Last week was a rough one for Illinois. While Northwestern and Illinois kept their winning streaks going into Big Ten play, they struggled against some not-so-good teams. Meanwhile, Loyola’s winning streak ended at Toledo and Eastern Illinois’ streak ended at Indiana State.
All that and more in this week’s Illinois Rankings.
1. Northwestern (11-2)
Last week: 1
Northwestern came back from 11 points down to survive against Houston Baptist. The Wildcats have won eight in a row and look to keep the streak going in their Big Ten opener against Penn State on Tuesday afternoon.
2. Illinois (10-3)
Last week: 2
Illinois won Braggin’ Rights once again with a 75-66 win against Missouri. The Illini enter Big Ten play riding a six-game winning streak.
3. Illinois State (8-4)
Last week: 4
The Redbirds finished third at the Diamond Head Classic and avenged an earlier loss to Tulsa. They’ll open MVC play against Evansville at Redbird Arena, looking to continue a 12-game home winning streak.
4. Loyola (10-3)
Last week: 3
Loyola’s five-game winning streak ended Tuesday with a 74-70 defeat at Toledo. Even so, the Ramblers should be favored in each of their first four MVC games.
5. Southern Illinois (7-6)
Last week: 5
Southern Illinois missed an opportunity for a solid win, falling 68-61 at UNLV. The defeat also cost the MVC a victory in the MVC/MW Challenge.
6. Northern Illinois (7-5)
Last week: 7
After dropping its first three road contests, Northern Illinois has won its last two away games. Assuming the Huskies take care of business against D-II IU-Springfield, they will enter MAC play at 8-5. They have already clinched their third straight season with a winning record in non-conference play after failing to do so for the eight seasons prior.
7. Eastern Illinois (8-5)
Last week: 6
The Panthers’ winning streak ended with an 88-85 loss in double overtime at Indiana State. Despite the loss, they have continued to compete well on the road, which sets them up as contenders in the OVC West.
8. UIC (7-6)
Last week: 8
9. Bradley (5-8)
Last week: 9
There were not high expectations for Bradley this week going on the road against Ole Miss and TCU, but the Braves did even worse than expected with an average margin of defeat of 24.5 points. If the Braves are going to reach the top eight in the Valley, they’ll likely need to beat SIU at home in their MVC opener.
10. DePaul (7-6)
Last week: 10
DePaul narrowly avoided another embarrassing home loss to SEMO, and the Demons then lost to Wyoming and Missouri State on a neutral floor in Las Vegas. After watching St. John’s dismantle Syracuse last week, it’s time to wonder if there’s anyone in the Big East that DePaul can hang with.
11. Chicago State (4-10)
Last week: 12
Chicago State knocked off SEMO as Tracy Dildy became the program’s all-time wins leader, but the Cougars fell the day after to Troy to finish second in the mid-major version of the Las Vegas Classic. They will have their hands full with Valparaiso and Central Michigan this week.
12. SIU Edwardsville (4-9)
Last week: 11
The Cougars have lost six in a row, but they should get an easy win Wednesday against a non-Division I opponent.
13. Western Illinois (3-8)
Last week: 13
Western Illinois got rocked by Purdue as Caleb Swanigan went for 21 points and 21 rebounds. Another toughie awaits the Leathernecks in their conference opener Thursday at Fort Wayne.