Illinois Basketball: 5 greatest seasons in Illini history

Indiana Hoosiers v Illinois Fighting Illini
Indiana Hoosiers v Illinois Fighting Illini / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages
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3. 2000-01 season

  • 27-8 Overall
  • 13-3 Big Ten
  • Elite 8
  • AP Final Ranking: 4th

Bill Self took over the Orange and Blue and began what is arguably one of the most consistent stretches in program history.

Self took over following Lon Kruger's departure to the Atlanta Hawks. During this particular season, a pair of five-game win streaks propelled the Fighting Illini. To say the least, the opening portion of the Illini's schedule was action-packed. 

In the first 10 games, the Illini played five teams ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll. By the end of the regular season, Illinois accrued five wins against ranked opponents. 

The AP preseason poll placed the Illini at No. 8. Illinois remained ranked throughout the entirety of the season, not ever falling below No. 11. 

Despite a semifinal loss to Indiana during the 2001 Big Ten Tournament, the Illini were awarded the No. 1 seed for the Midwest Region. Through the first round, Illinois won its games by an average of 30 points. In the Sweet 16, Self and the Illini matched up with where the head coach would eventually flock to, the Kansas Jayhawks. The Illini downed the Jayhawks, 80-64 at the Alamodome. 

Two days later, Big Ten Player of the Year Frank Williams and Illinois would face off with the Arizona Wildcats for the third time that season. The two schools had split in the regular season, after meeting in the Maui Invitational and at a neutral site contest at the United Center in Chicago. 

Fans, remember this matchup, Elite 8 against 'Zona. There will be another key matchup between these two schools in the same round of the Big Dance a few seasons later.