Illinois Rankings, Dec. 12

Photo: Frank Franklin II / AP

It’s a bit late to the party, but here are The Catch and Shoot’s first Illinois Rankings of the 2016-17 season, evaluating all 13 teams in the state.

So far, the state has performed relatively well with four teams in the KenPom top 130. The top spot came down to Northwestern, Illinois and Loyola, who have combined for a 24-7 record so far.

After more thought than any sane person should devote to Illinois basketball, the No. 1 team to open this season’s weekly rankings is…

Photo: Frank Franklin II / AP

1. Northwestern

Record: 7-2

The Wildcats torched New Orleans in their only game of the week. They have won four games in a row, and after a home game against Chicago State they face Dayton in a huge matchup at the United Center.

2. Illinois

Record: 8-3

Illinois is on a four-game winning streak, all against above average Division I teams. The Illini defeated Central Michigan easily on Saturday despite allowing the nation’s leading scorer, Marcus Keene, to score 25 points.

3. Loyola

Record: 9-2

Loyola is on a four-game winning streak after dominating Wright State and Milwaukee last week. The Ramblers wrapped up their home slate for 2016 winning 20 of their last 21 non-conference games at Gentile Arena.

KenPom favors Loyola in five of its next six games with the Ramblers being only 2-point underdogs in one game (at Toledo, Dec. 20).

4. Illinois State

Record: 5-3

Illinois State’s win probability at Tulsa was greater than 90% with six minutes remaining, but the Redbirds lost control and fell 70-68. However, they bounced back with a win against Tennessee Martin.

Next up is a big home game against St. Joseph’s.

5. Southern Illinois

Record: 5-5

Southern Illinois went 0-2 last week, including a home loss to Sam Houston State. Surprisingly, the defense has struggled more than the offense with Anthony Beane gone.

6. Bradley

Record: 5-5

Bradley bounced back from back-to-back losses with an easy win against Chicago State. The Braves finish non-conference play with three difficult opponents: UT Arlington, Ole Miss and TCU.

7. DePaul

Record: 5-3

After a miserable first 30 minutes against Temple on Saturday, DePaul came back to cut the Owls’ lead to five but still lost 74-65. DePaul’s trio of Billy Garrett Jr., Eli Cain and Tre’Darius McCallum combined for a poor 10-of-38 (26.3%) from the field but an excellent 21-of-24 (87.5%) from the foul line.

The Demons face a pair of local opponents this week: UIC on Wednesday and Chicago State on Saturday.

8. Northern Illinois

Record: 4-5

The Huskies have dropped five of their last six games since starting 3-0. They are among the nation’s worst with 29.5% 3-point shooting this season.

Northern Illinois’ season-opening win against Indiana State, which upset Butler last week, is keeping them in the top 8.

9. Eastern Illinois

Record: 6-4

Eastern Illinois is off to a 2-1 start on its four-game road trip. The Panthers defeated UIC and Western Illinois but fell to Northern Kentucky.

EIU wraps up its journey Saturday at Missouri.

10. UIC

Record: 4-5

UIC nearly got a major victory against Grand Canyon at GCU Arena, where San Diego State lost and No. 11 Louisville eked out a win. However, the Flames blew a three-point lead and fell 73-69.

On tap for this week are games against local rivals DePaul and Loyola.

11. SIU-Edwardsville

Record: 4-6

SIU-Edwardsville is lucky to be this high up after losing to Division II Missouri Western State on Saturday. The Cougars’ wins against Grand Canyon, IUPUI and Hawaii are enough to keep them ahead of Chicago State and Western Illinois.

12. Chicago State

Record: 3-6

Chicago State has not won consecutive road games since February 2009, and the Cougars will have to wait at least a little bit longer to end that drought. After winning at Western Illinois last week, they got blown out at Bradley on Saturday.

13. Western Illinois

Record: 2-7

Western Illinois remains winless against Division I competition after falling to Eastern Illinois on Saturday. The road doesn’t get any easier as the Leathernecks finish non-conference play with four straight road games.

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