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Fighthing Illini Fighting For Big Dance Bid

Posted by sportsmaven on March 4, 2007

After today’s performance down the stretch in their game against the Iowa Hawkeyes, Illinois fans have to be nervous about their Fighting Illini’s chances of making the NCAA field of 64. Illinois really needed to win this game today to make their case clearer for the NCAA Tournament Committee, but lost 60-53. Now Illinois is deeper in the bubble and will have to pull out a couple of wins in the Big 10 Tournament next weekend to get them off that bubble.

Illini Lose to Iowa 60-53
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Andy Glockner from ESPN summed it up by saying:

Illinois [21-9 (9-6), RPI: 32, SOS: 24] As explained in part above, the fact that the Illini did not have to play at either Ohio State or Wisconsin may actually have made the Illini’s schedule harder as only one team in the league’s middle six has a league road win this season against someone other than the bottom three. Either way, Illinois really needs to go to now-demoralized Iowa and take care of business. If they end up in a cluster of teams at 9-7, it’s very possible the Illini won’t have the best profile. In nonconference play, Illinois beat Bradley and Missouri but lost to Xavier. A 9-7 mark and a semifinals trip in Chicago could be enough with the computer profile hanging in there, but it would be better not to mess around.

I’m not exactly sure what to think of the 2006-2007 Illini basketball team. The fact that they have won 21 games is nice, but they played a soft early schedule. The things I see from this team, both positives and negatives, in evaluating their worthiness for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament is:

Positives: 21 wins, RPI of 22, SOS of 24, quality wins against #24 Indiana, Missouri, Bradley (very thin in this category)
Negatives: 1-6 record vs. Top 25 ranked teams, only 9-8 in their last 17 games through today, weak early season schedule.

Other thoughts is that this team never got off to a solid start with suspensions, injuries, and legal troubles impacting cohesiveness and limiting effective practice time all season. A win today would have given the Illini a little momentum with a 4 game win streak and a bye heading into the Big Ten tournament. Now, it is back to fighting for victories in a very tough conference to get to the conference semi-finals to move off that bubble. That could have happened today with a win at Iowa. Now it’s an uphill road and the odds may be a bit long.

The other thing tht concerns me is that this team has no clear floor leader and has no consistent scoring threat (i.e. no head above shoulders talent that scares teams) The fact that this team has won 21 games is a testament to the quality of coaching the Illini receive from Coach Bruce Weber. The lack of clear leadership and studly talent is a testament to the ineffectiveness of Illini recruiting efforts to capitalize on a trip to the NCAA National Championship Game two seasons ago. I really don’t see the landscape for extraordinary talent changing for the Illini for next season either.

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