Illinois Basketball: Top 5 Illini hopes and expectations for the New Year

Valparaiso v Illinois
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2. Illinois a top-2 seed in the NCAA tournament

Illinois has had a pretty good 2023-24 campaign thus far, but there is still plenty of work left to do in the coming months.

This week, Illinois climbed up to No. 11 in the nation. That is the highest we have been ranked since November 15, 2021. That year, we were a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and fell short against Houston in the second round.

I have my sights set on something higher this season, though. I don’t want to be the No. 4 seed. I want to play well enough to secure a top-two seed in the 2024 NCAA tournament.

Illinois’ non-conference has proved to be a tough one. We played three current top-10 programs so far this season, and Illinois is 1-2 against those opponents. The lone win was against Florida Atlantic, which is No. 7 in the country. That number will continue to rise as they enter their conference season.

I believe Illinois can secure a top-two seed in the upcoming Big Dance. You are roughly looking at the top eight in the AP Top 25 securing at least a two-seed. So, Illinois has to move up a few more spots to have a shot.

On January 5, we take on the No. 1 team in the nation, the Purdue Boilermakers. A win there would move us quickly up into the top 10. That is a make-or-break top-two seed game for Illinois. We also play the Boilermakers on March 5. That is another big game.

Illinois also needs to take care of business at home. Securing wins in Champaign will keep us in the conversation for a top-two seed. If we can beat Purdue at least once and keep homecourt safe, then a top-two seed is definitely a possibility in March.