At this point, it’s almost a certainty Illinois will be a No. 1 seed when the NCAA Tournament bracket is announced this weekend on Selection Sunday.
In the final AP poll before the reveal, the Fighting Illini checked in at No. 3, notably ahead of now No. 4 Michigan. Many bracketologists predict Brad Underwood’s team will be a No. 1 seed on Sunday.
Still ahead of the Illini are No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor (up one this week). Illinois beat Michigan by 23 points last week.
Iowa, Ohio State and Purdue are also all still on the top 25 entering the season’s final week.
The Big Ten Tournament begins on Wednesday, but after Illinois finished second in the conference, it secured the double-bye and won’t take the court until Friday.
In terms of moving up any higher in the poll come next Monday (or to earn a better position on the 1-line), Illinois would have to win the Big Ten Tournament, while also needing Baylor lay an egg in the Big 12 Tournament (quite possible with the way the Bears have played out of their COVID pause). Gonzaga is surely a lock to run through the West Coast Conference tourney this week.
With all that said, no matter what happens this weekend, we’ll more than likely be back here next Monday with Gonzaga, Baylor, Illinois and Michigan rounding out the top four in the rankings and all four No. 1 seeds.
Good company to be in if you ask me.