It is that day of the year when all of regular season hard work pays off for the Illinois basketball program.
Selection Sunday is a fun time for many Illini fans. We get to see where the team will play and who we will play against in the NCAA tournament. It is also fun to see what the road would be to the Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final 4.
This season didn’t go the way many had hoped, though. Starting the year with two big wins, cooling off, getting hot again, and then finishing with a fart noise is not a stress-free ride by any means.
But, with some key wins under our belts, I think the NCAA tournament is a lock. It seems that ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi agrees as well. In his latest bracketology posted the morning of Selection Sunday, Lunardi has Illinois entering the NCAA tournament as a No. 9 seed.
This would be a dangerous line in my opinion. The Illini would be facing off against a young, talented, Arkansas bunch that also had big expectations this season. The winner of that game would face, arguably, the best team in college basketball in Kansas.
I believe Illinois basketball could drop even further in the NCAA tournament seeding
While a No. 9 seed is where one of the most notable bracketologists has Illinois landing, I don’t think this spot is a lock by any means.
It honestly wouldn’t shock me to see Illinois drop down to a No. 10 seed entering March Madness. Why do I say that? Well, teams from No. 9 through No. 11 are all pretty much the same, and the ratings bear out.
Lunardi has Illinois at No. 9, but he has Auburn as a No. 10 seed. The Tigers have the same record, a better NET Rating, and they have a better record against quad one and two teams, which is 9-11. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Auburn jump Illinois, which is 9-12 against quad one and two teams.
Look for Penn State, who Lunardi has as a No. 10 seed, to potentially have a big rise as well. They were a bubble team entering the Big Ten Tournament, but if they knock off a top 10 Purdue team and take the conference tournament crown, they have a legit shot to rise to a No. 9 seed. The Nittany Lions also have three more quad one wins than Illinois at 12-11.
Lastly, Lunardi has Boise State as a No. 10 seed. The Broncos have a NET Rating of 27, which is better than Illinois. They also have a much better record, 12-7, against quad one and two teams this season.
While the ESPN bracketologist has Illinois landing at the No. 9 seed line, I don’t think that is set in stone by any means. We will all find out tonight where the Illini lands, but don’t be surprised if we enter the NCAA tournament as a No. 10 seed. That actually might be a better draw anyways.