The 2021 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament kicks off tonight in Indianapolis. The first slate of games includes a matchup between No. 12 seeded Northwestern University versus No. 13 seeded University of Minnesota at 6:30 pm EST, followed by No. 11 seeded Penn State versus No. 14 seeded University of Nebraska just 25 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
As Badgers fans, we’ll have our eyes on the latter of the two games. No. 6 seed University of Wisconsin (16-11, 10-10 Big Ten) will take on either Nebraska (7-19, 3-16) or Penn State (10-13, 7-12) in the second round of the tournament tomorrow night following the matchup between No. 10 seed Indiana and No. 7 seed Rutgers.
Looking back at this season, which matchup would be more favorable for the Badgers?
Wisconsin is 2-0 against Nebraska this season with a 67-53 win in December at the Kohl Center and a 61-48 win in February in Lincoln.
On the other hand, the Badgers are 1-1 against the Nittany Lions this season with a rather frustrating 71-81 loss at Penn State in January and a dominant 72-56 win back in Madison just four days later.
The Badgers have clearly fared better against the Cornhuskers this season, and Nebraska is also 3-7 in their last 10 games, including a 64-102 loss at Iowa just last week. With a 3-16 conference record and a 1-10 record on the road, the Cornhuskers are the favored matchup for the Badgers, but they would need to upset Penn State tonight in order to face the Badgers tomorrow.
If the Badgers were to win their matchup against Penn State or Nebraska, they would face No. 3-seed Iowa (20-7, 14-6) on Friday night in the third round of the tournament. While the Badgers are 0-2 against the Hawkeyes this season, Wisconsin’s play against Iowa last Sunday in the 73-77 loss was promising.
Many would argue the officiating crew decided that game, as the crew reviewed countless replays, called a questionable flagrant foul on senior Brad Davison because of a “hook and hold” and called a shooting foul on senior D’Mitrik Trice on a 3-point attempt with 34.3 seconds remaining, which led him to foul out of the game.
Without those calls late in the game, who knows how the game would have ended. Despite the outcome, the Badgers battled while being down 11 in the first half and 12 in the second half. If the Badgers get another shot against Iowa, they’ll be looking for revenge.
With a win against Iowa in the third round, the Badgers would face either No. 10-seed Indiana, No. 7-seed Rutgers or No. 2-seed Illinois. As Illinois is one of the hottest teams in the NCAA right now, the Badgers would likely face the Fighting Illini in the fourth round, barring a third-round upset by Indiana or Rutgers over Illinois.
Illinois (20-6, 16-4) is 11-1 in their last 12 games, and they have beaten Wisconsin twice this season. While the first loss was by 15 points, the Badgers kept things close in the second meeting, losing by just five at home.
With a win in the semifinals on Saturday, the Badgers would move on to the Championship Game Sunday, March 14 at 2:30 p.m. CST. Wisconsin will likely face off against No. 5 seed Ohio State, No. 4 seed Purdue or No. 1 seed Michigan. Still, lower-seeded teams, such as Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan State and Maryland, could also find their way to the title game on the other side of the bracket.