With about a dozen games left in Big Ten play, Illinois is still figuring itself out.
That was on display last week, as you can argue the Illini were outplayed in three of the four halves of basketball they played. As a result, they dropped in this week’s AP poll to No. 14.
In Illinois’ game against Northwestern on Thursday, the Illini fell behind by 15, only to outscore the Wildcats by 40 in the second half en route to a 25-point win. It was historic, being the first team in the last 25 years to be down by 15 at the break only to win by at least 20. It’s the kind of win that puts the country on notice again that Illinois is the team to beat in the nation’s most competitive conference.
But amid a Trent Frazier injury, free throw issues, and a sloppy night overall, the Illini couldn’t follow it up with a win. Instead, they played two average halves of ball against a depleted Maryland team on Sunday and lost by three. It’s the kind of game that reminds you that anyone can beat anyone in the Big Ten.
Is this where Illinois should settle in with the rankings the rest of the season? Potentially. The Illini need to find a way to string together a handful of wins if they hope to move back into the top-10.
They’ll get that chance this week against the conference’s worst team, Nebraska (Wednesday), and an under-performing Ohio State team in Champaign (Saturday).