Illinois Basketball: Best, worst and most likely scenarios for the Illini

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Illinois basketball

Feb 6, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini center Kofi Cockburn (21) celebrates with guard Da’Monte Williams (20) and guard Ayo Dosunmu (11) during the second half against the Wisconsin Badgers at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois basketball season is coming to a close here in the next couple of weeks, and that means things are going to get quite interesting.

Illinois is right in the mix for the Big Ten regular season crown. I put together a best-case scenario, a worst-case scenario and the most likely scenario for the Illini in the coming weeks.

Here are the best, worst and most likely scenarios for the Illini.

Best-case scenario

Illinois has a tough final five games of the regular season. But this Illini program has one of their strongest squads of all-time. That means they should be able to win these important games down the stretch.

The Illini can take down Michigan State at home. Nebraska would then be an easy win, which would move Illinois to 18-5 overall and 14-3 in the Big Ten. The following three games would be at No. 23 Wisconsin, at No. 3 Michigan and at No. 4 Ohio State.

Wisconsin has already fallen to Illinois by 15 points this season, so this should go in favor of the Orange and Blue. Kofi Cockburn has another big game, like the 23 points and 14 rebounds he had the first time around.

Illinois hasn’t played Michigan yet this season, so it is tough to see how this game would go. Hunter Dickinson is one of the Wolverines’ best players, but he hasn’t gone up against someone like Kofi Cockburn yet. Kofi shuts down the talented freshman, and this propels Illinois to a victory over the No. 3 team in the nation.

The final game would be against No. 4 Ohio State. Illinois fell to the Buckeyes earlier this season by six points. In that loss, Ohio State was shooting lights out, going 52.4-percent from three-point range. Meanwhile, Illinois struggled and shot 34.6-percent. The Buckeyes can’t keep up that scoring mark, and Illinois rises to their season average in three-point shooting at 39.3-percent. This gives the Illini the victory.

With Illinois finishing the season 21-5 overall and 17-3 in the Big Ten, they would also need some help from Michigan to win the Big Ten regular season.

Michigan plays No. 9 Iowa on Thursday, which should be a tough matchup. Again, Dickinson for the Wolverines hasn’t gone up against someone like Luka Garza this season. The Hawkeyes’ big man gets the best of Michigan and beats the No. 3 team in the nation.

The Wolverines go on to beat Indiana on the road. They then lose to Illinois on March 2. Michigan finishes their season with back-to-back games against Michigan State, which they win both of those contests. This gives Michigan a 19-3 record overall and a 14-3 Big Ten record.

With Illinois winning out and Michigan falling in two of their three games, the Illini finish with a better Big Ten record and take the regular season title, and they are a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. They would also propel themselves into the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

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