CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- For the first time in the three-year tenure of head coach Brad Underwood, Illinois will enter the Big Ten tournament as a team trying to improve or maintain its seed in the NCAA tournament and they won’t be playing in the conference event until Friday. Win a couple games and just get to championship Sunday, Illinois will likely have its seeding in the NCAA tournament wrapped up because the Big Ten finale is scheduled as the last game before the bracket is revealed on CBS. The last time Illinois has made it past the quarterfinal round of the league tournament is 2010 and haven’t made it to the championship round since 2008.
The NCAA tournament picture is still very much clouded for the Illini (21-10, 13-7 in Big Ten) in terms of seeding while they're currently forecasted by all of the national projectors with a single-digit seed anywhere between 6 to 8 in the projected NCAA tournament fields published this week.
Here are Illinois’ NCAA tournament resume information as of today:
NET Ranking: 38
Quadrant 1 Record (Home vs. 1-30; Neutral vs. 1-50; Away vs. 1-75): 5-8
Quadrant 2 Record (Home vs. 31-75; Neutral vs. 51-100; Away vs. 76-135): 5-1
Quadrant 3 Record (Home vs. 76-160; Neutral vs. 101-200; Away vs. 136-240): 2-1
Quadrant 4 Record (Home vs. 161-353; Neutral vs. 201-353; Away vs. 241-353): 8-0
Here are where the Illini are currently projected according to several of the most noteworthy bracket projectors:
Shelby Mast - USA Today - Mast’s operation updates his bracket every morning and currently has the Illini as a 7-seed playing Utah State (24-8, 12-6 in Mountain West Conference) in St. Louis with Creighton as the 2-seed. Utah State just clinched its bid into the NCAA field by knocking off San Diego State 59-56 in the conference tournament final this past weekend thanks to a game-winning three-pointer by the tournament’s most valuable player Sam Merrill.
NOTE: Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams, Illinois has only been a 7-seed once in school history and it was their last selection in 2013. John Groce’s Illini team defeated Colorado 57-49 in Austin, Texas before losing 63-59 to 2-seed Miami (Fla.). Illinois has never played Utah State outside of Champaign and the two teams haven’t played since the Illini won 115-64 on Dec. 7, 1985.
Joe Lunardi - ESPN - Lunardi's newest bracket released Monday morning has Illinois as an 7-seed in St. Louis against Texas (18-12, 8-10 in Big East Conference) with Kentucky as the 2-seed.
NOTE: Illinois and Marquette haven’t played since agreeing to a home-and-home contract in 1992 and 1993. Marquette won both games (1992 in Champaign, 1993 in Milwaukee) and have won four out of five since 1961. Illinois’ last meeting against Kentucky came in the 1984 NCAA tournament when the Illini nearly pulled off an upset (a 54-51 win) in Rupp Arena.
Jerry Palm - CBS Sports - Palm released a new bracket projection Tuesday morning and has Illinois as a 6-seed in Greensboro, North Carolina vs. the First Four round game of Wichita State vs. Richmond with Duke being the No. 3 seed.
Mike DeCourcey - Fox Sports/BTN/Sporting News - In his first year doing bracket projections, DeCourcey has the Illini as a 6-seed in Greensboro, North Carolina vs. the First Four round game of Cincinnati vs. Stanford with Duke being the No. 3 seed.
NOTE: Illinois has played once in Greensboro, North Carolina (the current site of the ACC tournament) and that was a 78-77 loss to Duke on Nov. 28, 2000. However, the Illini have an undefeated all-time record (4-0) against the combination of Wichita State and Richmond. Illinois is 2-5 all-time against Duke including a 72-62 loss in the 2004 NCAA Tournament regional semifinal in Atlanta.
Illinois has played Cincinnati in the NCAA tournament as the Illini won 92-68 in Columbus, Ohio in the 2004 second round. Illinois and Stanford haven’t played since 1974.
Tim Krueger - Stadium - Krueger has Illinois as a 7-seed in Sacramento, California against Florida (19-12, 11-7 in Southeastern Conference) with San Diego State as the 2-seed.
NOTE: The Illinois-Florida game would be seen as the Lon Kruger Bowl as the former Illini coach roamed the sidelines for both programs and his final game with the Illini was a 93-76 loss to the Gators in the 2000 NCAA tournament second round in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.