On Tuesday Eamonn Brennan brought to light the fact that when using advanced basketball statistics -- which are statistics from another galaxy whose basketball game is far more evolved than ours -- the Fighting Illini are a lot better team than they're getting credit for. If you were to take a look at either the AP Poll or the ESPN/USA Today Poll, you would notice that the Illini aren't found on either one. Well, not in the Top 25 anyway, instead they're relegated to the "Others receiving votes" portion at the bottom of the poll, which is nice, but not exactly what a team is hoping for.
Of course, if you do take a look at the teams ranked in the polls you'll see a couple of Illinois' Big Ten foes in the Michigan Wolverines (#25 AP, #24 ESPN) and Purdue Boilermakers (#19 in both). You know what these two teams have in common besides being ranked? As of Wednesday night they are both teams that the Illini have beaten, though to be fair, Michigan has also beaten the Illini once. Still, the Illini are 15-2 overall this year, while the Wolverines are 13-4 and the Boilermakers are 12-4.
So just to be clear, even though the Illini have a better record than both teams, and have beaten both teams -- with the Purdue victory coming in West Lafayette no less -- in the eyes of the voters they aren't better than either team. Also, those two losses that the Illini currently have? One was the previously mentioned loss to Michigan on January 4th, while the other was a two-point loss to Clemson on December 2nd. The same Clemson team that is 16-0 and ranked in the top ten in both polls.
Still, despite the fact that the Illini are playing fantastic basketball and beating good teams, unless they pull of an "upset" over Michigan State this Saturday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, they probably won't be ranked in either poll come Monday when the new ones are released. Thankfully the Illini are entering a portion on their schedule that includes not only Michigan State, but also dates against Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. If they play well over these next four games maybe then somebody will finally take notice and throw them a vote or two.
Or they'll just keep voting for St. Mary's. Who knows?