By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Staff Writer
(Cover photo courtesy Joe Clark/IlliniGuys)
January 27, 2022
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- With less than two months until the NCAA Tournament selection show directly after the Big Ten Tournament final, the range for the current projections for Illinois is still very wide. The national noteworthy bracket projections currently have Illinois (14-5, 7-2 in Big Ten Conference) at anywhere from a 5-seed to a 7-seed in the 2022 field.
Illinois has two Quad 1 wins and is 5-3 away from State Farm Center this season, including wins at Iowa. However, most of the losses by the Illini this season continue to fall in either the good or acceptable categories for the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The losses at Marquette, vs. Arizona and vs. Purdue all fall in the Quad 1 sector and the 81-65 loss at Maryland remains what would be considered Illinois’ worst defeat, according to the metrics with the Terrapins sitting No. 92 in the NET rankings and No. 80 in KenPom.
Illinois is No. 13 in the current NET rankings, and is still atop the Big Ten standings as they technically (according to the league record book) go for its first regular season championship since 2004-05.
Here are Illinois’ NCAA tournament resume information as of today:
NET Ranking: 13
Overall Record: 14-5, 7-2 in Big Ten Conference
Quadrant 1 Record (Home vs. 1-30; Neutral vs. 1-50; Away vs. 1-75): 2-3
Quadrant 2 Record (Home vs. 31-75; Neutral vs. 51-100; Away vs. 76-135): 4-2
Quadrant 3 Record (Home vs. 76-160; Neutral vs. 101-200; Away vs. 136-240): 5-0
Quadrant 4 Record (Home vs. 161-353; Neutral vs. 201-353; Away vs. 241-353): 3-0
Where Illini are Currently Projected According to Noteworthy Bracket Analysts:
Joe Lunardi - ESPN - Lunardi's newest bracket released Friday morning has Illinois as a 5-seed and his daily email bracket updates have Illinois as the overall No. 18 in the field. Tennessee would be the 4-seed in that pod and they’d face projected Midwest Athletic Conference champion Toledo. The Illini would be projected to play Iona (17-3, 9-0 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) in Buffalo as Rick Pitino’s squad continues to mow through its league foes by an average of 12 points per game. Illinois and Iona have only faced each other one previous time and the Illini won 106-84 on Dec. 20, 1980 in Knoxville, Tenn. during the consolation game of the Volunteer Classic hosted by Tennessee. Fun Fact: Despite the projected game being in the home state of Iona, the trip would only be approximately 243 miles closer for the Gaels than Illinois.
Jerry Palm - CBS Sports- Palm released a new bracket projection Friday morning and has Illinois as a 6-seed in Portland vs. San Francisco. The Dons haven’t received an NCAA Tournament bid since 1998 but former Auburn assistant Todd Golden has led them to a 16-4 record and a NET ranking of 38 that includes wins over Davidson, Alabama-Birmingham and Fresno State. The only and last time Illinois and San Francisco played was 1956. The only other Portland experience for the Illini in the NCAA Tournament was a disaster as they lost in the first round as a 5-seed to 12-seed Western Kentucky 76-72 in 2009 at the Rose Garden.
Mike DeCourcy - Fox Sports/BTN/Sporting News - In his newest bracket projection, DeCourcy has the Illini as a 6-seed vs. Wyoming. The possible second round matchup in the 3/14 matchup is Providence vs. Vermont.
Wyoming has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2015 but second-year head coach Jeff Linder has the Cowboys (14-3, 3-1) currently second in the Mountain West Conference and with a NET ranking of 34 but currently without a win over a team ranked in the Top 50.
NOTE: The only previous meeting between Illinois and Wyoming came in the NCAA Tournament. Illinois won 67-65 in a 1981 first round game where Eddie Johnson’s 19 points and seven rebounds led the Illini to the victory inside UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. The history of the Illini as a 6-seed has always ended in the second round. In 1993, Illinois defeated Long Beach State 75-72 in Salt Lake City but were defeated 85-68 to Vanderbilt. In 1997, Illinois defeated Southern California 90-77 in Charlotte and seemingly thought it saw good fortune with 14-seed Tennessee-Chattanooga pulling off a first-round upset but the Mocs also defeated Illinois two days later 75-63 to advance to the Sweet 16.
Shelby Mast - USA Today - Mast’s operation updates his bracket every morning and currently has the Illini as a 5-seed and the No. 18 overall seed in the field. Mast has the Illini playing Iona in Portland but has placed Illinois in the Chicago Regional where they might be matched up against Auburn in the United Center for a regional semifinal.
Tim Krueger - Stadium - In his latest projection on Monday, Krueger has Illinois as a 4-seed against Toledo (16-4, 8-1 in MAC) in Pittsburgh. The Illini are 2-2 all-time against Toledo with home wins coming in 1949 and 2010 but road losses coming in 1950 and 1981.
NOTE: Illinois as a 4-seed has been a mixed bag of results in the NCAA Tournament. The only time Illinois has won a second game in the tournament as a 4-seed was when they played in Chicago in 2002 when they defeated 13-seed San Diego State and 12-seed Creighton. In 1981, they lost to 8-seed Kansas State in the regional semifinal. In 1986, Illinois lost to 5-seed Alabama 58-56. In 2000, they lost to 5-seed Florida (which advanced to the National Championship Game vs. Michigan State) 93-76. In 2003, Illinois lost to 5-seed Notre Dame in Indianapolis. In 2006, the college careers of Dee Brown and James Augustine came to a close in San Diego, Calif., thanks to a second-round loss to 5-seed Washington. Of the 15 losses for Illinois in the NCAA Tournament when they’ve been the higher seed, five of them have come as a 4-seed.
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