Illini Derail Hoosiers, Continue to Enhance NCAA Profile


bruce weber

Truthfully, if I again hear the words “enhance NCAA profile” or “NCAA profile needs enhancing” like there’s some sort of a erectile dysfunction drug to fix it, I’ll probably punch all the Viagra in the world. It’s getting out of hand people. Seriously.

But we’ve had to examine the profile of the Illinois Fighting Illini a lot these past couple of seasons. There’s been a lot (or, not a lot, if you prefer to look at it that way) to examine. It won’t be any different after their 72-48 win in their regular season finale against Indiana.

Without getting into major peripherals, the Illini are 19-12 overall, and 9-9 in the Big Ten. Prior to Saturday’s win, their KenPom ranking was 19th.

This season is no different, although it seems Illini fans everywhere now are talking about the Illini being “in” the dance and that all the work is done.

After dealing with this just one short season ago…I caution all Illini fans to tread carefully.

sad illini fan
Yes, that’s right. Seeeee the sad Illini fan.

Gaze into his eyes. Remember the sorrow from last season.

Now…let’s get one thing clear before we go forward. Right now, I do believe the Illini are in the NCAA’s right now and probable around a nine seed.

The key words in that last sentence, however, were not “in the NCAA’s,” however. They were “right now.”

Right now, the Illini are in. Right now, things look good.

And though things looked murky after last season’s regular season finale, the fact of the matter is that they still could have played their way in.

The fact also remains that many fans thought the Illini were already in after their quarterfinal blowout win against Wisconsin.

What doesn’t stay static is the bubble around you. Things happen, teams that shouldn’t win win and teams that shouldn’t lose lose, and profiles keep on getting…ahem…enhanced…all around you.

While you’re making yourself stronger, other teams are too, not to mention that the bubble shrinks with every unexpected automatic berth team that defeats a team that will most likely grab a bid regardless.

In short, the bubble is an ever-changing, living organism.

Things to consider going forward…

  • The number of Big East teams that qualify. It appears that we’re looking at 11 bids from the large conference out east. That doesn’t bode well for the Illini or any other team that’s close going forward.
  • The number of Pac-10 teams is equally worth paying attention to. It looks like 3 might go, with Arizona, UCLA in and Washington a bubble team. However, with upset in that conference tourney — and don’t count it out, because the Pac-10 is kind of a train-wreck — it most likely becomes a four-bid conference…and that’s a bid stealer.
  • The major conference that seems most-likely to send teams on a conference tourney run is the SEC. Every season underdogs make a big run through their bracket and put a scare into teams hoping their name will get called. Sometimes they win, like the below .500 Georgia team that brought home the title a few seasons back, and sometimes they don’t, like Mississippi State last season. One thing is certain, and it’s that there’s always plenty of drama to go around there.
  • Keep an eye on the CAA. It looks like they have two getting in regardless of what happens in the tourney with Old Dominion and George Mason. Should a team like, say VCU win that CAA Tourney (a not horribly unlikely scenario as the Rams might be the most talented team in the CAA), then you’ve got a three bid conference there.

These are the things you have to be aware of as Selection Sunday approaches. These are all the machinations and moving parts that Illinois fans need to be aware of as we get closer to that fateful day.

Things look good. Right now.

I don’t need to quote the famous Winston Wolf line from Pulp Fiction, do I?

Paul Schmidt is a senior contributor and media relations director for the Sports Bank, and is entering his tenth year of writing about sports in Chicago and Illinois.

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  1. paulmbanks says

    copying to chi now! well done! I agree with all of it

  2. All this speculating and worry might be for nothing if we could only run our tourney.
    And no, you don’t need to…..

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