Illinois Fighting Illini Choke Away BTT Game to Wolverines


Bruce Weber Illinois

There’s only one program to have reached (or received a bye into) the Big Ten Tournament quarter-finals every year in the tourney’s inception, and that’s the Illinois Fighting Illini. In fact out of the 13 conference tourneys, they’ve reached the semi-finals in every year except one. Make it two after today’s epic choke job.

The Illini (who have the most BTT wins all time with 23) were living and dying by the perimeter game all day and it came back to bite them. They stopped getting looks inside, forced up terrible shots and committed loads of turnovers down the stretch as the Wolverines ended up beating them 60-55.

The Illini blew a double digit second half lead and let Michigan commit a 12-0 run to tie it at 51 inside three minutes to go. The Illini looked especially embarrassing during the last 8:33. After Brandon Paul hit a three to put Illinois up 51-39, they scored a whopping four points.

So this contest did little to reaffirm the idea that this team is mentally tough.

Now that the Illini are eliminated from the BTT, let’s move on to selection Sunday.

Contrary to what you may have heard, this was a not a “play-in game”. It’s more like a “stay-in game,” or get a better seeding game.

With a RPI of 40, strength of schedule at 16, ten top 100 RPI wins, a rank of  19 in Pomeroy, 5 in Pomeroy SOS, they should be okay. They’ve also beaten five opponents who’ve won their regular season conference title:

UNC, Gonzaga, Oakland, Northern Colorado, and Western Michigan.

Had the Illini finished this game out, it would have given them 13 20-win seasons in the last 15, and 29 all time.

Illinois is now 12-2 in both the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals and BTT  opening games. Both are by far the best record of any team, but that probably doesn’t make any Illinois fans feel any better.

The loss drops Illinois to 2-4 on a neutral court this season, not a good sign when you consider all NCAA Tournament games are on neutral courts.

Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports, a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports

He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports and

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank


  1. Hold on…let me clean the vomit off my shoes…

  2. paulmbanks says



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