Illinois Fighting Illini: Big Ten Contender or Pretender?

Illinois Fighting Illini

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Fighting Illini finished six games back in the Big Ten standings last year, but were still able to make the NCAA tournament. Will they be contenders or pretenders in the 2013-14 college basketball season?

The Fighting Illini are losing their top two leading scorers from last year’s team. The Big Ten will once again be one of the best conferences in college hoops. Maybe this team will prove me wrong, but they are definitely pretenders entering the 2013-14 season.

The preseason rankings for the USA Today Coaches Poll are out and there are three teams in the conference ranked in the top 10. Illinois is not one of them and it is also not ranked.

Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State will all be good enough to win a national championship this season. Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana will have the talent to compete for a Big Ten title.

Illinois is just losing too much talent and not gaining enough back for it to be a true contender in this conference. Returning leading scorer Tracy Abrams (10.6 PPG) should have a good season, but I doubt he is good enough to lead this team to a conference title.

The Fighting Illini were pretty loaded last season and they still managed to finish tied for seventh place in the Big Ten standings. Finishing in the top five would be overachieving and I highly doubt that will be the case for Illinois.

Maybe it can sneak into the NCAA tournament, but that is a different question for a different day.

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