The Illinois Fighting Illini will be dancing this March in the NCAA Tournament. They earned the 7th-seed in the East Region and will play the Colorado Buffaloes.
This 7th-seed in the NCAA tournament could be seen as a bit of a shocking seed, but not by much. Jerry Palm of CBS Sports had the Illini as the 8th-seed in the Midwest region and Joe Lunardi of ESPN had them as the 9th-seed in the South region.
The draw for the Fighting Illini is favorable in the second round, but not after that. If they are able to get past the Buffaloes, they “could” be playing the 2nd-seeded Miami Hurricanes.
Some other notable teams in the East region along with the Illini include: the #1 Indiana Hoosiers, the #3 Marquette Golden Eagles, the #5 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, the #4 Syracuse Orange, the #6 Butler Bulldogs, and the #8 North Carolina State Wolfpack.
Overall, the road isn’t terrible, but it is not ideal. The first game against Colorado should be a winnable game, but after that it gets tough.
Illinois did play well against non-conference opponents this season and I think that could play in as a positive for the Illini.
Yes, they only played three tournament teams this season (Butler, Gonzaga, and Mizzouri). They did beat the Gonzaga Bulldogs on the road this year and beat Butler in Hawaii, but struggled in the Big Ten.
Part of me wants to say that Illinois will be a “one and done” team. However, head coach John Groce has been able to get his team to play well against non-conference opponents.
All in all, it should be a fun tournament for the Fighting Illini.
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