9. Illinois (12-3)
The Fighting Illini have now played four games without suspended star Terrence Shannon Jr. and are staying afloat. It doesn’t exactly look like they’ll have him back on the court imminently, but the rest of this talented roster are surely doing their part in a season that has many hopes. Nice performances against teams like Florida Atlantic and Missouri certainly aren’t meaningless even with Shannon gone in recent weeks.
Bouncing back off last week’s tough loss at Purdue, the Fighting Illini were in action on Thursday, getting a 71-68 win at home over Michigan State. A balanced team effort helped Illinois to the hard-fought win, with five players in double figures, led by 15-point efforts from Marcus Domask, Coleman Hawkins, and Ty Rodgers.
These other Illini players really have been picking up the slack in Shannon’s absence, but how long can it last? At some point his absence will catch up to them, even if Illinois has looked pretty good in recent weeks, especially their balanced offense. As things currently stand, this team has shown that they can compete with anyone in the nation and surely remain one of the favorites to finish near or at the top of the Big Ten standings. Maryland and Michigan wait in the week ahead, and the Illini will be certain favorites in both games.