The 2021 B1G Tournament gets underway this week! To set the stage for one of the most exciting conference tournaments in college basketball, our staff will be conducting a 3-part roundtable, leading us right in to first-round action on Wednesday night. 

Topics: Picking a dark horse team, breakout player for the B1G Tournament

Paul Harvey, News Writer

Dark horse: The trendy dark horse pick will likely be MSU, and I can’t fault that, but I’m going to the opposite side of the bracket because I do not think anyone gets past Michigan or Purdue in Indy. I’m going with Rutgers as a dark horse, though their path to the championship might be the toughest. This is a Scarlet Knights team that won as many B1G games as Wisconsin (10) and was as high as No. 11 nationally with wins over Illinois and Purdue entering 2021. Rutgers took some hard-fought losses but was rarely in a non-competitive game this season. Can they beat Illinois and Iowa/Wisconsin? That’s a tall task.

Breakout player: I know offensive players will also be more popular picks for breakout player, but I’m sticking with Rutgers and big man Myles Johnson for his inside presence and defensive ability. In wins against Illinois, Indiana (twice), and Michigan State, Johnson recorded 20 blocks, 45 rebounds, and two double-doubles. In losses to Ohio State (twice), Wisconsin, and Iowa (twice), he totaled just five blocks, 35 rebounds, and one double-double. If Rutgers wants to make a run – in Indy or the NCAA Tournament – Johnson needs to show he can be his best against better competition.

Spenser Davis, News Writer

Dark horse: It’s tough to find a dark horse team with how top-heavy the Big Ten has been this season. But one team has slipped completely under the radar: Purdue. The Boilermakers have quietly had a very nice season while Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio State have soaked up most of the national attention. Purdue is likely to draw Ohio State in the first round, a team it swept during the regular season. Then, the Boilermakers are likely to get a Michigan team that might not have senior forward Eli Brooks due to an ankle injury. That sets up a really big opportunity Matt Painter’s squad.

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Breakout player: Illinois freshman guard André Curbelo is someone to keep an eye on this week. Curbelo showed early flashes, but then struggled to score throughout much of conference play. However, it looks like he’s peaking at the right time — he’s scored in double figures in his last five games and has 17+ points in his last three contests. He’s a creative player who is in position to take advantage of teams focusing all their attention on Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn.

Kyle Charters, B1G Columnist

Dark horse: Purdue has been a dark horse all season, considering it was picked in the middle to back half of the Big Ten, at best. But does it still even qualify at this point? The Boilermakers have won five consecutive games to secure the fourth seed in the tournament. Now, the path isn’t the easiest; if seeds hold, Purdue would have to play Ohio State on Friday afternoon — the Boilermakers have already beaten the Buckeyes twice this season, but doesn’t the old sports cliché say it’s almost impossible to do a third time? — then top-seed Michigan on Saturday. But the way Purdue has been playing, especially now with Jaden Ivey taking over a lead role on the perimeter, it’s possible Purdue makes a run.

Breakout player: Jaden Ivey is ready for the big stage. He invites it. The true freshman is dynamic with the ball in his hands, quick and aggressive toward the basket. He’s turning into the kind of player who can carry a team in March, because of his ability — and willingness — to go get shots for himself. If people are unaware of him now, they won’t be by the end of the month.

Adam Spencer, Newsletter Editor/College Basketball Columnist

Dark horse: Can my “dark horse” team be a team currently ranked No. 9 in the AP Poll? I’m talking, of course, about the Ohio State Buckeyes, who despite being a Top 10 team in the country are only the No. 5 seed in the B1G Tournament. I really like their path to the B1G Tournament final. They should be able to easily dispatch either Northwestern or Minnesota in their first game in Indianapolis. Then, I think they are eager for another shot at 4-seed Purdue. The Buckeyes lost to the Boilermakers twice this season, but they haven’t played since Jan. 19. Ohio State is a much better team now. Beat Purdue, and they’ll likely get a rematch with 1-seed Michigan. Considering how exciting that game was the first time around recently, I really want to see it again. Plus, the Wolverines enter the tournament having lost 2 of their last 3 games. Get to the final and it’s a tossup. But, keep an eye on the Buckeyes making a run this week.

Breakout player: As for my breakout player, how about Justin Ahrens? He’s shooting 44.8% from beyond the arc for the Buckeyes. Come tournament time, you’re going to be in close games. I have a feeling Ahrens is going to nail a game-winning 3 at some point before the month is over.

Dustin Schutte, Managing Editor

Dark horse: Keep an eye on Rutgers. Sure, the Scarlet Knights have been inconsistent throughout the season, but this is a team with one of the best defensive players in the B1G with Myles Johnson and a trio of players in Ron Harper Jr., Jacob Young and Geo Baker who are capable of scoring a flurry of points on any given day. When it comes tournament time, that can be a lethal combination. Rutgers would have to beat Indiana for a third time and then need to upset Illinois to make it to the semifinal round on Saturday, but don’t forget this is a Scarlet Knights team that swept the Hoosiers and defeated the Fighting Illini 91-88 in their only regular season matchup.

Breakout player: Purdue freshman Jaden Ivey is becoming a household name in the B1G, but I think he has the opportunity to have that breakout moment on the national stage. Ivey is averaging 10 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game for the Boilermakers, but has scored in double figures in all five games during the Boilers’ winning streak. He has also improved defensively in the final stretch of the season. Over the last five games, Ivey has totaled 9 blocks and 8 steals. Ivey is becoming a great two-way player for the Boilermakers, and you need players like that in March.

Previous Topics: Which bubble teams will make or break their hopes of an at-large bid.