It’s a big week ahead for in-state teams with some mid-major leagues wrapping up their regular season and Northwestern and Illinois playing Part II of their rivalry.
The past week had a few scares for local NCAA Tournament hopefuls, but Illinois State and Northwestern both survived upset bids to stay in the best shape possible for a bid.
All that and more in this week’s Illinois Rankings.
1. Illinois State (23-5, 15-1 MVC)
Last week: 2
The Redbirds are back on top after surviving tight games against Missouri State and Loyola. The big question for ISU is if MiKyle McIntosh is healthy. The junior forward recently returned from a torn meniscus and appeared to injure his knee on the final play of the Loyola game, but the school is yet to give an official update on his status.
2. Northwestern (20-7, 9-5 Big Ten)
Last week: 1
The Wildcats got Scottie Lindsey back from illness but still nearly lost to Rutgers. They survived, though, to stay within two games of first place in the Big Ten.
3. Illinois (15-12, 5-9 Big Ten)
Last week: 3
After not winning a road for the first three months of the season, Illinois has won its last two. The Illini return home Tuesday to face Northwestern, and with a win they would sweep the home-and-home rivalry series for the second straight time.
4. Loyola (17-12, 7-9 MVC)
Last week: 5
Loyola nearly burst Illinois State’s bubble on Sunday as Ben Richardson’s 40-footer rimmed out at the buzzer. The Ramblers have now lost five of their last six games, although three have been by one possession.
5. Southern Illinois (15-14, 8-8 MVC)
Last week: 4
SIU moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Valley with a 74-68 win at Indiana State on Sunday. But the Salukis have a difficult final week with games against Illinois State and Loyola.
6. Eastern Illinois (14-14, 6-9 OVC)
Last week: 7
The Panthers bounced back from a bad loss to Austin Peay with a solid win over Murray State. They are 5-2 in their last seven games.
7. UIC (14-14, 7-8 Horizon)
Last week: 8
UIC went to Detroit to sweep the season series and then hung in at Oakland for an 87-75 loss. It’s looking like the Flames will be the No. 6 seed at the Horizon League Tournament.
8. Northern Illinois (14-13, 6-8 MAC)
Last week: 6
Once looking like a MAC sleeper, NIU has now dropped four straight games, and it still has to play three of its final four on the road. Fortunately for the Huskies, the MAC West is a parity mess, and they are just two games out of the division title.
9. DePaul (8-19, 1-13 Big East)
Last week: 9
DePaul has lost 10 straight games, making this their largest losing streak since the 2013-14 season.
10. Bradley (10-19, 5-11 MVC)
Last week: 10
Bradley tightened up the bottom portion of the MVC with a win over Evansville on Saturday. The Braves, the Aces and Drake are all 5-11, while Indiana State is in last place at 4-12.
11. Western Illinois (8-17, 5-9 Summit)
Last week: 11
The Leathernecks took first-place North Dakota State to the wire on the road but lost in double overtime. Although they finish the season with two home games, they are against two of the better teams in the league: South Dakota and Fort Wayne.
12. Chicago State (6-22, 1-10 WAC)
Last week: 12
The Cougars have lost seven straight WAC games and have a difficult week ahead with games at Grand Canyon and Bakersfield.
13. SIU Edwardsville (5-24, 0-15 OVC)
Last week: 13
Edwardsville has not defeated a Division I team since Nov. 28.