Where Does Illinois Stand Among College Basketball’s ‘Blue Blood’ Programs?

Where Does Illinois Stand Among College Basketball’s ‘Blue Blood’ Programs?
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

Few men’s college basketball programs have been as snake-bitten by the second round of the NCAA Tournament as the Illinois Fighting Illini.

Illinois has qualified for the tournament three times between 2012 and 2022, falling in the round of 32 each time.

The Fighting Illini fell in their second tournament game to Miami (63-59) in 2013, while also falling in the same round to Loyola (Chicago), 71-58, in 2021, and Houston (68-53) this March.

The last time Illinois made the Sweet 16 (2005) it made it all the way to the championship game, ultimately falling to North Carolina, 75-70.

Brad Underwood’s team enters the 2022-23 season at +5000 in sports betting in Illinois to bring home the program’s first title since 1915.

On its NCAA title odds board, BetMGM Sportsbook Illinois ranks the Illini alongside Villanova, Oregon, Auburn, Michigan State and Virginia.

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Illinois Falls Short of Being Elite

As a result of their NCAA Tournament shortcomings, the Illini fell far down the list of current college basketball “blue bloods” IllinoisBet.com put together.

Using 2012 as a starting point, we looked at various categories of college basketball success to determine a threshold a program must reach to be considered for "blue blood" status.

Points were awarded to each program in the following areas: championship wins (10 per win), championship appearances (5 per appearance), Final Four appearances (4 per appearance), NCAA Tournament appearances (1 per appearance) and Top 25 recruiting classes (1 for each). 

A program needed 35 points over the span of 2012 to 2022 to be considered a college basketball blue blood.

College Basketball’s Current Breed of Elite

The Blue Bloods

🏀 North Carolina57
🏀 Villanova55
🏀 Kansas53
🏀 Kentucky51
🏀 Duke42
🏀 Louisville36

The Comfortably Upper Class

🏀 Michigan32
🏀 Gonzaga32
🏀 Virginia31
🏀 Baylor30
🏀 UConn28
🏀 Michigan State24
🏀 Wisconsin22
🏀 Syracuse19

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What Ultimately Doomed Illinois

The biggest thing standing in Illinois’ way when it comes to being dubbed a current college basketball “blue blood” is its lack of NCAA Tournament success — with fewer appearances in the Big Dance than at least 18 other programs over the last 10 years.

Illinois did succeed off the court over the past decade, bringing in six top 25 recruiting classes (as ranked by 247 Sports).

The Fighting Illini’s lack of Final Four, championship game, and ultimately NCAA title teams robbed the program of the points it needed to rank above the biggest names in the sport.

That’s why Illinois ultimately ranked alongside programs like Maryland and Virginia Tech, instead of standing with the likes of Louisville, Duke and Kansas.

Underwood’s bunch will look to rectify their recent tournament struggles, beginning with the team’s season opener against Eastern Illinois on Nov. 7.

With a little luck and some good bounces, the Fighting Illini could very well find their way back to the Big Dance for a third consecutive year in 2023.

When it comes to college basketball, come to IllinoisBet.com for reviews of the best Illinois sports betting apps.



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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