Big Ten basketball NCAA Tournament preview

SiriusXM Big Ten Radio (Ch. 372) takes a look at the nine teams from the conference that will take part in the NCAA Tournament.

Pete Pistone
March 16, 2021

Pete Pistone of SiriusXM Big Ten Radio takes a look at the nine teams from the conference that will take part in the NCAA Tournament. Start listening to SiriusXM Big Ten Radio (Ch. 372) on the SiriusXM app now.

  1. ILLINOIS @IlliniMBB

The Fighting Illini won the Big Ten Conference tournament to lock down an overall No. 1 seed. The return of Ayo Dosunmu brought Illinois back to full song, and even without their star player for a few games while he nursed a broken nose, the team was still potent. Kofi Cockburn and Andre Curbelo, the freshman who emerged late in the season, give coach Brad Underwood the best chance to get Illinois back to the national title game since they lost to North Carolina in 2005.

  1. MICHIGAN @umichbball

The conference has two No. 1 seeds for the first time since 2001, and Michigan weathered a late-season storm to secure the second one. The Wolverines offense revolves around freshman center Hunter Dickinson, but there are more than enough weapons for Juwan Howard’s team to make a deep run in the tournament. An injury to Isaiah Livers and a couple of stumbles by the team overall in the last few weeks have some doubting whether Michigan is built for the long haul.

  1. IOWA @IowaHoops

Head coach Fran McCaffery signed a contract extension this week to stay in Iowa City, and it comes during a season that might be Iowa’s best chance at getting to the Final Four. The Hawkeyes went on a 7-1 run to end the year with an Ohio State victory and sweep of Wisconsin in that mix. The incomparable Luka Garza will be a tough match-up for opponents, especially in the opening rounds. The two-seed Hawkeyes have a shot to fly high through March Madness.

  1. OHIO STATE @OhioStateHoops

The last six weeks have been a roller coaster ride for Ohio State. A four-game losing streak to end the regular season turned into the Buckeyes advancing to the Big Ten Tournament championship game against eventual champ Illinois. A key for Chris Holtmann is to find more consistent production from players not named E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington. Kyle Young has the potential to add that needed firepower.

  1. PURDUE @BoilerBall

The Boilermakers are a five-seed and an opponent not to be taken lightly. Matt Painter’s squad put a 6-1 stretch together to end the regular season and were a top-five offensive and defensive team in the conference. Trevion Williams and freshman Jaden Ivey are a fun pair to watch work together, with 7-foot-4 Zach Edey a foreboding presence in the middle.


The Badgers come into the tournament with a whimper, not a roar, after ending the season 2-6. Three losses to Iowa as well as dropping games to Illinois, Michigan, and Purdue were in that stretch, but it’s still not the kind of momentum Wisconsin was looking for at tourney time. This is a senior-led team, and the trio of D’Mitrik Price, Micah Potter, and Brad Davison will have to lead the way for the Badgers to have a successful run.

7.  RUTGERS @RutgersMBB

For the first time in 30 years, Rutgers is headed back to The Big Dance. It’s a great story that was derailed last year when the tournament plug was pulled, and now the Scarlet Knights can attack unfinished business. Geo Baker and Ron Harper will need to step up in a big way to help keep the story alive.

8.  MARYLAND @TerrapinHoops

The Terrapins made it into the tournament after surviving the gauntlet that was the Big Ten season. Maryland may benefit from playing teams outside the rugged conference, at least early in the going. Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala need to flex their muscles for that to happen.

9.  MICHIGAN STATE @MSU_Basketball

The streak remains alive, and Tom Izzo’s Spartans are in after much doubt over the challenging season. A remarkable streak of victories over Illinois, Ohio State, and Michigan down the stretch secured the berth and Izzo will again have a chance to coach on college basketball’s biggest stage.