Illinois basketball one win away from the WBIT title

The women's Illinois basketball team is surging at the right time, as we are now one win away from the WBIT title.

Washington State v Illnois
Washington State v Illnois / Michael Hickey/GettyImages
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The women’s Illinois basketball team is looking to add some hardware to the trophy case.

The Illini didn’t have the regular season most were wanting. A rough non-conference that saw the Orange and Blue go 6-4 led to a tough 0-4 start to the Big Ten schedule.

Illinois was once 6-8 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten. From that point forward, things started to change. We finished the year going 8-6, which included a win over the No. 14 Indiana. The Hoosiers were a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16 this season.

This strong finish got the Illini into the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament (WBIT) hosted by the NCAA.

Illinois entered the WBIT as a No. 4 seed and got through Missouri State 74-69 in the first round. The next matchup was against Stoney Brook, and we cruised through that game with a 79-62 victory.

A tough No. 3 Tulsa team awaited. This was a good game, and the Illini managed to pull away, winning 69-61. This set up a Final 4 appearance against No. 1 Washington State on Monday night.

The Cougars had a pretty good season all things considered. They beat Maryland and Gonzaga in the non-conference, which were both NCAA tournament teams. Washington State also finished the regular season 18-13 overall.

Despite the solid play by the Cougars this season, Illinois dominated the game. We got up on Washington State in the first quarter by nine points and never looked back. The final score ended up being 81-58 in favor of the Orange and Blue.

This win over Washington State set up a date with No. 1 seed Villanova in the championship game on Wednesday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The Wildcats were another NCAA tournament snub. They had an 18-11 regular season and finished 11-7 in the Big East. This will be a tough game for Illinois, but we are ready for it.

This isn’t the last time you will see some of the big players for the women’s Illinois basketball team

It would be nice to send off some of the talented Illini players with some hardware. Winning the WBIT title would be a great accomplishment, and it could be a momentum builder for next season.

While most of the Illinois leaders won’t be back next season, back on March 20, senior Makira Cook announced that she would be returning to Champaign for her fifth year. She is a much-needed piece to what could be a pretty good team.

Cook will lead at the No. 1 guard spot. Brynn Shoup-Hill and Adalia McKenzie will be back. They should be slotted in to start in 2024-25. Illinois has five-star Berry Wallace coming into the program. She is going to start from day one. I am also excited to see how Gretchen Dolan develops this offseason. She gives Illinois such a spark.

This run to the WBIT championship has been fun to watch. Illinois is playing some great basketball. This would be a great sendoff for some of the legends who are leaving the program.

Projected Illinois basketball lineup after adding Jake Davis and losing Dain Dainja. Projected Illinois basketball lineup after adding Jake Davis and losing Dain Dainja. dark. Next