We are just hours away from the Illinois basketball season officially tipping off, and that means it is time to look at what could be in March 2024.
Starting the 2023-24 season ranked No. 25 in the first AP Top 25 poll is exciting. With four teams slotted in each seed of the NCAA tournament, that puts the Illini as, roughly a No. 6 or No. 7 seed. That isn’t a terrible spot to be, but there is always room to move up.
Eastern Illinois is the first victim for this loaded and experienced Illinois squad. A solid win tonight will put us on the right path to the Big Dance. But where will we end up being seeded in the NCAA tournament?
Don’t worry, Joe Lunardi of ESPN has already produced a 2024 NCAA tournament bracketology prediction.
Full disclosure, this was last updated on October 24. Since then, Illinois has beaten No. 1 Kansas in a scrimmage. The top seeds for Lunardi consist of Kansas, Purdue, Duke, and Michigan State.
How far down does Lunardi have Illinois dropping? Well, not too much further. He has the Illini as the No. 6 seed in the East Region. This is about where the ranking has us, so it isn’t a shock. Illinois would take on the play-in of No. 11 Xavier and No. 11 Clemson.
Illinois basketball looks to have a daunting task in the Big Ten for the 2023-24 season
My first impression of Lunardi’s first bracketology prediction is how good the Big Ten is going to be this season. I see the Illinois schedule and have already put out a game-by-game prediction, but when you see the potential bracket and two Big Ten teams are on the No. 1 line, that is kind of awakening.
Illinois doesn’t just face No. 3 Purdue and No. 4 Michigan State once this season either. We are blessed to see them two different times. That is four tough games automatically.
In addition to those two tough Big Ten opponents we have to face four times in the regular season, Illinois has to face Northwestern and Maryland twice and Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio State once. All five of those programs are projected to make the NCAA tournament.
I haven’t even mentioned the non-conference opponents for the Illini. We take on Marquette, Colgate, Tennessee, and Florida Atlantic in the non-conference, and they are all projected to be dancing come March.
Illinois has 11 teams on the schedule and 15 out of 31 games against teams currently projected to be in the NCAA tournament in 2024. That is an incredible schedule that will test our resiliency. I am excited for the season to start tonight.