Illinois a No. 4 seed in CBT's projected bracket

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Illinois a No. 4 seed in CBT's projected bracket

With more than two months to play in the college basketball season, plenty will change between now and Selection Sunday. But that won't stop NCAA Tournament projections from coming fast and furious now that conference season is underway for the 348 Division-I schools vying for a berth in March Madness.
NBC Sports' College Basketball Talk released its first mock bracket this morning, and Illinois, one of the early surprises of the non-conference season in all of college basketball, was slotted as the No. 4 seed in the Midwest region, taking on No. 13 Middle Tennessee State.
The Illini (14-2, 1-1) bolted out to a fast start in Maui, defeating Butler 78-61 to win the Maui Invitational in November, and haven't looked back. With wins at No. 9 Gonzaga, the aforementioned No. 14 Bulldogs and, most recently, then-No. 8 Ohio State on Saturday, the Illini came in ranked No. 12 in the country in the NCAA's first release of its RPI standings.
That win over the Buckeyes last week salvaged the start to the Big Ten season for the Illini, who lost to unranked Purdue on the road, 68-61.
The Boilermakers (7-7, 1-1) were not listed in CBT's mock bracket, but six other Big Ten schools were: Indiana (No. 1 seed), Michigan (1), Minnesota (2), Michigan State (4), Ohio State (5) and Wisconsin (First Four game in Dayton).
The Big Ten, which touts an NCAA-best six teams in the top 25, is also the only conference with two No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds. Teams assuredly will move up and down as the season goes on, but the top six Big Ten teams (Wisconsin not included) are almost locks to make the NCAA Tournament.
The at-large field is weak this year, which means Northwestern (9-6, 0-2) could still contend for its first ever berth. With two games left against Ohio State and Illinois, and one game remaining against Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan and Michigan State, there's still room for big wins to boost the Wildcats' RPI (currently at 101).
NOTE Illinois State's rough 0-3 start to Missouri Valley play kept the Redbirds out of the projected bracket. Three teams -- Creighton, Wichita State and Indiana State -- made the first round of cuts.

Preview: Eastern Illinois, Southern llinois in action today on CSN

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AP

Preview: Eastern Illinois, Southern llinois in action today on CSN

College basketball is back on CSN on Saturday as two local teams will be featured in live conference matchups.

In the first matchup at 11 a.m., Eastern Illinois will host Austin Peay in an Ohio Valley Conference clash on CSN+ while the second matchup has Evansville hosting Southern Illinois in a Missouri Valley Conference game at 1 p.m. on CSN.

Eastern Illinois (9-8, 1-3) is coming off of a conference loss to Murray State. Junior guard Montell Goodwin leads the charge for the Panthers as he's averaging 14.8 points per game on the season. Austin Peay (5-13, 1-3) just earned a tight win over SIU-Edwardsville to help end an 11-game losing streak. Junior Josh Robinson is having a strong season despite the losing as he's averaging 21.2 points per game for the Governors.

The second game will be on the main CSN at 1 p.m. as Southern Illinois (10-8, 3-2) tries to bounce back from a loss to Bradley. The Salukis are led by sophomore guard Armon Fletcher as the Edwardsville product leads the team at 13.7 points per game.

Evansville (10-8, 1-4) is coming off of three consecutive losses as the Purple Aces are trying to figure things out at home. Senior Jaylon Brown has been one of the Valley's premier scorers this season as he's putting up 20.9 points per contest.

MVC basketball doubleheader on CSN

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USA TODAY

MVC basketball doubleheader on CSN

Missouri Valley Conference basketball is back on CSN on Wednesday as a doubleheader begins at 6 p.m.

In the first game, Loyola will travel to Wichita State to face the Shockers in a 6 p.m. tip while the second game features Northern Iowa traveling to Bradley in a game that tips at 8 p.m.

Loyola (12-5, 2-2) has won two straight games as Chicago products Milton Doyle (Marshall) and Donte Ingram (Simeon) are both playing well. Doyle barely missed a triple-double in a win over Northern Iowa and followed that up with a career-high 35 points in a win over Bradley. Ingram has returned from a knee injury to give the Ramblers a boost as he had 25 in the win over Northern Iowa.

Wichita State (14-3, 4-0) has won five straight as they once again look like one of the Valley's best teams. Junior forward Darral Willis Jr. leads the Shockers in scoring at 12.1 points per game while sophomore Markis McDuffie is putting up 11.8 points per game. 

[RELATED: Complete NCAA coverage]

The second game of the doubleheader features Northern Iowa taking on Bradley. The Panthers (5-10, 0-4) have dropped five straight games as they're struggling to find help for senior guard Jeremy Morgan.

Bradley (7-10, 2-2) is coming off of a home loss to Loyola but they've had a solid bounceback season in head coach Brian Wardle's second year. The Braves only won five games all of last season as the roster has been revamped for this season.

Freshman guard Darrell Brown paces the Bradley offense at 12.2 points per game while junior forward JoJo McGlaston is putting up 9.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.