The state of Illinois finally ended its shutout streak in the NCAA Tournament with Northwestern going dancing. Aside from that? It was a somewhat disappointing year.
UIC reached the CBI semifinals and Illinois made the NIT quarterfinals, but the state had a legitimate chance to send four teams to the NCAA Tournament at one point during championship week with Illinois State on the bubble after its Arch Madness finals loss, Illinois trying to play its way into the field with the Big Ten Tournament coming up and UIC being favored in the Horizon League semifinals against Milwaukee.
At least those teams defeats made it very easy to decide who was No. 1.
1. Northwestern (24-12, 10-8 Big Ten; NCAA Tournament Second Round)
Northwestern made its first-ever NCAA Tournament and then came a few plays away from upsetting No. 1 seed Gonzaga and making the Sweet 16. With four starters returning, the future continues to look bright in Evanston.
2. Illinois State (28-7, 17-1 MVC; NIT Second Round)
The Redbirds’ NCAA Tournament dreams ended in St. Louis, but they still got a No. 1 seed in the NIT. A trip to Madison Square Garden would have helped redeem the team’s Arch Madness championship game flop, but UCF upset them in the second round.
3. Illinois (20-15, 8-10 Big Ten; NIT Quarterfinals)
Illinois advanced one round further than Illinois State in the NIT, but the Illini were also knocked out by UCF. All in all, an NIT Quarterfinals appearance isn’t so bad after being 13-11 and 3-8 in the Big Ten in early February.
4. Southern Illinois (17-16, 9-9 MVC; No postseason)
The Salukis made a nice push in the MVC Tournament but got knocked out by Illinois State in the semifinals. They could have played in a low-level postseason tournament but elected not to.
5. Loyola (18-14, 8-10 MVC; No postseason)
Loyola finished the season in Kenpom’s top 100 for the first time since 2006-07, but close losses haunted the program this year. The Ramblers went 4-10 in games decided by six points or less, including their conference tournament defeat to Southern Illinois.
6. Bradley (13-20, 7-11 MVC; No postseason)
Bradley made huge improvements in Brian Wardle’s second year. The Braves struck a four-game winning streak, their first in conference play since the 2008-09 season, before the year ended at the hands of Wichita State in the MVC Quarterfinals.
7. UIC (17-19, 7-11 Horizon; CBI Semifinals)
After upsetting Green Bay, UIC had a wide-open path to the Horizon League championship game. But then the Flames got knocked off by bottom-seeded Milwaukee in the semifinals.
UIC still got a bid to the CBI and took advantage with two postseason wins before falling to Coastal Carolina in the semis.
8. DePaul (9-23, 2-16 Big East; No postseason)
This was another year to forget for DePaul. The Blue Demons went 2-19 ever since their Las Vegas Tournament in December.
Of their nine wins this season, five were decided by one possession and a sixth was a one-possession game in the final seconds. So this year was close to being much uglier.
9. Northern Illinois (15-17, 7-11 MAC; No postseason)
The Huskies looked like MAC contenders back in January, but a terrible February and March prevented them from even sniffing a C-list postseason tournament.
10. Eastern Illinois (14-15, 6-10 OVC; No postseason)
Eastern Illinois played solid basketball over the final four weeks of the season, but it wasn’t enough to get into the OVC Tournament after a 1-7 start in league play.
11. Western Illinois (8-20, 5-11 Summit; No postseason)
The Leathernecks had some tough luck this year going 0-4 in overtime games, including a season-ending loss to top-seeded South Dakota in the Summit League Tournament.
12. SIU-Edwardsville (6-24, 1-15 OVC; No postseason)
At least the Cougars’ season ended on a high note. After losing 20 straight games against Division I teams, they knocked off Eastern Illinois in the regular season finale.
13. Chicago State (6-26, 1-13 WAC; No postseason)
Chicago State gave New Mexico State a fight in the WAC Tournament, but the Cougars ran out of steam midway through the second half against the much more talented Aggies.