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Possible March Matchups for Illinois



Illinois Fighting Illini guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) drives to the basket during the NCAA men s basketball game against the Purdue Boilermakers, Sunday, March 5, 2023, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. The Purdue Boilermakers won 76-71. Purillini030523 Am6921

The Big Ten Tournament Matchup

On March 9th, Illinois starts their Big Ten Tournament campaign against the Penn State Nittany Lions. The veteran Penn State team has dominated Illinois. They have won both of their matchups this season by a comfortable margin. In my opinion, Illinois needs to prove that it can put together multiple strong efforts together before they head off to the Big dance. Outside of beating Northwestern after a game against Minnesota, Illinois has not won back to back games since the end of January.

If Illinois can overcome Penn State, they will need to beat Northwestern in a high octane in-state matchup in Chicago. This is the perfect opportunity for Illinois to gain the trust of fans heading into the big dance. However, there is a part of me that just wants this team to be at full strength and well rested when it goes to March Madness. I do not have the most confidence given that PSU is fighting for their life, but if Illinois is to lose they will likely land on the 8-9 seed line.

Let’s assume Illinois is an 8-9 seed.

If Illinois goes to the NCAA tournament as an 8 or 9 seed, it can expect a tough opponent to start. According to CBS sports teams that are in the 8/9 seed are teams like: NC State, Auburn, Pitt and Providence. I would feel good against most of these matchups quite honestly. The Field of 68 released a mock bracket with teams like Memphis, Arkansas, Boise State and Missouri on the 8/9 line.

Illinois has the advantage over most of these schools from a talent perspective, and I have confidence they would at least bring it for one game. If Illinois wins, they would end up facing a number 1 seed.

Who is the number 1 seed you want?

The possible number 1 seeds are: Kansas, Houston, Purdue, Alabama and UCLA. I think it is safe to say that Houston and Kansas are the two teams you most definitely do not want to be matched up against. Kansas would be a fun matchup given the summer’s secret scrimmage, but I am all for staying away from Bill Self in March. Houston is even better than last year and they absolutely scare me.

That leaves us with Purdue, Alabama and UCLA. Purdue may not be matched up with Illinois by the committee given they are from the same conference. UCLA would be a candidate, however given that they played a relatively weaker schedule and just lost their best defender to an injury, the committee may put them at the 2 line instead. Alabama would be the next possible matchup.

I would want Alabama out of all other seeds.

Alabama is very talented and shoots a lot of three pointers. It would seem that Illinois would be at a disadvantage given that Penn State also shoots a lot of three point shots and continues to neuter Illinois. However, with the recent Brandon Miller drama and worsened play as of late, Nate Oats’ squad is the most vulnerable of the possible 1 seeds.

Illinois would likely be able to sneak up to the 7 seed if they are able to beat Penn State and Northwestern this week. In that case, they would have to play 2 seeds. The possible 2 seeds are: Kansas State, Texas, UCLA, and Gonzaga. Reminder to everyone: We beat two of these schools.

Illinois still has a lot to play for. Winning two games this week would bolster belief and would likely improve their seeding. Improving seeding could potentially lead to a more favorable matchup. Illinois and their players continue to endorse themselves as a “team built for March”. They have to prove that this week.

Alex is the Owner of, your go-to source for in depth coverage of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Alex is also the lead content creator and lead editor of all articles on Armchair Illini. He has had articles featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, YardBarker, Verbal Commits, CBS Sports and more.