By this point, all of the college basketball world knows that Illinois is a wildly inconsistent team. There are nights when the Fighting Illini are untouchable, beating the likes of Gonzaga, Indiana, Ohio State or Butler. Then there are games where they lose to Northwestern and Purdue, or barely scrape by Penn State and Nebraska.
At 8-10 in the Big Ten, good for a three-way tie in seventh place alongside Purdue and Minnesota, Illinois starts off the Big Ten Tournament Thursday morning at 11 a.m. CT against the Golden Gophers, which are in a similar position to the Illini.
The road doesn't get any easier, as Illinois will match up with outright Big Ten champion Indiana on Friday, followed by Wisconsin or Michigan, should they be so lucky to win back-to-back days. Regardless of what happens in Chicago over the weekend, Illinois deserves to be NCAA tournament bound. What seed they will earn, who they will face or where they will play is still far from determined, however.