Commentary

Illinois college basketball rankings

Toughest stretch ahead for No. 1 Illinois

Updated: February 10, 2010, 11:49 AM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

[+] EnlargeDemetri McCamey
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireIllinois' Demetri McCamey is averaging 15.4 points a game and 6.4 assists.

1. Illinois (16-8): The Illini likely saved their season with their win over Michigan State on Saturday. Illinois is on a roll as it has won its past four games and is 8-3 in the conference, but its schedule is one of the toughest in the country from here on out. The Illini's next seven games include two against No. 16 Ohio State, two against No. 13 Wisconsin and one against No. 6 Purdue. They also travel to Michigan and host Minnesota. If Demetri McCamey continues to dominate, Illinois should be able to pull off a couple of upsets. (Previously ranked No. 2)

2. Northwestern (16-7): The Wildcats' NCAA hopes rest on their next seven Big Ten games. Currently 5-6 in conference, they likely need to win at least five of those games. The one nice thing is most of those contests are against the bottom of the Big Ten with a home game against Minnesota and a road one against Wisconsin their most difficult challenges. (1)

3. Illinois State (16-8): The Redbirds have been up and down throughout the Missouri Valley season. They are 7-6 and in a tie for third place with Bradley and Creighton. They travel to Bradley on Tuesday for a key game. Forward Dinma Odiakosa has had some big games lately for Illinois State. (3)

4. Bradley (12-11): The Braves have had a similar Missouri Valley experience as Illinois State with both teams 7-6 in conference. Heading into Tuesday's match up at Illinois State, the Braves are riding a two-game winning streak. Sam Maniscalco has been shooting the ball well lately. (4)

5. Southern Illinois (13-10): The Salukis were close to upsetting Northern Iowa on the road on Saturday, but couldn't close it out in the end. It's been the same story all season for them. Southern Illinois has lost six of its 10 games by five points or less. Freshman center Gene Teague has been a bright spot for the team lately. (6)

6. Northern Illinois (8-14): The Huskies' 4-0 start in the Mid-American has turned into a 4-6 record. Northern Illinois has lost its past six games and has dropped out of the race for the MAC title. Opponents have been able to jump on the Huskies early and get out to a big lead. Xavier Silas has also been slowed. (5)

7. Loyola (13-11): The Ramblers have had a tough time in the Horizon League. With Monday's loss to Butler, they fell to 4-10 in conference. They were leading Butler at halftime, but were out-scored by 17 in the second half. Illinois-Chicago is next. (7)

8. DePaul (8-15): The Blue Demons continue to struggle in the Big East. They are in last place with a 1-10 record. Rutgers and Seton Hall, two of the conference's worst teams, are up next. If Tracy Webster has any chance at this job, he needs to either land a major recruit in the coming weeks or end the conference season on a high note. (8)

9. UIC (6-18): The Flames' season has been a difficult one. They have lost 10 of their past 11 and are 2-11 in Horizon League. The one upside is nearly everyone will be back next season. (9)

10. Eastern Illinois (12-11): The Panthers looked dominant in their recent win over Southeast Missouri State. Jeremy Granger had 19 points and five assists in the victory. Eastern Illinois is tied for fifth place in the Ohio Valley with a 6-7 record. (10)

11. Western Illinois (9-14): The Leathernecks fell to 2-10 in the Summit with their recent 28-point loss to IUPUI. David Nurse had 17 of Western Illinois' 42 points in the loss. (11)

12. Chicago State (7-18): The Cougars have won two of their past four games. Carl Montgomery had a double-double in both wins. (13)

13. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (3-21): The Cougars have struggled in Ohio Valley play. Overall, they have lost 15 of their past 16 games. Mark Yelovich had 18 points in their recent loss to North Dakota. (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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