WATCH: Illinois Fighting Illini Celebrate Massive Ranked Win Over Ohio State Buckeyes

Published 03/08/2021, 12:00 PM EST
Mar 6, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; The Illinois Fighting Illini bench celebrates after a three-point basket against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Value City Arena. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports


The Illinois Fighting Illini have proven themselves to be one of the best teams in the NCAA this season. The Big Ten contenders have had a strong season, led by Ayo Dosunmu. Dosunmu is in major consideration for Player of the Year by multiple magazines, but it seems he will be losing out on the award to Iowa Hawkeyes star Luka Garza.

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However, individual glory is never the goal for these teams. The quest is for the title, and it is a strong team that can actually win the NCAA Tournament. Good thing for the Illini that they have a solid team around Dosunmu, featuring stars like Kofi Cockburn and others. The team has had a great two-game stretch, beating the Michigan Wolverines and then the Ohio State Buckeyes.

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The win over the Buckeyes was the last game of the regular season, where the Illini finished second in the Big Ten behind Michigan. However, the team was still down to celebrate heavily after the win.

This win may not have clinched any titles for the Illini, but was a strong way to end a hard regular season. They tip-off in the Big Ten tournament on Friday. Their opponent will be the winner of Indiana Hoosiers vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Illinois Fighting Illini: Are they legitimate March Madness contenders?

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Illinois Fighting Illini have dominated in the Big Ten, the toughest conference in the NCAA. However, the favorites for this season aren’t in the Big Ten. Neither the Gonzaga Bulldogs nor the Baylor Bears will be willing to be counted out as the best in the nation.

Feb 16, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Ayo Dosunmu (11) shoots against the Northwestern Wildcats during the second half at the State Farm Center. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

However, the Big Ten teams have had solid competition throughout the year which has prepared them better. While every team has something or the other going for them, Illinois has the perfect mix. They have a strong supporting cast, a great coach, and a superstar player. While they still have faltered, the tournament may be the best place for them to shine.

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We will know more about their capability after we see them in the Big Ten tournament. However, the expectations are high and hopefully, they can prove that they are as legitimate as contenders could get.

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Ishaan Bhattacharya

1510 articles

Ishaan Bhattacharya is an NBA, NCAA Basketball, and Combat Sports writer at EssentiallySports. Currently, Ishaan is pursuing a Post Graduate Degree in Journalism from Xavier's Institute of Communication. Previously, Ishaan has written for The Indian Express, The Quint, Sportskeeda, and WrestleClub.

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