Illinois Basketball: ESPN bracketology has Illini as top four seed

Jan 14, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, USA; A cheerleader is shown at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 14, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, USA; A cheerleader is shown at State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Illinois basketball is squarely entrenched in a fight for one of the top seeds in college basketball.

Right before the 11:00 a.m. CT tip-off of the game between the Illini and Purdue on Monday, the AP Top 25 poll was released. Illinois made the move from No. 25 all the way up to No. 17. That was quite a jump and one that proved to be correct based on the effort the Orange and Blue put in against No. 4 Purdue.

The season is long, though. There are plenty of games to play and plenty of room to move up or down in the rankings. Just looking at the schedule, the Illini play five more ranked games this season, two of which are in the top eight nationally.

But when it comes to the NCAA tournament and where a team is seeded, a lot of it depends on quad wins. As of right now, the Illini have a pretty solid resume.

Illinois basketball is in the mix for a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament.

It is probably hard to believe, but the Illini continue to piece together a pretty good foundation for the NCAA tournament this season.

The weakest part of Illinois’ resume is their quad one games. We are just 1-3 against quad one teams in the NET rankings. Out of the top 15 teams, that is only second-worst to Texas who is 0-4.

But when you move to the quad two record, this is where Illinois is stronger. We have played five quad two games and boast a record of 4-1 in those contests. We also don’t have a loss in the quad three and four categories, as the program is 8-0 in those games.

Illinois’ overall NET ranking is No. 12 in the country. The fact we are No. 12 is probably why Joe Lunardi of ESPN has the Illini as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament in his latest bracketology.

As of today, Lunardi has Illinois playing No. 14 Wagner in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The last time Illinois was a No. 3 seed in the postseason was in 1988. We made it to the second round and fell to No. 6 Villanova.

If the Illini would advance out of the first round, they would then play either No. 6 Alabama or No. 11 Wake Forest. Either team would be a tough matchup.

This would be an interesting bracket as well. If the NCAA tournament started today and this was the bracket, then I could see Illinois making the Elite 8 and matching up against Gonzaga for a berth in the Final Four. That would be a fun game to watch.

There are going to be plenty more changes to Lunardi’s bracketology this season. This is just the most recent. Illinois is clearly looked at as one of the top teams in the country.

Next. 4 observations from the Illini loss to Purdue. dark