Commentary

Illinois college basketball rankings

Big week of winnable games ahead for Illini

Updated: January 22, 2010, 11:50 AM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

Demetri McCameyMark Cowan/Icon SMIDemetri McCamey and Illinois have Northwestern, Penn State, Indiana and Iowa up next on their Big Ten schedule.

1. Illinois (12-7): Illinois has dropped its past two Big Ten games after opening up conference play with four consecutive wins. The Illini now enter the easier portion of their conference schedule. Following Saturday's road game against Northwestern, they have Penn State, Indiana and Iowa. All four games are winnable and could put Illinois in a good position heading into the second half of the conference schedule. The Illini need to figure out a way for center Mike Tisdale to stay on the floor. His foul trouble has been costly lately. (Previously ranked No. 1)

Michael Thompson
AP Photo/Charles CherneyNorthwestern's Michael Thompson has been held to single-digit points in four of his six Big Ten games this season.

2. Northwestern (13-5): The Wildcats could regain the top spot in the rankings with a win over Illinois on Saturday. More importantly, they need the win to stay afloat in the Big Ten. A loss to Illinois could end up meaning a 2-7 conference record as Northwestern travels to Minnesota and Michigan State, two probable NCAA Tournament teams, next week. Big Ten opponents have been able to find ways to slow down Michael Thompson. He has been held to single digits in four conference games after just one non-conference opponent was able to do so. (2)

3. Illinois State (14-5): The Redbirds are just one of three teams over .500 in the Missouri Valley this season. At 5-3 in conference, Illinois State is just two games behind Northern Iowa, which picked up its first Valley loss earlier this week at Wichita State. The Redbirds had five players in double digits in a big win over Creighton on Wednesday. (3)

4. Bradley (9-9): For the past two games, the Braves have looked like the team they were earlier in the season. Bradley took it to Missouri State with a 74-56 win and then beat Southern Illinois 55-53 on the road. Sam Maniscalco stepped up against the Salukis, and it was a team effort against Missouri State. Bradley has Evansville and Creighton at home ahead. (6)

5. Northern Illinois (8-8): The Huskies are the hottest team in the state. They have won their past six games and are undefeated in the MAC. Xavier Silas is one of the state's most dynamic players. He is averaging 19.3 points. (9)

6. Loyola (12-6): The Ramblers nearly upset Butler on Thursday. It was a tough loss because it ended any chance of Loyola competing for the Horizon League title. The Ramblers are in ninth place and five games behind Butler. Scoring points has been Loyola's problem. The Ramblers have been held to under 60 points in five of their past six games. (5)

7. DePaul (8-10): The Blue Demons finally had something to cheer about as they defeated Marquette on Wednesday to snap their 24-game Big East regular-season losing streak. Mike Stovall came up late with a few jumpers for DePaul. Notre Dame, West Virginia and Syracuse are coming up.(7)

8. Southern Illinois (10-7): The Salukis are really on a slide. They have lost five of their past six and already have five conference losses. The talk around Carbondale is whether coach Chris Lowery should be kept around for next season. (4)

9. UIC (5-13): The Flames' losing streak reached five with their loss to Valparaiso on Thursday. It will likely go to six on Saturday when they face Butler. Robo Kreps is still looking for a way out of his shooting slump. (8)

10. Eastern Illinois (10-9): The Panthers followed their three-game winning streak with a four-game losing skid. All four losses weren't close either as they lost by nine points or more in all of them. They next play Tennessee-Martin, which has lost its past eight games. (10)

11. Western Illinois (7-11): The Leathernecks have dropped their past two games and have fallen to 1-7 in the Summit Conference. Ceola Clark has continued to play well for Western Illinois. (11)

12. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (3-16): The Cougars won for the first time in 11 games as they defeated NAIA Robert Morris 92-71 on Thursday. Aamir McCleary had 13 points, six rebounds and six assists in the win. (13)

13. Chicago State (5-15): The Cougars are riding an eight-game losing streak. Carl Montgomery is averaging 13.2 points and 8.2 rebounds. (12)

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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