Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball: How Good Are the Fighting Illini?

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Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball: How Good Are the Fighting Illini?
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

On Thursday night, Illinois made the college basketball picture a whole lot more interesting when they knocked off No. 1 Indiana on a buzzer-beater layup from senior forward Tyler Griffey.

Thursday night's game is just another example of how wide open the college basketball landscape is this year. There is no dominant team, just a bunch of really good ones. Because of that, our brackets will all be destroyed in March, but we will also be left with one of the greatest NCAA Tournaments ever.

What does the win mean for Illinois though?

The Illini are one of the more interesting teams this college basketball season. There is a lot of debate about how good this team really is.

Illinois has shown us they can compete with any team in the country. They have huge wins against Ohio State, Butler, Gonzaga and now Indiana. They have also shown us that they can hit rock bottom at any moment, as evident from their 3-7 record in the Big Ten conference.

So which is the Illinois team that we are going to get once March rolls around?

The one that features a wildly inconsistent three-point shooting barrage that will see them get knocked out in the first round, or the team that fights tooth and nail, hits timely shots and has the potential to go to a Sweet 16, or maybe even further in the tournament.

Unfortunately, I do not think we have our answer yet, but I think we will get it a very good idea on Sunday night when the Illini travel to Minnesota to face the Golden Gophers.

Illinois and Minnesota met on January 9, where Minnesota defeated the Illini 84-67. That game marked the beginning of the Illinois downfall. A stretch where they lost six of seven games, including four losses by double digits.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Does Illinois have what it takes to compete at a high level in the NCAA Tournament?

The Illini have a chance to avenge that loss on Sunday, and continue to bolster one of the most interesting tournament resumes in the entire country.

Winning again after such an emotional win is difficult, doing it on the road against another ranked opponent will make the task even more challenging.

Which team will show up for Illinois?

The team that leaves Illinois fans disappointed after the game is over, or the team that is ready to avenge their prior defeat and ready to win their second straight game against a ranked opponent.

This next game will tell us a lot about Illinois. It will tell us if they are back to the team we saw at the beginning of the season, or if Thursday was just a one night stand to keep their tournament dreams alive.

Will they come out and hit Minnesota in the mouth, or will they get hit in the mouth?

We still have a ways to go in the season before we can make our final judgments on whether or not a team is NCAA Tournament worthy, but we will certainly find out a lot about the Fighting Illini on Sunday.

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