The new AP Top 25 poll was released earlier today, and it looks like the Illinois basketball team is still going strong.
Illinois now checks in at No. 22 in the latest poll. This makes the fifth-straight week the Orange and Blue have donned this list. There has been a slight drop the past couple of weeks with the Illini going from No. 19, to No. 20 and now to No. 22. But the nation sees that this team is for real.
There was only one game on the schedule for the Illini this past week. On Friday night, we welcomed in No. 9 Maryland. It was a close game for a while, but the Terrapins managed to pull away late in the second half. This resulted in a loss and dropping two spots in the rankings.
Overall, the Illini have lost two games in a row after going on a seven-game winning steak. Who is the team to get Illinois off this rough stretch? That would be the Michigan State Spartans on Tuesday night.
The Spartans come to Champaign to take on the Illini at 9 PM CT on ESPN. This is a weird game. I can’t tell you the last time Illinois came into a game with Michigan State where we were ranked and they weren’t in the top 25. The Spartans dropped out of the rankings this week but still have the most votes (124) to get back into the top 25.
Illinois then follows up the game against Michigan State with a game against Rutgers on Saturday. The Illini have to travel to New Jersey to take on the Scarlet Knights, so this will be a tough test. Rutgers did get a couple of votes to be in the top 25.
So, the scenarios this week include Illinois winning both games and moving up into the top 20. We could split each game and probably sit around where we are right now in the rankings. Or, God forbid, we drop both games and tumble out of the top 25.
Hopefully, Tuesday night starts us off with a big victory. This would be huge for rankings purposes and for the Big Ten regular season crown. I believe this game against Michigan State is a must-win for the Orange and Blue.