What a weird week for Illinois basketball, as the program is in the middle of some turmoil and is still winning games.
The Illini played two games this past week and came out victorious in both contests. Illinois traveled to Ann Arbor to take on the Michigan Wolverines on Thursday. Michigan hung around in the first half, but the Illini were able to pull away late, winning the game 88-73.
After that game concluded, Illinois found out that Terrence Shannon Jr. won his court case against Illinois so that he could play again while he awaits his preliminary hearing on February 23 stemming from a rape charge.
This news enabled the Illini to use Shannon on Sunday against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights had their moments, but Illinois was too much for the bottom dwellers of the Big Ten. The Illini came out victorious against Rutgers, 86-63.
With those two conference wins, Illinois has now seen a bump in the latest AP Top 25. The Illini find themselves No. 10 in the country, which is a four-spot jump from last week's ranking of No. 14 in the nation.
Illinois basketball takes on two top-half Big Ten teams in the upcoming week
While it was great seeing the Illini get back on a winning streak this past week, it was against the bottom two programs in the Big Ten. Michigan and Rutgers both sit at 2-5 overall in the conference and have a combined record of 17-19.
The upcoming week should be a tougher test for the Orange and Blue. On Wednesday, we take on Northwestern in Evanston. Despite beating the Wildcats by 30 points at the beginning of January, this should be a harder go-around. Northwestern is lurking at 4-3 and sits at the No. 4 spot in the Big Ten.
Also, something to note, this is the first away game since Shannon returned to the team. Illinois fans weirdly gave him a standing ovation on Sunday, but I would imagine the response during away games is going to be ugly. I am curious how he will respond on the court.
To round out the week, Illinois takes on Indiana in Champaign on Saturday. This is the lone matchup against Indiana this season, so it should be a fun fight. The Hoosiers have struggled of late, dropping four of their last six, but they still find themselves at 4-4 in the Big Ten and in contention for the double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
It is exciting that Illinois is ranked so high in the latest AP Top 25. We are squarely in the mix to win the Big Ten regular season, potentially win the Big Ten Tournament, and enter the NCAA tournament as a top-three seed. Let’s finish the 2023-24 campaign out strong.