Illinois has not had a team finish a season in the Kenpom Top 40 since the Illini in 2012-13. Well, with February nearing, the state has two such teams in Northwestern (No. 31) and Illinois State (No. 37).
These are pretty exciting times for both programs, and we still give Illinois State a slight edge in this week’s rankings.
1. Illinois State (16-4, 8-0 MVC)
Last week: 1
Illinois State continues to torch the MVC. Of eight conference wins, the Redbirds have won six by at least 12 points.
Can they go undefeated in the Valley? Kenpom gives them a 5% chance.
2. Northwestern (16-4, 5-2 Big Ten)
Last week: 2
Northwestern gutted out a big win at Ohio State and has now won four straight games. The Wildcats will be favored in two more games this week against Nebraska and Indiana.
3. Loyola (14-7, 4-4 MVC)
Last week: 3
After dropping a double-overtime heartbreaker at Northern Iowa, Loyola nearly got upset by Evansville. The Ramblers hold on to their No. 3 spot thanks to teams below them losing.
4. Illinois (12-8, 2-5 Big Ten)
Last week: 4
Illinois dropped a pair on the road last week to Purdue and Michigan. The Illini’s NCAA Tournament chances are dwindling and could come down to a three-game stretch starting Jan. 31: vs. Wisconsin, vs. Minnesota, at Northwestern.
5. Northern Illinois (12-7, 4-2 MAC)
Last week: 6
Northern Illinois’ four-game winning streak ended with a 78-69 loss to Ohio. The Huskies are now tied for first place in the MAC West.
6. Southern Illinois (11-10, 4-4 MVC)
Last week: 5
The Salukis have dropped three of their last four after a hot start in the MVC. The road gets tougher as they travel to Wichita State on Tuesday.
7. UIC (11-9, 4-3 Horizon)
Last week: 7
The Flames’ three-game winning streak ended when they got blown out 96-65 at Valpo. They return home this week for big games against Northern Kentucky and Wright State.
8. DePaul (8-12, 1-6 Big East)
Last week: 9
Although the Blue Demons are in last place in the Big East, they have taken two of the league’s top teams to the wire. On Saturday, they lost to Butler in overtime 70-69.
9. Bradley (8-13, 3-4 MVC)
Last week: 8
Bradley was outmatched by Illinois State and Missouri State in double-digit losses last week. The Braves’ tough stretch continues with games against Loyola and Wichita State this week.
10. Eastern Illinois (9-11, 1-6 OVC)
Last week: 10
The Panthers have dropped four straight games and seven of their last eight.
11. Chicago State (6-16 1-4 WAC)
Last week: 11
Chicago State missed an opportunity to steal another WAC road win and instead lost in overtime to UT Rio Grande Valley.
12. Western Illinois (6-12, 3-4 Summit)
Last week: 12
The Leathernecks dropped their third straight in conference play and have another tough game Wednesday at South Dakota.
13. SIU Edwardsville (5-16, 0-7 OVC)
Last week: 13
The Cougars have lost 12 straight games against Division I competition and also fell to a non-D1 team during that stretch. How did this team win at Grand Canyon?!