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Illinois jumps to No. 15 in AP poll after back-to-back wins

The Illini are back on the upward trend.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois is back trending upward after a pair of Big Ten wins last week over Penn State and Indiana.

In the latest AP poll released Monday morning, the Illini found themselves at No. 15, up from No. 18 a week ago. Last week’s spot was the lowest Illinois had been this season, and the Illini found themselves there after a 5-3 start to the season, including a disheartening road loss to Rutgers the previous weekend.

But Brad Underwood’s crew bounced back last week in a big way. Despite slow starts against both the Nittany Lions and Hoosiers, Illinois won each game by at least nine points on the back of Ayo Dosunmu.

As we’ve been saying all season, the Big Ten will be a gauntlet. A team like top-five Iowa lost in overtime to Minnesota, the same Golden Gophers team that Illinois curbstomped two weeks ago. Northwestern is surprisingly good at 3-0, and, hell, I’d even give Nebraska a fighting chance to upset anyone.

Illinois only has one game to add to its resume this week, coming on Saturday at home against Purdue — a much-needed break for the Illini, who have played 10 games in a pandemic in just about a month.