January 31, 2022
We offer a challenge to any college basketball program in the country...take your top two players out of the lineup for a combined 19 games, pull additional players at random times for COVID and separate flu outbreaks, and see if you can win 75 percent of your games and sit atop your conference with an 8-2 record.
What this Illinois team - and coach Brad Underwood and staff - has done is simply remarkable. A couple of narrow wins last week, but their resume is good enough for a #4 seed in our latest NCAA tournament bracketology.
Their schedule the rest of the way offers no breaks. Of their remaining ten games, nine are against the top nine teams in the current Big Ten standings. And the next nine days could be crucial in their quest for a Big Ten regular season title, with Big Ten co-leader Wisconsin visiting Wednesday, a trip to Indiana Saturday, and then a rematch at Purdue a week from tomorrow. The Boilermakers have rebounded from a slow start to sit just a game out of first place in the Big Ten.
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