Final AP Poll Ranks Illini No. 21 - First Final Ranking Since 2006

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- For the first time in 14 years, the Illinois men’s basketball program will end a season with a ranking number by their name.

Illinois (21-10) was placed No. 21 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll after the Illini won its regular season finale 78-76 against Iowa on March 8. Illinois was projected as a 6-seed or 7-seed in the 2020 NCAA tournament, which would've been the program's first NCAA bid since 2013.

The ranking for the Illini program is the first time they've been ranked in the final AP poll since the conclusion of the 2005-06 season, which was the final collegiate season of star players Dee Brown and James Augustine. 

Due to the concerns over the COVID-19 novel coronavirus epidemic, the NCAA released a statement last week announcing an unprecedented decision of canceling the 2020 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The cancellation guaranteed Illinois would not be on a selection show Sunday or be one of 64 teams part of first round action either the following Thursday or Friday.

Illinois (21-10, 13-7 in Big Ten) was projected to receive an at-large berth in the 2020 NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years. The announcement by NCAA ended any hope the Illini would have participation in any postseason play.

“This team achieved a lot. I'm extremely proud. We've got Illinois back in the NCAA Tournament. We've got Illinois back on the national stage. And you know, the event is not going to happen. And I feel for those kids,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said Saturday. “Our coaching staff has done an incredible job, and we'll be there. We'll be back there, but those four guys won't. And that's what's so disappointing, to walk on that court and get that experience.But circumstances are what they are, and we'll continue to grow this program and keep working. And in the meantime, I'm going to have nothing but incredibly fond memories of this season, and I can't wait to just sit back and really dig in to all the positives that have happened in this season.”

Kansas, led by former Illinois head coach Bill Self, ended the suddenly-halted 2019-20 as the top-ranked program but Self has released a statement saying the Jayhawks program will not claim this season as a national championship in their school’s records.

“That’s not the way this is all intended to be,” Self stated. “Coaches prepare their teams to peak at certain times. I’m proud of how our team prepared all season but especially at the end of the season, we were terrific. We operated under some pressure and dealt with some stuff. From our standpoint, sure, that would be great, but even if that were to occur, there would be a huge asterisk next to it, and I would agree with that.”