The Illini still have a shot at March Madness

The Illini still have a shot at March Madness
March 4, 2013, 8:30 pm
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Don't panic Illini fans. Your team is living on the edge, but it is not on the bubble.

Any team that has wins over the top two teams in the country likely deserves a shot to play in March Madness.

[Related: Bench helps Illinois fend off upstart Cornhuskers]

Illinois beat Gonzaga back on Dec. 8, when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 10. Brandon Paul contributed 35 points in that 11-point win over a team that is now ranked No. 1 for the first time program history.

Then the Illini pulled off that stunning upset of No. 1 Indiana on Feb. 7. Tyler Griffey's miraculous buzzer beater alone should be enough to get Illinois a slot in the Big Dance. It was their first win against top-ranked team since they beat Wake Forest in 2004.

[Related: Illini ready for challenges away from home]

Some critics will question what should happen if Illinois loses its last two conference games, as losses on the road at Iowa and Ohio State would leave John Groce's team at 8-10 in conference play. If that's the cause, it would take at least one win in the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center to ensure Illinois a spot.

The bottom line is this: Illinois has four wins over teams ranked in the Top 20.

I'd be stunned if the Big Ten Conference gets fewer than seven teams into the bracket this year.

Illinois can write its own ticket by finishing its regular season strong.