Illinois Basketball: ESPN bracketology has Illini taking on play-in winner

It is never too early to start looking at what the Illinois basketball team might be facing at the end of the 2022-23 campaign.

Over the last five seasons, Illini fans have seen the building of a program. Brad Underwood took this team from a floundering mess of a roster to one of the powerhouses in the Big Ten. We have now seen Illinois eligible for the NCAA tournament three-straight seasons and get to the second round over the last two years.

This trend of success shouldn’t slow down anytime soon. Underwood has the program recruiting well, and they were able to reload for the upcoming campaign. But what will the Orange and Blue look like this season with so many new additions to the team?

Joe Lunardi has the Illinois basketball team making the NCAA tournament in his first 2023 bracketology.

Illinois only has four returning scholarship players on the roster right now. Coleman Hawkins has the most experience with Underwood as his head coach. But that doesn’t mean the Illini will take a huge dip this year. We brought in a tremendous amount of transfer and freshmen talent to the roster.

Lunardi sees that fact, and that is why he has Illinois making the NCAA tournament in 2023. His top overall seed goes to Gonzaga, his first team out is Rutgers, and his last team in is Providence.

There are three Big Ten teams that Lunardi has on the bubble, but thankfully, Illinois is not one of those teams.

When you scroll down on his projected bracket, you will end up finding the Illini in the Midwest region, which is held in Kansas City. Illinois would play their first two games in Des Moines, Iowa, though. Lunardi has the Orange and Blue as a No. 6 seed for the 2023 NCAA tournament in this bracket.

Illinois is matched up against the play-in game of No. 11 Florida State and No. 11 Providence. This would be a tough match-up, as both of these teams tend to be fairly strong.

I would be intrigued by this bracket because if Illinois advanced to the Sweet 16, we could get another matchup with Baylor, who is the No. 2 seed. The Illini have two Baylor transfers on the roster right now, and we play them in an early-season tournament.

Overall, it is exciting to see what some national pundits think of the Illinois basketball program heading into the 2022-23 season. Lunardi is probably on-point with how many see the Illini. I think we are more of a 2-4 seed, though. Let’s see how things shake out. Maybe we can climb to that coveted No. 1 seed.