Can Brad Underwood Get Illini into Sweet 16 in 2024?

Can Brad Underwood Get Illini into Sweet 16 in 2024?
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

The Illinois men’s basketball team is off to a strong start in the Big Ten this year, with a 14-4 record overall and 5-2 mark in the Midwest-centric conference.

The Fighting Illini are 3-2 in their last five games, with consecutive victories over Rutgers (86-63) and Michigan (88-73). They head to Evanston tonight to square off against a 13-5 Northwestern Wildcats squad that’s 4-3 in conference play. The game will make for some interesting decisions in Illinois sports betting.

IllinoisBet.com – your source for Illinois online casinos - broke down how the Champaign-Urbana university has fared in head coach Brad Underwood’s seven-year tenure with the program.

As the nation’s eyes turn towards the Big Ten Network for the clash between the Illini and Wildcats, it’s worth wondering whether 2024 is the year that Underwood finally leads the program to the Sweet 16 and maybe even the first Final Four since 2005.

Illinois Under Brad Underwood

SeasonRecordBig TenNCAA Tournament
2017-1814-18T-11thDid not qualify
2018-1912-21T-10thDid not qualify
2019-2021-104th No NCAA/Covid
2020-2124-72nd Lost in 2nd round
2021-2223-10T-1stLost in 2nd round
2022-2323-10T-5thLost in 1st round
2023-2414-43rdLost in 1st round

 

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Illinois Past and Present

In his first six seasons with the program, Underwood has not advanced past the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Illinois last reached the Sweet 16 in 2005 under then head coach Bruce Weber. That season, Illinois made it all the way to the title game before falling to North Carolina, 75-70.

This year, oddsmakers from ESPN BET Illinois list the Illini at +3000 to win their first modern NCAA title, ranking in a tie with Wisconsin for 12th nationally, and sandwiched between No. 10 Duke and Kansas (+2500) and No. 14 Baylor, Creighton and Marquette (+4000).

In tonight’s game at Northwestern, BetMGM Illinois has the Fighting Illini as a 3.5-point and -150 moneyline favorite. The over-under is at 146.5 points.

In Underwood’s first six seasons in Champaign-Urbana, the Illini have posted a 128-83 (.607) record overall and have been ranked in the AP poll in each of the last five seasons, peaking at No. 2 in the poll in 2020-21.

In the Big Dance, Underwood and company have gone 2-3. They beat Drexel in the 2021 first round as a one seed, 78-49, and Chattanooga as a four seed in the 2022 tournament, 54-53. But they then lost in the second round to No. 8 seed Loyola-Chicago in 2021 and No. 5 seed Houston in 2022.

Last season, Underwood and the Illini fell in the first round as a ninth seed No. 8 Arkansas, 73-63. That left a bad taste in the mouths of Illinois players and fans that both camps are looking to extinguish for good this spring.

That road to redemption begins in earnest tonight in Evanston, when the 10th-ranked Illini head to Welsh-Ryan Arena to play an unranked but talented Northwestern squad.

IllinoisBet.com will keep tabs on Underwood’s squad from a betting perspective as well as provide Illinois sportsbook promos.

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Bonus Bets Expire in 7 Days. One New Customer Offer Only. Must be 21+ to participate & present in IL. In partnership with Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER or text ILGAMB to 53342. Visit BetMGM.com for Terms & Conditions. US promotional offers not available in NY, NV, or Puerto Rico.
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Author

Christopher Boan is a lead writer at IllinoisBet.com specializing in covering state issues. He covered sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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