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Illinois returns to AP poll after seven-week absence

The Illini have a number again.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois is finally back in the AP Top 25.

After a seven-week absence, the Illini returned to the polls Monday morning at No. 25.

Brad Underwood’s team had not been ranked for the past seven weeks after falling out of the rankings following a 4-2 start to the season, which included losses to unranked Marquette and Cincinnati, and an uninspiring win over UT-RGV.

For the past several weeks, Illinois has been the top vote-getter among the unranked teams, and in that time the Illini have just kept winning.

First it was the Braggin’ Rights game against Mizzou. Then it was a Covid pause, followed by two Big Ten wins to open 2022 (at Minnesota, vs. Maryland).

Illinois (11-3, 4-0 Big Ten) hasn’t lost since a tight one against a very, very good Arizona team early last month.

The Illini hit the road for a matchup Tuesday night against Nebraska before returning to Champaign for a pair of games against two of the preseason favorites in the conference — Michigan and Purdue. Although, Michigan is currently on its own Covid pause, so Friday’s game may be up in the air.

Including Illinois, five Big Ten teams are now in the rankings, still led by Purdue at No. 7.