Illinois has one game left on its Big Ten regular season schedule (at Rutgers on Sunday) before beginning the 2018 Big Ten Tournament next Wednesday (Feb. 28). Yep, two Big Ten teams will have their seasons come to a close before we even get to March — wild.
Minnesota, Illinois, Rutgers and Iowa have already clinched spots on the tournament’s first day, and each team has one game left in conference play before Day One.
Minnesota currently leads the pack at 4-13 in conference play. With wins over Illinois, Penn State, Iowa and Rutgers this season, the Golden Gophers still have a game at No. 9 Purdue on the slate.
Likely to be chalked up a loss on the Boilermakers’ Senior Night, we’ll consider Minnesota finishes 4-14.
Illinois has played a ton of close conference games this season and has not been able to close out or play 40 minutes in a handful of them. The Illini have beaten Indiana, Nebraska (almost twice!) and Rutgers already, and one more #Illinutgers is scheduled.
Assuming we don’t get a repeat of last year’s epic loss at Rutgers to close out the season, Illinois will likely finish 4-14 in Big Ten play. That means Rutgers, currently 3-14, will finish 3-15.
Remember, Illinois couldn’t beat Minnesota earlier this year — the Gophers took the lone matchup 77-67 — so Minnesota has the tiebreaker if both teams finish 4-14.
And then there’s Iowa. Nobody expected the Hawkeyes to be this bad this season, but wins over Illinois (ugh), Wisconsin and Minnesota helped them avoid a winless campaign. Iowa gets a Northwestern team that keeps blowing leads in Iowa City, and it seems like the Wildcats will win this game.
If Iowa beats Northwestern, the Hawkeyes finish 4-14 and ahead of Minnesota and Illinois and claim the No. 11 seed. Remember, this is assuming all three teams finish 4-14 (so Purdue doesn’t get upset and Illinois gets revenge on Rutgers, both likely).
If Northwestern beats Iowa, the Hawkeyes finish 3-15 and BEHIND Rutgers, good for last place in the conference.
So, now that you read that jumble of words, let’s solely focus on Illinois.
If Illinois loses to Rutgers, Illinois is automatically the last seed in the tournament.
If Illinois wins, they play in the 12/13 game versus (likely), Rutgers.
That still depends on some stuff, but hopefully that makes sense?
At the end of the day, the Illini will end up playing somebody in their fifth game in 10 days and the team will be exhausted. ‘Twill be fun.