Illinois basketball finishes in top 10 for second time in four seasons

It was a tough journey to get here, but the Illinois basketball team finished the 2023-24 season in the top 10 of the AP Top 25.
Mar 17, 2024; Minneapolis, MN, USA; llinois Fighting Illini  head coach Brad Underwood  talks with
Mar 17, 2024; Minneapolis, MN, USA; llinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood talks with / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois basketball climbed to the Big Ten mountaintop, and now we are climbing in the AP Top 25 poll.

The Illini had to win three games to clinch the Big Ten Tournament title. Wins over Ohio State and Nebraska led the Orange and Blue to a matchup against a hot Wisconsin team on Sunday. Illinois looked outmatched for the first 25 minutes of the game, but we fought back with fury.

A double-digit second half lead for the Badgers quickly turned into a deficit, as the Illini went on a 19-4 run. Illinois was then able to fend off Wisconsin the rest of the way out, winning the game, 93-87.

The Illini have now won four in a row and seven out of the last eight games. This caught the eye of the AP Top 25 voters. On Monday, the new AP Top 25 was released, and it had Illinois moving up three spots to No. 10 in the country. We jumped teams like Creighton, Kentucky, and Duke.

Illinois basketball will once again finish a season ranked inside the AP Top 25

I believe this was the final AP Top 25 poll of the season. Finishing inside the top 10 in the AP Top 25 is pretty special. It doesn’t happen every season, and it is quite rare over the history of the program.

Brad Underwood has led Illinois to two top 10 finishes in the AP Top 25 in the last four seasons. That is quite an accomplishment. Before Underwood took over the program, the last time we finished a season ranked in the top 10 was the 2004-05 national title run campaign.

Taking the AP Top 25 rankings a step further, you have to go a ways back to find the last time Illinois finished two seasons in a four-year stretch inside the top 10. The last time an Illinois coach accomplished this feat was in 1951 and 1952. That was over 70 years ago.

The impressive coaching feats of Underwood and his staff continue to roll in. Illinois is one of the top teams in the country, and we are finally back to national prominence. Now let’s make a run at the national title.