NCAA tournament bracketology has Illinois basketball as top 4 seed

Jan 21, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood watches
Jan 21, 2024; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood watches / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois basketball had a tough loss on Wednesday, but entering the weekend, our NCAA tournament prospects aren’t looking too bad.

I was thinking the Illini could take a tumble in the NET Rankings and in the Joe Lunardi Bracketology. A loss to Northwestern isn’t a good look, but at least the Wildcats aren’t a terrible team.

Northwestern currently ranks No. 69 in the NET Rankings, so that road loss is a Quad 1 game for the Illini. As of today, Illinois still sits at No. 13 in the NET Rankings with a 2-4 record against Quad 1 teams, 3-0 against Quad 2 teams, 4-1 against Quad 3 teams, and 5-0 against Quad 4 teams.

With Illinois staying strong in the NET Rankings, this translates well to the projected NCAA tournament bracket as well. Lunardi produced an updated projected bracket for March, and he has Illinois sitting at the No. 4 seed. We are projected to take on No. 13 Drexel in the first round.

If the Illini continued to win, as well as the higher seeds, the path to the Final 4 would include No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 1 Houston, and No. 2 Tennessee.

Illinois basketball has a chance to enhance our NCAA tournament position with another Quad 1 win in the coming week

The Illini have done a great job cleaning up in Quads 2-4, but it is Quad 1 that has tripped us up so far. While we have notched two wins in Quad 1, there are also four losses on our resume.

Illinois takes on Indiana on Saturday, but this won’t get us much clout when it comes to the NCAA tournament position. It can only hurt us in the grand scheme of things. The Hoosiers are No. 98 in the NET Rankings, so this game would be a Quad 3 contest.

On Tuesday, Illinois travels to Ohio State for a big matchup. The Buckeyes are No. 57 in the NET Rankings. A road game against the No. 57 team in the NET Rankings would be considered a Quad 1 matchup. Winning this game would help the Illini tremendously when it comes to NET Rankings and NCAA tournament position.

Next Sunday, February 4, Illinois takes on Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are having a good year and find themselves at No. 47 in the NET Rankings. Since this game is at home, it would only be a Quad 2 game. This would still help Illinois a lot, as a win would move us to 4-0 against Quad 2 teams.

There are plenty of games left, and getting victories is the biggest priority right now. One game at a time, and it all starts with Indiana on Saturday in Champaign.