Illinois basketball squeezes into NCAA selection committee's top 16 teams

We are merely weeks away from March Madness tipping off. On Saturday, the NCAA selection committee released its first version of the top 16 teams for the tournament.

IUPUI v Illinois
IUPUI v Illinois / Michael Hickey/GettyImages
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March Madness is right around the corner, and Illinois basketball fans have a better idea of where we could land on Selection Sunday.

Since Brad Underwood took over the Illini program, a lot of boxes have been checked. We are recruiting better. We are winning games. We have won a Big Ten regular season and tournament title. But one box that hasn’t been checked is success in the NCAA tournament.

Advancing to the second weekend in the Big Dance has been Illinois’ bugaboo despite having strong seeds nearly every year. Many fans hope the 2024 NCAA tournament will turn out better than in years past. On Saturday afternoon, we got a glimpse of where we could end up landing come tournament time.

Over the last couple of years, the NCAA selection committee has started to release the top 16 seeds weeks before Selection Sunday. It is sort of like the College Football Playoff Rankings in a way.

The committee released its first batch of the top 16 seeds on Saturday. The No. 1 overall seeds are Purdue, UConn, Arizona, and Houston. Illinois did make the top 16 teams, checking in as the No. 15 team.

Illinois basketball faces a familiar foe in the first NCAA selection committee’s top 16 teams

There were quite a few thoughts that popped into my head after seeing the initial top 16 teams. The first thought is, why does the committee see Illinois as a worse team than the AP Top 25 or the NET Rankings?

After doing some searching, it seems pretty clear that the selection committee uses Quad 1 record as a heavy factor. In the AP Top 25, Marquette is No. 4 in the nation, but the selection committee has put them at No. 5 and Arizona at No. 4. Marquette is 6-4 against Quad 1 teams and Arizona is 7-3.

San Diego State is not even ranked in the AP Top 25 but finds itself a spot ahead of Illinois at No. 14 in the selection committee’s top 16 teams. The Aztecs are 5-6 against Quad 1 teams and Illinois is 3-5.

Another thought I had was, that I don’t want to play Houston again. If you laid the top 16 teams out in a bracket, Illinois would be in the region of No. 1 Houston, No. 2 Marquette, and No. 3 Alabama.

The Illini played Houston a couple of years ago in the second round to go to the Sweet 16. I don’t want them again. I also don’t want to play Marquette again, who beat Illinois earlier this season.

I would complain a little more, but then I look over to the West Region that comprises No. 1 Arizona, No. 2 Kansas, No. 3 Duke, and No. 4 Auburn. Wow, that is a tough region. So, maybe I am okay with the potential draw.

None of this really means anything, but it is fun to see where Illinois would be ranked if the season ended today. Entering the NCAA tournament as a No. 4 seed would be exciting.

Next. Illinois basketball path to Big Ten regular season title is not far-fetched. Illinois basketball path to Big Ten regular season title is not far-fetched. dark