After a brutal loss to Maryland on Sunday, the drop for the Illinois basketball team wasn’t that bad.
The Illini had a chance to jump up in the AP Top 25. We just beat Michigan State days prior to the game on Sunday against the Terrapins. All Illinois had to do was defend the homecourt against an average Maryland program.
Basketball happened and the Illini couldn’t fend off the Terrapins. We let that game slip away in the second half, and Illinois now sits at 12-4 overall. This still isn’t a bad record, and the latest AP Top 25 has the Illini still going strong.
With the loss to Maryland, Illinois only dropped four spots. We went from being ranked No. 10 in the country to now being the No. 14 team.
A lot of teams in the AP Top 25 fell this past week to help Illinois not drop as far. Purdue, Kansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arizona, Marquette, Colorado State, BYU, San Diego State, Clemson, Gonzaga, and Texas all lost once. Houston and Oklahoma dropped two games this past week.
Illinois basketball could do some real damage in the Big Ten with the upcoming schedule
While falling to Maryland at home kind of looks bad, it is just a temporary blemish on the resume. The Terrapins are now in the top 100 in the NET Rankings, so with more wins from Maryland, this loss won’t look nearly as bad.
I also believe Illinois has a stretch of games coming up that are very winnable. The next two games are against Michigan and Rutgers, which are a combined 15-17 overall and are the bottom two teams in the Big Ten.
After those two games, Illinois has; at Northwestern, home Indiana, at Ohio State; home Nebraska, at Michigan State, and home Michigan.
Illinois can knock off Michigan and Rutgers this week. That puts us at 14-4 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten. Let’s win our home games, so that means beating Indiana, Nebraska, and Michigan. That puts us at 17-4 overall and 8-2 in the Big Ten.
The Illini already beat Northwestern by 30 points this season, so let’s say we win that in Evanston. That leaves at Ohio State and at Michigan State. Just purely based on the Big Ten is tough to win on the road, let’s say Illinois splits those two away games. We might lose to the Spartans because they played us tough in Champaign.
Illinois winning seven out of the next eight is a legitimate possibility. Shoot, I wouldn’t be shocked to win all eight. This schedule isn’t tough. But if we can win seven out of eight, that puts Illinois at 19-5 overall and 10-3 in the Big Ten. This would have us in the crosshairs of a top-three seed in the NCAA tournament and the possibility of winning the Big Ten regular season outright.