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Illinois Basketball: Where do the Illini rank in the Big Ten?



Illinois basketball

-Illinois basketball is a Big Ten Contender, right?

The big question this season was, “Who will challenge Zach Edey and the Purdue Boilermakers?” With one-third of the season down and the conference schedule to go, Illinois basketball looks like a contender. When Terrance Shannon, Quincy Guerrier, and Coleman Hawkins play their best, they are tough to beat. Head coach Brad Underwood has to like what he’s seeing out of his basketball team heading into conference play.

That said, teams must earn every win in the Big Ten, especially on the road. Illinois basketball ends the non-conference part of the schedule against Farleigh-Dickinson before opening conference play against Northwestern on January 2nd. The game everyone has circled is their first road game against Purdue on January 5th.

Let’s take a look at the Big Ten Power Rankings for the last week of non-conference play:

No. 14-12: Illinois basketball should have no problem with these teams.

14. Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Record: 6-6 (1-1)
  • Ranking: NR
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat Ohio State; Lost to Bucknell
  • Last Game: Beat LeMoyne 72-55
  • Next Game: 12/29 v. Rider
  • In a Nutshell: The Nittany Lions are still learning to get along with losing their head coach, Micah Shrewsberry, among other off-season changes. They got back to .500 with the win against LeMoyne, but they need to find a more consistent offense outside of Kanye Clary.

13. Michigan Wolverines

  • Record: 6-6 (1-1)
  • Ranking: NR
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat Memphis; lost to Long Beach State
  • Last Game: Lost to Florida 106-101
  • Next Game: 12/29 v. McNeese St.
  • In a Nutshell: The Wolverines are a mess because their head coach is a mess. Michigan does not look like it is trending in the right direction. Juwan Howard is back full-time, but the off-the-court issues affect what’s happening on the court.

12. Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Record: 7-5 (0-2)
  • Ranking: NR
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat Seton Hall; Lost to Iowa State and Michigan
  • Last Game: Beat UMBC 103-81
  • Next Game: 12/29 v Northern Illinois
  • In a Nutshell: The football program seems to need the basketball team’s offensive coaching, and the basketball team needs the football team’s defensive coaching. Iowa has had little problem scoring, but they can’t stop anyone. They might be able to outscore teams they are even with, but what can they do against teams who can play good defense against them?

No. 11-9

11. Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Record: 9-3 (1-1)
  • Ranking: NR
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat Nebraska; Lost to San Fransisco
  • Last Game: Beat Ball State 80-63
  • Next Game: 12/29 v. Maine
  • In a Nutshell: The Golden Gophers have not precisely faced a murder’s row of opponents during the non-conference part of its schedule. Their last non-conference game is against Maine. However, that’s not a bad strategy for a relatively inexperienced basketball team. However, the Gophers need forward Daniel Garcia healthy if they want to make a run in the Big Ten.

10. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Record: 7-4 (0-1)
  • Ranking: NR
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat Seton Hall; Lost to Princeton and Mississippi State
  • Last Game: Lost to Missipppi State 70-60
  • Next Game: 12/30 v. Stonehill
  • In a Nutshell: While Iowa can’t stop anyone, Rutgers can’t score. They are 15th in the country in defense but are in the 200s in two-point and three-point shooting. Rutgers relies on young players after the loss of Caleb McConnel and Cam Spencer. Head coach Steve Pikiell needs to get more consistency from the inside game.

No. 9-7

9. Maryland Terrapins

  • Record: 8-4 (1-1)
  • Ranking: NR
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat UCLA; Lost to Davidson
  • Last Game: Beat UCLA 69-60
  • Next Game: 12/28 v. Coppin State
  • In a Nutshell: The Terps have not lived up to expectations with losses to Davidson and UAB. However, sometimes, it takes some teams a while to get things going. Maryland might be one of those teams. Jamir Young scored 37 against UCLA, and the Terps have won seven of its last eight games.

8. Michigan State Spartans

  • Record: 7-5 (0-2)
  • Ranking: 18th Coach’s Poll
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat Baylor, lost to Nebraska
  • Last Game: Beat Stony Brook 99-55
  • Next Game: 12/30 v. Indiana State
  • In a Nutshell: Much like Maryland, it’s taken the Spartans time to get going. After early losses to James Madison and #9 Duke, they boat-raced Baylor. Michigan State traditionally schedules a demanding non-conference schedule. Head coach Tom Izzo thinks this team can make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

7. Indiana Hoosiers

  • Record: 9-3 (2-0)
  • Ranking: NR 
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat Maryland; lost to Kansas
  • Last Game: Beat North Alabama 83-66
  • Next Game: 12/29 v. Kennesaw State
  • In a Nutshell: The Hoosiers are a difficult team to figure out. Auburn and UConn blew them out but almost beat Kansas. Some of that is due to relying on young players to carry the scoring load. Indiana needs Xavier Johnson sooner than later if they will make a run in conference play.

No. 6-4: Illinois basketball might have trouble with these teams, especially on the road.

6. Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Record: 10-2 (1-1)
  • Ranking: NR
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat Michigan State; Lost to Minnesota
  • Last Game: Beat North Dakota 83-75
  • Next Game: 12/29 v. South Carolina State
  • In a Nutshell: The Cornhuskers do the little things right. They take care of the basketball. They don’t foul, and they defend the high-percentage shots as well as anyone in the Big Ten. Nebraska is balanced offensively. There is one question for the ‘Huskers: Who can take over a game and get their shot in a close game?

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Record: 10-2, 1-1
  • Ranking: NR
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat #17 Alabama; lost to Penn State
  • Last Game: Beat New Orleans 78-36
  • Next Game: 12/29 v. West Virginia in Cleveland
  • In a Nutshell: How are the Buckeyes not in the top 25? They’ve defeated Alabama and UCLA after an early season loss to Penn State. The Buckeyes have three things that will serve them well in conference play: they defend, are deep, and can shoot.

4. Northwestern Wildcats

  • Record: 9-2 (1-0)
  • Ranking: NR
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat #1 Purdue; Lost to Chicago State
  • Last Game: Beat Arizona State 65-46
  • Next Game: 12/29 v. Jackson  State
  • In a Nutshell: The Wildcats are another team that does the little things well. They are also relentless defensively. Northwestern has a legit scorer in Boo Buie, who can get baskets in close games. They lack size on their front line, though Matthew Nicholson plays about 20 minutes per night. The Wildcats are dangerous, especially at home in conference.

No. 3-1: Illinois Basketball is one of the Top teams in the Big Ten

3. Wisconsin Badgers

  • Record: 9-3 (1-0)
  • Ranking: 23 (AP), 24 (Coaches)
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat #3 Marquette; Lost to Providence
  • Last Game: Beat Chicago State 80-53
  • Next Game: 1/2/24 v. Iowa
  • In a Nutshell: There is a lot to like about Greg Gard’s Badgers. They are experienced with AJ Storr as their leading scorer. They play Wisconsin basketball. They are tough defensively, with enough offense to beat most teams. They might not be athletic enough to win the Big Ten, but they are tough enough to ruin it for someone else. Expect the Badgers to make a deep run in March Madness.

Illinois Basketball will contend this season.

2. Illinois

  • Record: 9-2 (1-0)
  • Ranking: 11th (AP) 13th (Coaches)
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Beat Missouri; Lost to #17 Tennessee
  • Last Game: Beat Missouri 97-73
  • Next Game: 12/23 v Farleigh Dickinson
  • In a Nutshell: The Illini go as far as Terrence Shannon, Jr. takes them. He is the leading scorer and is also the heartbeat of this basketball team. The Texas Tech transfer is in his sixth year, and that maturity shows. Illinois needs more consistent offense from his supporting cast. The offense can’t be Shannon or bust every night. Keep an eye on Ty Rodgers; he’s a top-60 player with a ton of ability. He will be outstanding this season before all is said and done.
  1. Purdue
  • Record: 11-1 (1-1)
  • Ranking: 1st (AP and Coaches)
  • Best Win/Worst Loss: Won Maui Invitational; Lost to Northwestern
  • Last Game: Beat Jacksonville 100-57
  • Next Game: 12/29 v. Eastern Kentucky
  • In a Nutshell: This might be cynical, but nothing matters for the Boilermakers until March Madness. They won the Big Ten Tournament and were Big Ten Regular Season Champions last year. Then Purdue became the second #1 seed to lose to a #16 when it lost to Farleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In addition, they have arguably the most unguardable player in college basketball and should win the Big Ten again. How far can they go in the Tournament?

Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.