March Madness 2021: Can the Big Ten Win it All?

Nine Big Ten schools will compete in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Yes, you read that right. Nine! This year’s record setting group of teams beats the Big Ten’s conference record from 2019 when eight schools competed in the March Madness tourney. Only the Big East has them beat for the record, as they had 11 schools receive a tournament bid back in 2011.

It’s clearly been a wild year for the Big Ten, but it’s been equally wild for the NCAA. Like all other sports leagues, the NCAA has had to deal with the challenges of the pandemic. And when it came to hosting the tournament this year, those challenges didn’t go away. For this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, all teams and games will be in one city, Indianapolis. The details regarding the leagues health and safety protocols are intense, with strict routines for the players, limits on when they can leave their rooms, and thousands of COVID tests. We know who we’ll be rooting come tournament time and we’ve got your back on just how far all these Big Ten teams could go in March Madness this year!


How Far Will Each Big Ten School Go?

Michigan State University – #11 | East Bracket

As the lowest seeded team in the Big Ten, Michigan State’s road to the title in the March Madness tournament will be a tough one. As an 11 seeded team, the Spartans will have to play their way into the tournament this year as a First Four team. Their opponent will be the UCLA Bruins, and if they can edge them out they’ll face off against BYU in the Round of 64. The Big Ten’s last school to win it all will have the furthest road to get there again and we can see them getting to the round of 32 in March Madness this year.

University of Maryland – #10 | East Bracket

The University of Maryland will also be facing an uphill battle as they hold the 10th seed in the East bracket. Their opponent, 7th seeded UConn, hasn’t been in the NCAA tournament since 2015. In fact, the last time these two met in the postseason, Maryland won. That was the year Maryland won it all in 2002 back when they weren’t even part of the Big 10. Should they repeat their success against UConn, they might find themselves sneaking into the Sweet 16 after a potential matchup against Alabama (2) or Iona (15).

Rutgers University – #10 | Midwest bracket

Despite having the lower seed against their first round opponent, Clemson University, the Scarlet Knights are actually favored to win this matchup. Both Midwest bracket teams had roughly similar records at the end of their seasons. Rutgers finished at 15-11 and Clemson finished at 16-7. The big caveat is the competition level these two teams faced this year, as Rutgers is a Big Ten school and Clemson plays in the less difficult ACC. We have a hard time seeing Rutgers get past Houston (2) in the Round of 32 should they get that far in March Madness. 

University of Wisconsin – #9 | South bracket

NCAA basketball fans might be surprised to see Wisconsin (9) face-off against UNC (8), but after the crazy year we’ve all had it almost seems right. Sure, the higher seed is favored in this game but we all know how things can turn out in March. The biggest thorn in Wisconsin’s side during the March Madness tournament will be the pressures that come from their recent play as they’ve lost six of their last eight. And if they can steal one from UNC, they’ll most likely find themselves against Baylor (1) in the Round of 32. We can’t predict them getting out of that one on top.

Purdue University – #4 | South bracket

Purdue has a couple of chalky matchups should they find themselves winning at the start of the tournament. In the first round they’ll play against North Texas (13) and then either Villanova (5) or Winthrop (12) if they move on. Their biggest challenge might be North Texas since they have a group of hungry seniors who missed out on last year’s tournament. A Sweet 16 appearance should be a minimum goal for this team.

University of Iowa – #2 | West bracket

Now we’re getting into some of the top Big Ten schools in this year’s tournament. With the 2 seed in the West bracket, the Iowa Hawkeyes could be looking at a deep tournament run that will start against Grand Canyon University (15) on Saturday. Senior big man, Luka Garza, will lead the way for this team that should make it to the Elite 8.

Ohio State University – #2 | South bracket

The Big Ten Conference Tournament’s runner-up is taking their two-seed as far as they can this season. We don’t want to say that a trip to the Sweet 16 is automatic, but it very well could be. Should the Buckeyes make it to the Final Four, they’ll almost certainly have to get through Baylor (1) to do so.

University of Michigan #1 | East bracket

The University of Michigan Men’s basketball team is the first of two top seeded Big Ten teams on our list. Led by freshman Center, Hunter Dickinson, this team is no joke. Playing in the Big Ten Conference is challenging on it’s own, but going 20-4 while doing it? Yeah, the Wolverines are good. They’re so good, they’re already starting to give Vegas some headaches. We wouldn’t be surprised to see them take the court in the championship game against the last Big Ten school on our list…

University of Illinois #1 | Midwest bracket

The championship. Do we need to say more? You’d be hard pressed to find an Illinois basketball fan who hasn’t bet the farm on this team. After missing out on last year’s NCAA tournament, the Illini are hungry. Naismith Men’s Player of the Year candidate, Ayo Dosunmu will lead the way this March for the blue and orange. He helped them secure the Big Ten trophy, and now he’ll have his shot at claiming the Big Dance crown in his final college season.