by Delaney Appelhans
The University of Illinois men’s basketball team moved up one spot in the AP Top 25 college basketball ranking this week, as was announced this past Monday, Feb. 15. The ranking comes after the 77-72 win against Nebraska on Friday.
The Illini took Villanova’s No. 5 spot in the rankings after a five-game winning streak. And on Tuesday, the team responded to and reassured their climb in the rankings with a 73-66 win against fellow Big Ten team, Northwestern, after a dominating performance from guard Ayo Dosunmu.
The ranking leaves Illinois behind just four teams: Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan and Ohio State. Three of the top five teams are of the Big Ten division, demonstrating the domination of the division in the rankings this season thus far.
This week’s No. 5 ranking is the second time this season the Illini have ranked this high in the top 25, the last time being back in Week 2 before struggles from the team in games played during December and January. The team was ranked No. 6 last week.
With star players like Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, fans and critics alike are watching for the potential of a Final Four appearance from the Illini in the NCAA March Madness tournament as Selection Sunday approaches.
But as the team has had some narrow victories against lower ranked teams, such as Northwestern, there are concerns from some that they may not live up to expectations. After six wins straight now, though, all eyes will be on the Illini as March approaches.
Rounding out this week, the Illini will be playing Minnesota on Saturday. They will also be playing the No. 4 ranked Ohio State team on March 6, which is sure to be an important game for both teams with such close rankings and such close proximity to Selection Sunday.