Monday, February 11, 2013
The team that could ruin your bracket
By Joe Kaiser
Good luck figuring out college basketball and filling out a quality bracket in your office pool this March. No matter what teams you choose, it looks like the big dance could very well be as unpredictable as ever this year. That's especially true for one team in particular.
Illinois still isn't a lock to make the NCAA tournament. In fact, heading into last week it was starting to look very bleak that the Fighting Illini would be dancing this March. But back-to-back monster wins over No. 1 Indiana and on the road against No. 18 Minnesota suddenly has John Groce's team looking like a good bet to make the tourney.
If that happens, though, Illinois could be a team that makes or breaks many a bracket. It will all depend on matchups, of course, but conceivably those who believe in the Illini could have them advancing into the Sweet Sixteen, if not further. Doubters will have them bowing out after one game.
How do you begin to guess which Illinois team will show up from game to game? This is a team that started the season with 12 consecutive wins. A team that beat Butler, that won at Gonzaga, and won its first conference home game against then-No. 8 Ohio State. Tack on the two most recent wins, and it's apparent that the Illini can beat anybody in the country.
Problem is, sandwiched in between is a stretch where they went ice cold from 3-point land and dropped six of seven games, including a six-point home loss to a Northwestern team that is now 13-11 on the season. It's hard to know what to make of all this, and it remains to be seen if Illinois will even make the tourney, but if it does it will be one of the toughest teams to gauge in the big dance this season.