Commentary

Illinois college basketball rankings

Last-second wins over Indiana, Penn State keeps Illini No. 1

Updated: January 13, 2010, 4:42 PM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

1. Illinois [12-5]: If Illinois coach Bruce Weber's hair wasn't already gray, this season would have turned it turned it that way. Every Illini game seems to be an emotional rollercoaster. They came from behind and pulled out last-minute wins over Indiana and Penn State in their past two Big Ten games. Illinois is just getting by, but it appears for now to be on the road to an NCAA tournament bid. Weber could use freshman Brandon Paul to contribute more. (Previously ranked No. 1)

2. Northwestern [12-3]: The Wildcats finally snapped out of their slump in the second half against Michigan on Sunday. They lost to Illinois and Michigan State, struggled against a woeful Texas-Pan American and were down by 17 points to Michigan before then. Freshman Drew Crawford continued to show why he is going to be a special one, as he scored 25 points against the Wolverines. This week is big for Northwestern as they host Wisconsin and Purdue. (2)

3. Illinois State [12-4]: The Redbirds learned the hard way that the Missouri Valley is Northern Iowa and then everyone else. Illinois State lost at home to Northern Iowa 59-44 on Jan. 9. The Panthers held Osiris Eldridge to 10 points. Illinois State has lost every game Eldridge has been contained to 12 points or less this season. (3)

4. Southern Illinois [9-5]: The water is getting hot at Southern Illinois for coach Chris Lowery. The Salukis have lost their past three games, which included one at home to Drake. If DePaul was interested in Lowery, Southern Illinois' fans would love to see him go right now. (4)

5. Loyola [11-5]: The Ramblers' hot start is quickly evaporating. Loyola has dropped its past three games. Its past two losses have been by narrow margins on the road against Cleveland State and Youngstown State, but that's probably not too comforting to coach Jim Whitesell. The Ramblers also still have a rough ahead as they travel to UIC this weekend and then host Butler. (5)

6. Bradley [7-9]: The Braves nearly pulled off a Missouri Valley shocker as they lost by just two points to Northern Iowa on Tuesday. Bradley struggled offensively against the Panthers, but its defense stepped up and held Northern Iowa to just 52 points. Missouri State and Southern Illinois are ahead for the Braves. (6)

7. DePaul [7-8]: The Blue Demons finally fired Jerry Wainwright after 22 consecutive Big East regular-season losses. Tracy Webster is now the interim coach, but i will be hard for him to achieve anything in the coming months on the court or in recruiting. DePaul has the rest of its Big East schedule ahead, and it will be difficult for Webster to sell a program to a recruit with the future being so uncertain. (7)

8. UIC [5-11]: The Flames are headed in the wrong direction again as they have lost their past three games. Opposing defenses have been concentrating on Robert Kreps and forcing everyone else to beat them. Jeremy Buttell did have 31 points in the Flames' recent loss to Youngstown State. (8)

9. Northern Illinois [5-8]: The Huskies look as if they might be coming together. They have won four of their past five games with their one loss being to Temple. They host Western Michigan in a key MAC game Wednesday night. (10)

10. Eastern Illinois [10-6]: The Panthers had their three-game winning streak snapped by Murray State, the class of the OVC. Jeremy Granger is starting to come around for Eastern Illinois. He has scored in double figures in three of his past four games. (9)

11. Western Illinois [6-9]: The Leathernecks are winless in the Summit after five conference games. They lost to IUPUI 67-54 on Jan. 9 and have Centenary up next. (11)

12. Chicago State [5-12]: The Cougars are on a five-game losing streak, and it doesn't look to get any better as their next four games are on the road. (12)

13. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville [2-15]: The Cougars' losing streak reached nine with Tuesday's loss to Kennesaw State. (13)

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.

Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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