Illinois Basketball: Illini projected to be a No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament

In just three days, the Illinois basketball team will see its name appear on the NCAA tournament’s selection show for the first time in eight years.

Since my last bracketology update, the Illini won its last three regular season games – all on the road against ranked teams.  These victories comprise of a close win at then-No. 21 Wisconsin, a blowout win at then-No. 2 Michigan, and another close victory at then-No. 7 Ohio State.  The first two of these three wins came without star guard, Ayo Dosunmu.

This stretch of wins seemed to have convinced the experts that the Illini deserve to be a No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Let’s take a look at what the college basketball experts are predicting the path to a 2021 national championship will look like for the Orange and Blue.

  • Fox Sports insider Michael DeCourcy’s Bracketology: March 8, 2021

In DeCourcy’s previous February 26 projection, he had Illinois as a No. 2 seed matched up against No. 15 seed Siena.

In his latest projection, which was released Monday, the Fox Sports insider has the Fighting Illini climbing up to the No. 1 seed matched up against the winner of the play-in game between No. 16 seeds North Carolina A&T and Hartford.

If the Aggies were to win that matchup, the Illini would be facing a familiar foe as the two squads matched up in the Illini’s season opener.  The Orange and Blue had no trouble defeating the Aggies, as they won the game by an absurd 62 points, thanks to 28-point performances from guards Ayo Dosunmu and Adam Miller.

With a win in the Round of 64, the Illini would advance to the Round of 32 to play the winner of No. 8 Loyola Chicago and No. 9 St. Bonaventure.

The No. 2 seed in the Illini’s region is Alabama, who is the No. 1 seed in the SEC conference tournament.

  • ESPN insider Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology: March 8, 2021

In the last Lunardi projection I analyzed, the ESPN college basketball analyst also had the Illini as a No. 2 seed facing off against No. 15 Siena.

In his updated March 8 projection, Lunardi also has Illinois as a No. 1 seed but has them playing the winner of No. 16 seeds Hartford and Prairie View.

With a win, fans would get the possibility of a 2005 National Championship rematch, as the Orange and Blue would take on the winner of No. 8 Loyola Chicago and No. 9 North Carolina.

Like DeCourcy’s projection, Alabama is the No. 2 seed in Illinois’ region.

  • CBS Sports insider Jerry Palm’s Bracketology: March 9, 2021

In Jerry Palm’s February 26 projection, like DeCourcy and Lunardi, Palm had the Illini projected as a No. 2 seed.  He had the Orange and Blue matched up against No. 15 James Madison in the “Hinkle 2 Region”.

In Palm’s updated March 9 projection, Palm also has the Fighting Illini as the No. 1 seed in the “Bankers Life 1 Region”.  The CBS Sports insider has the Illini playing No. 16 Cleveland State in the Round of 64.

If the Illini were to avoid the upset, they would get the possibility of seeking revenge, as they would advance to play the winner of No. 8 Colorado and No. 9 Michigan State in the Round of 32. The Orange and Blue suffered a road loss to the Spartans in their February 23 matchup.

Like the previous two projections, the No. 2 seed in the Bankers Life 1 Region is Alabama.

The Illini will take on the winner of No. 7 Rutgers and No. 10 Indiana in the third round of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday at 6:30 PM EST.  Unless the Fighting Illini suffer a horrible loss in their opening game of the tournament, the Orange and Blue should expect to hear their name called as a No. 1 seed on Sunday.