The University Of Illinois put an exclamation point to the end of the 2020-21 regular season. The #4 Illini defeated the #7 Ohio State Buckeyes 73-68. It gave them what some call a lock on one of the four #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. That would be regardless of any outcome in the Big Ten Tournament next week.
Saturday's game marked the return of Ayo Dosunmu. Dosunmu had missed the last three games with a broken nose suffered at the Michigan State game on February 23rd. The Illinois and future NBA guard looked like he had never been gone. Sporting a protective mask, Dosunmu portrayed the "superhero" he has been all season, putting up 19 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 Assists. He had help from Kofi Cockburn 12 points, 6 rebounds, and Andre Curbello 19 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists.
Illinois was already in the mix for a #1 seed, but so was Ohio State. So the game had a lot riding on it for both teams. Many thought IF Ohio State could beat Illinois and have a good showing in the Big Ten tourney (at least two wins) that a #1 seed would fall their way. This would put the Illini to the two-line. Those same folks also thought that an Illini win in Columbus would make them a stone-cold-lead-pipe-lock for a #1 seed no matter what would happen in the Big Ten tourney.
The Illini resume' already was impressive before the game:
The Illini were tops in Big Ten conference victories with 15. (now 16, which is a school record for conference wins in a season)
They had won 10 of their last 11 games. (now 11 out of 12)
They were #4 in the AP, the Coaches Poll, the top 25 and 1 poll, and the NCAA NET rankings.
They are 5th in Kenpom rankings.
Andy Katz had Illinois 4th in the Power 36
They were 22nd in RPI.
They had the most quad one wins with 8 tied with Michigan. (now they have 9)
With the win tonight, 9 road wins, most of any team in a Power 5 conference.
Lots of people are weighing in on Illinois.
Bill Walton said on the Daily Wager on March 4th that his top 5 teams are; Gonzaga, Illinois, Baylor, Michigan, and Florida St.
Senior Editor for College Sports - Patrick Schmidt said that he had Illinois as a #1 seed before the Illinois- Michigan game.
Brad Evans wrote this in giving Illinois a #1 seed "Silence, doubters. Illini eliminated any questions about whether they are a No. 1 seed with a third-straight statement road win. Latest at Ohio. St."
Here is a tweet by Former Illini and NBA Star Eddie Johnson
I think it is pretty clear that Illinois has made its case, and people are taking notice. In 1989 the Illini were seeded #1 and went to the final four. Sixteen years later, they were a #1 and went to the Championship game. Now 16 years later, they are a #1 seed. Is the next step up the National Championship?
Some NCAA tourney notes:
THE current CBS sports bracket has Illinois and Missouri in the same "region" with a possible Sweet 16 match-up. We will have to see if the selection committee agrees.
According to CBS sports.com, # 1 seeds will be; Gonzaga, Michigan, Baylor, and Illinois
the list of #2 seeds are; Iowa, Alabama, Ohio State, and West Virginia.
Your last 4 in are; Michigan State, Drake, VCU, and St Louis U.
First 4 out are; Boise St, Syracuse, Seton Hall, and Ole Miss.
Bubble teams are; Colorado St., Wichita St., UCLA, Xavier, Boise St., Drake, Loyola Chi, and Georgia Tech.
Currently, on the CBS bracketology, Kentucky, Duke and Tennessee are nowhere to be found. Missouri is a #5 seed. Let the conference Tournaments begin and see what the selection committee says!
Thanks for reading.