Bracketology has Illinois basketball landing in familiar spot for NCAA tournament

With four games left of the 2023-24 regular season, the Illinois basketball team is jockeying for position in what is sure to be a chaotic NCAA tournament.

Florida Atlantic v Charlotte
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There have been some bumps in the road for the Illinois basketball program this season.

Despite some of those bumps, like a week ago today against Penn State, the Illini have still put together quite a successful season.

Illinois has notched a 20-win regular season, making the fifth straight for the program. We have 11 wins in the Big Ten and are in the driver’s seat to lock in the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. With six wins in the last eight games, the Illini are also looking at a high seed in the NCAA tournament.

ESPN updated their bracketology on Tuesday morning. Leading up to the game on Wednesday against Minnesota, Illinois is slotting in as the No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

If the Illini entered the postseason as the No. 4 seed, it would be the second-highest seeding in the NCAA tournament under Brad Underwood, only second to the No. 1 seed in 2021. Illinois was also the No. 4 seed in 2022, which resulted in a second-round exit to No. 5 Houston.

The newest bracketology scenario for the NCAA tournament is favorable for the Illinois basketball team

While Illinois is slotted in the No. 4 spot, ESPN has us playing the No. 13 seed Akron Zips. The Zips have been led by former Illinois coach John Groce since the year after he was fired. That matchup alone intrigues me greatly, and it is one that I believe Illinois should win.

A second-round matchup of either No. 5 Clemson or No. 12 Grand Canyon would be nice too. The Tigers have struggled in the ACC at times, but they have won six out of their last seven games. While Clemson beat North Carolina earlier this year, this isn’t a team that scares me that much. Advancing to the Sweet 16 would be an expectation with the most recent bracketology prediction.

If the Illini were to get to the Sweet 16, a matchup against No. 1 Houston would likely be the scenario. Although, I wouldn’t count Nebraska out of that section, as they are the No. 9 seed. The Cornhuskers have talent and could sneak up on the Cougars.

Advancing to the Elite 8 might mean a rematch against a Tennessee team the Illini almost beat in the non-conference. Illinois went on the road and had the lead at halftime, but we couldn’t hold on, as the Volunteers beat us 86-79.

If the NCAA tournament started today, and this was the bracket, I would be pretty happy. This is a bracket Illinois could eat up.

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