March Madness doesn’t just refer to the NCAA Tournament. The phrase also has special meaning for the conference championships with an automatic bid to the Dance on the line. With five teams posting at least 18 wins during the regular season the Big Ten is the most competitive league in the country. And the teams are good because the players make them good. An assortment of future NBAers and potential player of the year candidates will do battle when the Big Ten tournament gets underway from Indianapolis on Wednesday. The Michigan Wolverines have won two of the last three titles and are the betting favorite after going 19-3 during the season. Bookmaker.eu offers a generous CASH welcome bonus (max bonus $1600).
Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament
Date and Time: March 10-14, 2021
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
Opening College Basketball Odds: Michigan +205
Big Ten Tournament TV Coverage: BTN, CBS
There is a battle at the top of odds board with five teams boasting shorter than 10/1 odds. That tells us that oddsmakers have no idea who’s going to win. Of course nobody can predict the outcome of sporting events, but sportsbooks routinely get it right, which is why they are in business I suppose. The chaos at the top sets up plenty of betting scenarios with teams like Michigan State and Purdue very much in the mix despite their lofty price. That only makes them more appealing. Michigan played like a top team in the country most of the season winning their first 11 games and taking an 18-1 ledger into the final week of the regular season. I’d be more keen on Michigan had they not lost two of their final three games. Still 19-3 isn’t too shabby and it’s enough to put UM as the +205 favorite.
Ohio State +685
Michigan State +1250
Penn State +13500
Throw a dart at the top six teams and wherever it lands is a good pick to win the tournament. Michigan claimed the top seed by going 14-3 in league play, though members of the Illinois Fighting Illini felt they had a case for the top spot by winning two more games against conference foes. And Illinois embarrassed the Wolverines 76-53 during the final week of the regular season. Michigan could have more problems with the potential loss of Eli Brooks. One of the team’s leaders, Brooks hobbled off the court in UM’s last game. There have been no updates on his condition which is concerning itself. Brooks entered the final regular season game averaging 8.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists. He’s been the veteran leader on a relatively young club.
Injuries can damage a team’s chances in a one-and-done format. Getting players back in the lineup can be a boost and have the opposite effect. That’s what Illinois is dealing with. Leading scorer Ayo Dosunmu returned for the final game after missing three contests with an injury. He scored 19 points to help the Illini beat Ohio State, their second straight victory over a ranked foe on the road. Illinois won 11 of its last 12 games and heads in confident and at full strength.
It’s hard to imagine the Michigan State Spartans being a longshot. It’s been a tough year for Tom Izzo’s squad, though wins over Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan over the last several weeks has them in a good spot for an at-large NCAA bid. They are still on the bubble though and winning the Big 12 gets them in automatically. So Sparty is basically playing for its tournament life. And no team has been more successful in this tournament. MSU won it in 2019, their record sixth tournament title. If you’re looking to bet an underdog Sparty is the way to go.
Players to Watch
Luke Garza carried Iowa to 20 overall wins and the No. 3 seed. Last season he was an All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year. He was even better this season averaging nearly 24 points with deadly efficiency. He made over 55 percent of his field goals and can play away from the basket. Garza is good enough to carry the Hawkeyes to three wins. Michigan’s 7-footer Hunter Dickinson is a matchup nightmare for any team. The freshman dominated games averaging 14.3 points while shooting almost 60 percent from the field. He had 7.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as well. We mentioned Dosunmu earlier but he’s worth another nod. He posted two triple-doubles this season and if healthy he’s probably the best player in the tournament, which is why I’m backing Illinois.
Big Ten Tournament Prediction: Illinois
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– Phil Simon, Gambling911.com