March Madness: 2021 Big Ten Conference Tournament betting preview – Metro US

March Madness: 2021 Big Ten Conference Tournament betting preview

Ayo Dosunmo Illinois Big Ten
Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu is expected to make a lot of noise in the 2021 Big Ten Conference Tournament.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It’s finally March, and with the regular season wrapping up this weekend, college basketball is officially reaching its climax. 

Conference tournaments are just a short week away, as teams are looking to put the final touches on their ‘resumes’ in what should be a wildly fascinating Selection Sunday.

One of the most overlooked aspects of March Madness is this upcoming week, as conference tournaments serve as one of the foundational pillars of the college basketball season.

While we’ll eventually take a look at each conference up for grabs, let us start at the cream of the crop — the Big Ten.

Coming off a resounding 2020, the Big Ten once again looks like the deepest and most competitive conferences in college hoops.

With six teams in the AP top 25 (#2 Michigan, #5 Illinois, #6 Iowa, #7 Ohio State, #23 Purdue, #25 Wisconsin), and a whopping four teams in the top seven, expect next week’s tournament to be an absolute bloodbath.

Along with those six, Maryland, Michigan State, and Rutgers are all squarely on the bubble, and likely need to win a game or two in the conference tournament to ensure an at-large tournament bid.

Here Comes the Paign

At +125, there’s not nearly enough value to consider taking Michigan, as a home loss to Illinois last night served as an important reminder of the fickleness of college hoops.

Instead, I’d rather take a more reasonable stab at +450 on the team that just picked off the Wolverines, especially if All-American point guard Ayo Dosunmo is able to return from a facial fracture suffered last week. 

Averaging 21/6/5, Dosunmo completely transforms this Illinois offense, and he makes a great 1-2 punch with center Kofi Cockburn (averaging 17.5 points and 9.8 rebounds).

Guards Trent Frazier, Adam Miller, and Andre Curbelo can all shoot the 3 and handle the ball, providing key relief to both Dosunmu and Cockburn on the offensive end.

This roster is well balanced, experienced, and deep, as head coach Brad Underwood has done a terrific job resurrecting this Illinois program.

Beyond just the Big Ten tourney, expect the Illini to make a deep run into March, and possibly pick off a #1 seed along the way if they don’t end up being one themselves (currently a 2 seed according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi). 

With the fifth-best odds to win the National Championship at +1500, you’d be foolish not to consider double-dipping on the Illini.

Other Teams to Look out for

Iowa (+450), Purdue (+1400), Michigan State (+5000)