A trio of Big Ten teams are in the AP Poll top 5, but only one team can win the conference tournament. #3 Michigan (16-1) at +225 odds and #4 Ohio State (18-5) at +300 odds are the favorites to win the Big Ten conference. Meanwhile, #5 Illinois (16-5) is also near the top of the Big Ten futures board at +450, according to DraftKings. Don’t forget about Luke Garza, the top player in the nation, who could lead #9 Iowa (17-6) at +450 odds to win the Big Ten conference tournament.
Can anyone else win the Big Ten this year, aside from the big dogs in the conference? After all, the top four teams in the Big Ten are all in the top 10 in the latest AP College Basketball Poll. Is there a Cinderella hiding out in the Midwest that’s ready to pull off a major upset to secure a spot in March Madness?
|Big Ten Conference Odds|
- Michigan +225
- Ohio State +300
- Iowa +430
- Illinois +450
- Wisconsin +800
- Purdue +1300
- Michigan State +4000
- Minnesota +4000
- Indiana +6000
- Northwestern +15000
- Maryland +10000
- Nebraska +10000
- Penn State +20000
It looks like seven Big Ten teams could earn spots in a 2021 March Madness bracket, including #23 Wisconsin (16-8), Purdue (15-8), and Maryland (14-10).
Teams like Indiana (12-11), Michigan State (12-9), and Minnesota (13-10) are stuck on the bubble and need a big boost in the Big Ten Conference tournament if they want to punch their ticket to March Madness.
Alphas: Wolverines, Buckeyes, Fighting Illini, Hawkeyes
Garza gets all the attention from the media, but don’t sleep on Ayo Dosunmu (21 ppg, 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists). The junior guard from Chicago will most likely be a lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Dosunmu has four 30-plus games this season, including a season-high 36 points against Missouri.
The beauty of college basketball is that, so long as a team has a superstar player, they’ll have a chance to make a deep run into March Madness. Larry Bird and Indiana State come to mind in 1979 when the underdogs took on Magic Johnson and Michigan State.
That’s why Garza (24. ppg, 8.5 rebounds) and Iowa are dangerous. If you can’t stop the best player in the country, Iowa will be tough to shake in the Big Ten tournament and in March Madness. Garza, a 6-foot-11 senior, could have gone pro last season, but he stuck around Iowa for another year, and is now their all-time leading scorer. The Garza factor is why Iowa is only +430 odds to win the Big Ten.
Betas: Badgers, Boilermakers, Terrapins
Wisconsin (16-8) started the season 10-2, but are just 6-6 since then, including five losses against ranked Big Ten teams. The Badgers have two solid seniors with big man Mica Potter (12.4 ppg, 6.2 rebounds) and D’Mitrik Trice (13.5 ppg), but there’s a big drop off after their names on the roster. You can back Wisconsin at +800 odds to win the Big Ten tournament.
Purdue (15-8) stumbled out of the gate with a 7-5 record, but went 8-3 since then. They won 10 games in conference action, including two victories over Ohio State. You know the Buckeyes don’t want to have to face Purdue for a third time this season because big man Trevion Williams (16 ppg, 9.1 rebounds) and the Boilermakers have their number. Purdue is currently +1300 odds to win the Big Ten.
Streaky Maryland has been on a rollercoaster ride all season. Right now, they’re on the upswing with four wins in a row. Maryland is led by a pair of junior guards, Aaron Wiggins (13.5 ppg) and Eric Ayala (14.6 ppg), who make up one of the toughest backcourts in the Big Ten.
Bubble: Gophers, Hoosiers, Spartans
Michigan State (12-9) is currently ranked #62 by KenPom. The Spartans pulled off a big upset over #5 Illinois this week, which proved they can hang with the big dogs. Hey, I wouldn’t want to face Tom Izzo in any type of tournament structure. Michigan State is one of those teams that busts early or goes super deep. That applies to both the Big Ten tournament and March Madness. You can back Michigan State at +4000 to win the Big Ten Conference, but they probably have the best chance to run the table out of the trio of bubble teams.
Indiana (12-11) had a decent start at 7-4 until they lost a double-overtime heartbreaker against Wisconsin (ranked #8 at the time) in early January. Since that loss, Indiana went 5-7 in conference play. Their biggest win this season included a 2-point victory against Iowa (ranked #8 at the time).
The Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-10) started out 9-1 and cracked the top 25 before the wheels fell off the bus. Since New Year’s Eve, Minnesota is 4-9. They recently were roadkill with a 31-point loss against #5 Illinois.
Long Shots: Wildcats, Nittany Lions, Cornhuskers
If you want to gamble on a Cinderella, then take a look at Northwestern. I know, it sounds crazy, but who wants to back a 6-14 team to win the Big Ten when the conference elites have three teams in the top 5 and four teams in the top 10.
Northwestern pulled off some big upsets this season against Indiana and Michigan State thanks to their 5 Out offense. Chris Collins is no Pat Fitzgerald, but he knew that the Wildcats are undersized and couldn’t compete with the big dogs in the Big Ten without utilizing a system that can level the playing field. Northwestern is the nerd school of the Big Ten, which is loaded with smart kids that like to play a hybrid of the Princeton offense mixed with an NBA-style 5 Out offense. Collins and Northwestern employ many philosophies from Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors during their NBA championship run two seasons ago.
You can back Northwestern at +15000 odds to win the Big Ten Conference tournament and punch their ticket to the big dance. They’ll probably bust in the first round, but they have the best chance at pulling off an upset compared to Nebraska (+10000) and Penn State (+20000).