In a bit of a surprise, the Illinois basketball team finds themselves in the top 25 once again.
The Illini had a rough run last week. A double-overtime loss to Purdue wasn’t anything crazy. I didn’t expect Illinois to drop in the rankings after losing a close game against the then-No. 4 Boilermakers.
But, on Friday, the Illini fell to a bottom of the Big Ten Maryland squad. Yes, this loss was without All-American Kofi Cockburn, but it was still a loss to a bad Terrapins team. Despite going 0-2 last week, Illinois is still inside the AP Top 25.
In the latest rankings, Illinois does drop down seven spots to No. 24. This could have been a lot worse. Honestly, I projected the Illini not being ranked and probably getting the second or third most votes to be in the top 25. But being in the top 25 makes for an interesting matchup on Tuesday night.
Illinois basketball has a chance to rise quickly in the AP Top 25.
I know things aren’t looking good right now. Health-wise, Kofi Cockburn might still be out with a concussion, and Illinois has now lost two-straight games.
But just as quickly as things have turned south in the past week, Illinois can get back on track and inside the top 20 by the start of February.
— Writing Illini (@WritingIlliniFS) January 24, 2022
On Tuesday, Illinois takes on the No. 10 ranked Michigan State Spartans. Winning this game would be huge and would put us right back inside the top 20.
Illinois then heads to Northwestern on Saturday, January 29. The Wildcats don’t have the best record, sitting at 9-8, but they are a competitive squad. They beat Michigan State in East Lansing just two weeks ago. They also nearly clipped No. 8 Wisconsin.
If the Illini can get past Michigan State on Tuesday and Northwestern on Saturday, then there is no doubt in my mind that we are a top 20 team, and potentially a top 15 team, come February. But we have to start winning again.
Hopefully, Kofi is healthy and ready to go on Tuesday night. Life would be a lot easier with him in the lineup.