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Illinois drops in AP poll after back-to-back losses

The Illini took a tumble this week.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It was a difficult week for Illinois and shows in the latest AP poll

The Illini took a tumble in the latest rankings on Monday, dropping from No. 17 to No. 24 after back-to-back losses.

In the first loss, Illinois played then-No. 4 Purdue to a double-overtime thriller, led by the heroics of Andre Curbelo in his first game in two months. But in that MLK Day matinee, Kofi Cockburn ended up with a concussion, which kept him out of Friday’s game at Maryland, as the Terps avenged a loss earlier this month with a 81-65 win.

Brad Underwood’s team still sits close to the top of the Big Ten standings, but national voters aren’t going to respect a team as inconsistent as the Illini, even after a hot stretch between a tight loss to Arizona in early December and last week’s defeat to Purdue.

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Illini, as they face the top team in the Big Ten — and the second-highest conference foe in the rankings — when Michigan State comes to town on Tuesday. The Illini then travel to Northwestern for an in-state matchup Saturday afternoon.

Purdue still leads Big Ten teams in the rankings at No. 6. Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State also sit in the top 25.

Also this week, for the first time ever, Bruce Pearl and Auburn sits atop the rankings at No. 1.