2. Illinois Fighting Illini - 8-2 (1-0)
A year ago, Illinois' back-to-back performances against Virginia and UCLA propelled them as a viable team to watch in the Big Ten. To this point, they haven't really had that moment, outside of a shootout win over Florida Atlantic in the Jimmy V Classic, along with "competitive" losses to both Tennessee and Marquette.
Regardless, it's clear that Illinois is one of the best teams in the Big Ten and maybe the biggest threat in a 20-game round-robin to knock off the No. 1 team. Terrence Shannon Jr. (20.9 ppg) is playing at an All-American level in his final year, while Southern Illinois transfer Marcus Domask is having a nice impact as a double-digit scorer, including a 33-point outing in the win over Florida Atlantic.
The rest of the supporting cast has largely been good on both ends of the court. The PG-by-committee experiment has been fine, though league play will be a real test for them. Coleman Hawkings has reportedly been playing hurt, though Oregon transfer Quincy Guerrier has picked up the slack.
Illinois has a rivalry matchup with Missouri in the "Bragging Rights" matchup, while also having Fairleigh Dickinson right after to conclude non-con play. We'll see how good this Illini team is starting in January, with Northwestern, Purdue, and Michigan State coming up.