Illinois is coming off of their biggest win of the year, an upset over no. 1 Indiana on Thursday. The win rejuvenated their season, breaking a stretch where they had lost six of their last seven games. Illinois now sits at 3-7 in the Big Ten, with a lot of work to do if they hope to make the NCAA Tournament.
Their final stretch of eight games begins with a date on the road with no. 18 Minnesota on Sunday. Now that the Illini have a new sense of hope, this game becomes a must win of sorts for them. If Illinois wants to get some momentum going for the final stretch of their season, they have to string together a few wins in a row. Luckily, they play just three more ranked teams in their final eight games, and a game against both Penn State and Nebraska remaining.
Illinois realistically needs to win five more games if they want to be considered for the NCAA Tournament. At 8-10, Illinois would likely sneak in to the tourney, especially if they win a game in the Big Ten tournament. Their impressive non-conference slate helps their tournament resume, with wins over Butler and Gonzaga, plus conference wins over Ohio State and Indiana. Illinois also has a very impressive RPI (#30) and a fantastic strength of schedule (#5).
These all help when it comes decision time for the selection committee, but for Illinois to even be under consideration, they must win at least five more games, including in the Big Ten tourney.
The journey starts Sunday for Illinois, when they come in energized off of their shocker over Indiana, to play a very talented Minnesota team on the road.