Defending champion Illinois grabbed the #1 seed in the Big Ten tournament on Sunday with a thriller in Champaign, edging Iowa to climb to the top rung in the bracket over Wisconsin.
The pairings in Indianapolis include a surprise double-bye for fourth-seeded Rutgers and a number of NCAA Tournament bubble teams fighting to make it to the weekend and beyond.
Our pick: Purdue (+220 via DraftKings). The Boilermakers have a lottery pick at the point in Jaden Ivey with size and shooting to overcome an off night plus the familiarity of playing in Indianapolis. At 25-6, Purdue has only a few false steps in the regular season and beat Illinois twice.
Underdog to watch: Iowa. The fifth-seeded Hawkeyes can thank horrific free-throw shooting for a loss at Illinois in the season finale that spoiled a sure bye and put Iowa in position to play four games in four days, including a Friday morning rematch with the Fighting Illini. Don’t let their nine losses trick you. The Hawkeyes dominated February with the exception of a loss to Michigan (84-79).
Projected NCAA Tournament bids: 10.
Next Stop, New Orleans: The Boilermakers are +350 to reach the Final Four at FanDuel and will be a difficult out. Because of inconsistency, it’s not easy to back Illinois but the Fighting Illini could get there, too.
Big Ten tournament schedule
First Round – Wednesday, March 9
Game 1: #12 Northwestern vs. #13 Nebraska | 6 p.m. ET | Big Ten Network
Game 2: #11 Penn State vs. #14 Minnesota | 25 minutes after Game 1 | Big Ten Network
Second Round – Thursday, March 10
Game 3: #8 Michigan vs. #9 Indiana | 11:30 a.m. ET | Big Ten Network
Game 4: #5 Iowa vs. Game 1 winner | 25 minutes after Game 3 | Big Ten Network
Game 5: #7 Michigan State vs. #10 Maryland | 6:30 p.m. | Big Ten Network
Game 6: #6 Ohio State vs. Game 2 winner | 25 minutes after Game 5 | Big Ten Network
Quarterfinals – Friday, March 11
Game 7: #1 Illinois vs. Game 3 winner | 11:30 a.m. ET | Big Ten Network
Game 8: #4 Rutgers vs. Game 4 winner | 25 minutes after Game 7 | Big Ten Network
Game 9: #2 Wisconsin vs. Game 5 winner | 6:30 p.m. | Big Ten Network
Game 10: #3 Purdue vs. Game 6 winner | 25 minutes after Game 9 | Big Ten Network
Semifinals – Saturday, March 12
Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner | 1 p.m. | CBS
Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner | 25 minutes after Game 11 | CBS
Championship – Sunday, March 13
Game 13: Semifinal winners | 3:30 p.m. | CBS