Following its third straight loss, a 68-54 defeat at the hands of Northwestern Thursday in Champaign, Illinois was dropped out of the latest AP top 25 rankings released Monday.
Under the leadership of first-year coach John Groce, the Fighting Illini got off to a promising 12-0 start this season, including a Top 10 ranking. Lately, however, they've been matching the play of last year's 17-15 team under Bruce Weber.
The Illini lost five of their last seven games and with No. 2 Michigan and No. 13 Michigan State coming up on the schedule, they risk extending this downward spiral.
The team's biggest issue lately has been a slump from beyond the arc. They've shot 11.9 percent on three pointers in their last three games and their defense has been outscored 226-172.
Related: Illini struggles defined by, but not limited to, three-pointers
Illinois may have a chance to redeem itself Tuesday on the road at Nebraska, which is only 1-5 in conference play.
Horizon League basketball returns to CSN on Sunday as UIC travels to Valparaiso. This game tips at 2:00 p.m. live on CSN.
The Flames (11-8, 4-2) have won three straight games and have played pretty good ball after the loss of Dikembe Dixson to a torn ACL. Junior big man Tai Odiase, a Homewood-Flossmoor graduate, is playing well along with former St. Rita product Dominique Matthews.
Valparaiso (15-4, 5-1) is hoping to maintain its conference lead behind senior All-American candidate Alec Peters. The 6-foot-9 senior is averaging 23.9 points and 10.9 rebounds per game on the season.
The Crusaders won the first time these two teams played at UIC on Dec. 30 as Tevonn Walker had 23 points.
CSN will have two Missouri Valley Conference games with local teams on Saturday.
The first game tips at 3 p.m. live on CSN as Evansville heads to Loyola. The second game tips at 7 p.m. and is also live on CSN as Drake will play at Illinois State.
Loyola (13-7, 3-4) is coming off of a tough road loss in double overtime to Northern Iowa. The Ramblers have been led by senior Milton Doyle this season as the former Marshall star is one of the better guards in the Valley.
Evansville (10-10, 1-6) has dropped five straight games as they're struggling to gain any momentum in conference play. Senior guard Jaylon Brown is having an outstanding season for the Purple Aces as he's putting up 21.2 points per game.
The second matchup has Drake (6-13, 4-3) traveling to Illinois State. The Bulldogs have won three of four games and junior guard Reed Timmer is dangerous while former Saint Viator product Ore Arogundade is having a solid sophomore season.
Illinois State (15-4, 7-0) is leading the Valley after a huge win over Wichita State as they've won eight straight games. The Redbirds are hoping to make a run to an NCAA tournament bid with another home win.