CHAMPAIGN — Illinois men’s basketball spent each of the past three weeks on the cusp of being ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
That includes the last two as what would have nominally been the No. 26 team in the country, as the leading voter getter among the “others receiving votes” crowd.
Two wins last week to remain unbeaten in Big Ten play — plus some losses among ranked teams — gave Illinois enough push to land at No. 25 in this week’s poll, released late Monday morning, going into Tuesday night’s game at Nebraska.
The Illini (11-3, 4-0 Big Ten) appeared on 41 of 60 ballots, with one vote as high as 10th and four at the 25th spot.
Monday’s ranking marked the first for Illinois since the Nov. 22 poll. The Illini lost 71-51 that day to Cincinnati in the opening round of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Mo., and dropped out of the poll the next week.
Illinois coach Brad Underwood was, per usual when it comes to any type of human ranking, a bit blasé about the whole thing.
“If we get ranked, we get ranked,” Underwood said Monday morning, less than half an hour before this week’s poll dropped. “If not, let’s keep flying under the radar and don’t let anybody talk about us. Let them talk about all the other guys who are playing great. We’ll be fine.”
Illinois was one of five Big Ten teams ranked in the latest AP Top 25 on Monday.
Purdue (13-2, 2-2), despite a 1-1 week in league play, held on to the top spot for the conference at No. 7, albeit with a four-spot drop.
Michigan State (13-2, 4-0) remained steady at No. 10, Wisconsin (13-2, 4-1) moved up 10 spots to No. 13 after beating the Boilermakers in their 3-0 week of Big Ten action and Ohio State (10-3, 4-1) slipped three spots to No. 16. Illinois is scheduled face two of those ranked teams later this month, hosting Purdue at 11 a.m. next Monday at State Farm Center in Champaign and then doing the same for a 6 p.m. tip on Jan. 25 against Michigan State.
While Illinois remains on the edge of the AP Top 25 — on the positive side, at least, this week — the advanced metrics and analytics favor the Illini more.
Illinois entered Monday’s batch of games ranked ninth in Jeff Sagarin’s ratings, 10th in the NET rankings and 11th in both Ken Pomeroy’s ratings and Bart Torvik’s T-Rank.
“I’d probably much rather have the analytics than have the ranking,” Underwood said. “We pay more attention to those. Because those are day-to-day, those change, and those are things that we can really monitor.”