Illinois basketball had a good night in the Big Ten without playing a game

Jan 14, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini student fans cheer during the
Jan 14, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini student fans cheer during the / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois basketball was gifted a big loss in the Big Ten on Tuesday night.

The fight for the Big Ten regular season crown is in full force right now. The Illini are smack dab in the middle of this conversation at 12-4 overall and 3-2 in the conference.

It is never easy to win in the Big Ten, just ask Illinois, as we dropped a big game against Maryland on Sunday. But the struggle to win in the conference is even tougher when you consider road games.

On Tuesday, the Big Ten leader, No. 11 Wisconsin, went to Penn State in hopes of improving their conference record to 6-0 this season. They had a 1.5-game lead over Purdue entering the night. The Badgers were going up against a Nittany Lions team that was 2-4 in the Big Ten and 8-9 overall.

Penn State jumped out to a four-point lead at halftime and never looked back. They maintained that lead in the second half and came out victorious, 87-83. This loss by Wisconsin has some pretty big ramifications in the Big Ten regular season title race.

Illinois basketball had a good night in the Big Ten on Tuesday without even playing

The Wisconsin loss helps Illinois when it comes to the potential of snagging our second regular season title in the last three years. The Illini moved a half-game closer to the Badgers with the loss, now only sitting 1.5 games out of first place.

We need Wisconsin to lose as much as possible. Illinois only gets one shot at the Badgers this season, on the road on March 2, so as long as we are within a game of them by that date, we have a shot.

This wasn’t the only game on Tuesday night that helped the Illini, though. Purdue and Indiana matched up in Bloomington. Both teams were ahead of Illinois entering the night, but the Boilermakers were able to take care of business.

It probably would have been a better outcome if Indiana won that game due to Purdue being a tougher team, but any result was going to be good for the Illini. The Hoosiers are now tied with Illinois for third place in the Big Ten, and Purdue is only one game ahead of us.

Illinois has a big week ahead. On Thursday, we travel to Michigan, which sits at 7-10 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten. The Illini cap off the week with Rutgers in Champaign. The Scarlet Knights are 9-7 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten.

Two wins in the conference this week puts Illinois at 5-2 in the Big Ten. We are squarely in the mix for a Big Ten regular season title. All we have to do is keep taking care of business.

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