Home Illinois What you need to know about Illinois Northwestern in 2023

What you need to know about Illinois Northwestern in 2023


CHICAGO – The madness is officially underway, with two teams from the state of Illinois taking part in the men’s NCAA Tournament this week.

It’s Illinois and Northwestern among the 68 teams in the Big Dance, which begins for both teams this Thursday. This is the first time this has happened, as the Wildcats previously only made the tournament in 2017 when the Illini did not make the field.

One team is enjoying a storybook season, while the other is back in the tournament for the third year in a row, but is now an underdog.

Here’s what to expect from the Illini and Wildcats in the 2023 NCAA Men’s Tournament.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Illinois – 9th Seed – West Region

OPENING GAME – Thursday vs. #8 Arkansas – 3:30 p.m. – TBS – Des Moines, Iowa

2022-2023 Record – 20-12, 11-9 in the Big Ten

NUMBER OF PLAYERS IN TOURNAMENTS – This is the 33rd time Illinois has made the NCAA Tournament. The program has five Final Four appearances and one national championship game appearance (2005).

SITUATION – ​Although head coach Brad Underwood’s 2023 team has made Illinois three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, it feels very different. An inconsistent regular season characterized by huge wins and forgettable losses has the Illini playing the role of the underdog as they head to Des Moines. Even if they can get past Arkansas, which has struggled with similar consistency issues, they will likely have to face top-seeded Kansas in the next round. That doesn’t bode well for a program hoping to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 18 years.

THEY SAID THIS –Underwood on her team’s approach to the NCAA tournament: “Faith. You have to believe that you can win. You have to come here and it’s zero-zero. Everything you do up to this point is to get to this point. You know, 20 games into the Big Ten season and sellouts at every venue, the familiarity is completely different now. We’re in the NCAA Tournament and it’s a new team, it’s a different team, it’s a different style, it’s a different name that we don’t hear every time we turn on the TV. There is a sense of excitement about it. I also want our players to understand that you have to enjoy the moment.

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Northwestern – 7th seed – West Region

OPENING GAME – Thursday vs. no. 10 Boise State – 6:35 p.m. – TruTV – Sacramento, CA

RECORD 2022-2023. – 21-11, 12-8 in the Big Ten

QUANTITY IN NCAA TOURNAMENT – This is Northwestern’s second appearance in the men’s NCAA tournament. They also did so in 2017 and finished eighth, defeating Vanderbilt in the first round before losing to Gonzaga in Salt Lake City.

SITUATION – This has been a historic year for head coach Chris Collins and the Wildcats after five straight losing seasons. Northwestern finished second in the Big Ten for the first time since the 1958-59 season and broke the school record for conference wins. Chase Audige and Boo Bui led the program’s resurgence with strong play at the guard spots as the group exceeded all preseason expectations. With two wins in Sacramento, the Wildcats would advance to their first Sweet 16 in program history.

SAID THIS – Buey on playing for Collins this season after his job was in jeopardy after five straight losing seasons: “I think just the seniors, the guys coming back with this group, along with the coaches, we just got together and decided that we were going to create something super special that no one on the outside would think about. From the end of the season last year to where we are now, the coach just said this is who we are, this is what we do, we’re going to do everything in our power to prove people wrong. You know, we don’t play for him and he doesn’t train for himself. We are only going to make it through a collective group effort. That’s what happened.”


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