Big Ten Tournament 2021: Semifinals Schedule, Live Stream, Bracket Predictions

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 13, 2021

Big Ten Tournament 2021: Semifinals Schedule, Live Stream, Bracket Predictions

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Four teams ranked in the top nine spots in the AP Top 25 poll. Two semifinal games. Two advance to the championship game.

    That's where the Big Ten tournament stands heading into Saturday's semifinals, which should provide thrilling action from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. First, No. 4 Michigan (the No. 1 seed in the tourney) will take on No. 9 Ohio State (No. 5 seed). Then, No. 3 Illinois (No. 2 seed) and No. 5 Iowa (No. 3 seed) will go head-to-head in the second semifinal tilt.

    One of these teams will win the Big Ten tournament championship on Sunday. And while that guarantees an automatic place in the NCAA tourney, it's already a given that all four of these teams will be heading to March Madness next week. Perhaps they'll even run into each other again down the line.

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    Before March Madness, though, we're going to get to watch three Big Ten tournament games over the next two days, and it's likely going to be an exciting finish to this competitive conference tourney. Here's a look at Saturday's semifinals schedule, along with predictions for both games.

Semifinals Schedule

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Saturday, March 13

    No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 5 Ohio State, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

    No. 2 Illinois vs. No. 3 Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

    Games can be streamed live on Paramount+.

Michigan over Ohio State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Michigan and Ohio State each had tough finishes to the regular season, but both have bounced back and have made it to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.

    As the No. 1 seed, the Wolverines didn't have to play in the conference tourney until the quarterfinals on Friday. But the four days off between games may have proved beneficial, as they pulled away for a 79-66 win over Maryland to advance to the semis. Michigan ended the regular season with two losses in three games.

    The Buckeyes had lost four straight games entering the Big Ten tournament, which led to them being the No. 5 seed, meaning they didn't get a double-bye into the quarterfinals. In the second round on Thursday, they beat Minnesota 79-75. Then, Ohio State pulled out an 87-78 overtime win over No. 4 seed Purdue in the quarterfinals on Friday.

    Michigan and Ohio State only met once during the regular season. The Wolverines won that matchup 92-87 on the Buckeyes' home court on Feb. 21. And that was the beginning of Ohio State's four-game losing skid.

    Like that previous contest, Michigan and Ohio State could put up a lot of points on Saturday. These are two of the top offensive teams in the Big Ten (the Buckeyes rank third in points per game, the Wolverines fourth), and they both shot better than 50 percent when going head-to-head.

    And like last time, Michigan is going to be just a bit better. Don't be surprised if it's because of the senior leadership of guard Mike Smith.

    In Friday's quarterfinal win over Maryland, Smith set season highs with 18 points and 15 assists. It was an impressive performance as he stepped up and made big plays after Wolverines coach Juwan Howard had been ejected midway through the second half after getting into a shouting match with Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon.

    Smith is playing at a high level, and Michigan is fired up. It will carry this momentum past Ohio State and into the Big Ten tournament championship game.

    Prediction: Michigan 88, Ohio State 82

Illinois over Iowa

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Illinois ranks second in the Big Ten in points per game (80.7), first in field-goal percentage (50) and third in three-point percentage (38.2). Iowa ranks first in points per game (85), third in field-goal percentage (47.4) and first in three-point percentage (39.6). So don't go into Saturday's semifinal matchup expecting a defensive battle.

    The Fighting Illini and Hawkeyes are capable of putting up a lot of points, and that's what they did in the lone regular-season meeting between the two teams on Jan. 29. Illinois won that matchup at home 80-75, which was part of a stretch in which it won 11 of 12 games to end the regular season.

    On Friday, the Fighting Illini kept rolling, cruising to a 90-68 win over Rutgers in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Junior guard Ayo Dosunmu led the way by scoring 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

    "In the postseason, it's definitely good to get off to a strong start," Dosunmu said, per Phillip B. Wilson of the Associated Press. "We were able to set a tone."

    The Hawkeyes weren't quite as dominant in their quarterfinal matchup against Wisconsin, a strong defensive team. Still, Iowa won 62-57 with senior center Luka Garza tallying 24 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. But will it be a match for red-hot Illinois and that tone the Fighting Illini set with their tourney-opening victory?

    It's going to be a competitive game, just as it was in the previous meeting between these teams. And it's possible that this matchup could go either way. Both teams have the potential to not only win this game but to go on to win the tournament championship.  

    However, Illinois is playing on a different level right now, and it's had no trouble taking down other top teams in recent games. The Fighting Illini will have to step up late against the Hawkeyes, but that's what they'll do, led by another strong performance from Dosunmu.

    Prediction: Illinois 84, Iowa 81