell trouble for the Golden Gophers on Wednesday, when they'll be looking to take down Northwestern on a neutral court in Indianapolis.

    One of the biggest differences between Northwestern and Minnesota this season has been the teams' efficiencies from three-point range. The Wildcats ranked sixth in the Big Ten by shooting 35.6 percent from behind the arc, while the Golden Gophers shot a conference-worst 28.6 percent from long range.

    When these two teams met during the regular season, Northwestern held Minnesota to 4-for-27 shooting from three-point range. Meanwhile, the Wildcats went 22-for-27 at the free-throw line to help them pull away late.

    Although Minnesota could play a close game again this time (especially if it has a better shooting performance), Northwestern's momentum is going to prove to be the difference.

    Expect the Wildcats to carry over their success from the end of the regular season to down the Golden Gophers and advance to the second round.

Penn State over Nebraska

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Over the past month, Penn State and Nebraska have faced off twice. On Feb. 14, the Cornhuskers went on the road and notched a 62-61 win. However, the Nittany Lions avenged that loss with a road win of their own, beating Nebraska 86-83 nine days later.

    Now, the two teams are set to go head-to-head for a third time in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament. But Penn State and Nebraska ended the regular season in much different fashions.

    The Nittany Lions have played well of late, winning three of their past four games, a stretch that began with their win over Nebraska. They ended the regular season with a 66-61 road win over Maryland, and they'll be looking to carry that momentum over into tournament play.

    After beating Penn State, the Cornhuskers went on to lose seven of their last nine regular-season games. They've lost their last two contests, including a 79-78 defeat at Northwestern on Sunday.

    One of the Nittany Lions' biggest strengths has been their defensive play, as they led the Big Ten in both steals (7.96) and forced turnovers (14.1) per game during the regular season. So it may be tough for the Cornhuskers to get their offense going in this matchup, especially considering Penn State has held its past two opponents to 65 or less points.

    Although Nebraska beat Penn State once during the regular season, it's unlikely to happen again. The Cornhuskers went 3-16 during conference play, as they've mostly struggled when going up against other Big Ten teams.

    Penn State will pull away late for a sizable win over Nebraska, continuing its recent stretch of strong play and advancing to the second round of the conference tournament.