- Scott Powers, Reporter
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1. Illinois (10-3): A few turnovers, an intentional foul and a six-point Missouri possession led to Illinois’ demise in the final minutes of Wednesday’s rivalry game. The Illini, especially Mike Davis, responded well after losing to UIC on Saturday, but this team has some work to do before being thought of as a Final Four contender again. Jereme Richmond’s progress could determine where this team goes.
2. Northwestern (9-1): The Wildcats could have been No. 1 on this list and set to coast into the Big Ten schedule with an undefeated record, but they met a hot-shooting St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. While the Red Storm shot lights out, Northwestern was also exposed. The Wildcats still rely too heavily on Michael Thompson, John Shurna and Drew Crawford. The trio combined for 58 of the Wildcats' 69 points on Tuesday. Northwestern’s NCAA tournament fate could rest on its first three Big Ten games -- at Purdue, hosting Michigan State and at Illinois.
3. DePaul (6-6): After Illinois and Northwestern, the state drops off. DePaul has potential, but it’s still a work in a progress. The Blue Demons did show some resilience by rallying to beat Loyola over the weekend. Oliver Purnell picked up his 400th win on Wednesday.
4. Loyola (9-4): The Ramblers are in danger of tanking just like they did last season. Loyola began the season 7-0, but now has lost four of its past six games. Three of those losses were narrow ones against Butler, DePaul and Kansas State, but the Ramblers need to start winning some of the games if they’re going to make an impact in the Horizon League.
5. Illinois State (8-3): It’s hard to fairly judge the Redbirds so far. They have won some games, but haven’t really played anyone. In three of their more notable games, they lost to UNLV by 32 points and Ohio by two points and defeated UIC by 10. Once they begin to face Missouri Valley opponents, we’ll know a lot more about Illinois State.
6. UIC (5-8): The Flames shocked the country with their upset win over Illinois on Saturday. Whether UIC can sustain its success -- it lost to Illinois State and Northern Illinois before playing Illinois -- is unknown. But the Flames took a massive step for the future of Howard Moore’s program. They came back down to earth Wednesday, losing at Oregon State.
7. Bradley (6-5): Along with Illinois and Northwestern, the Braves had a chance at making the NCAA tournament. Those dreams ended with the season-ending injuries to Sam Maniscalco and Taylor Brown. Bradley could return with a vengeance next season.
8. Southern Illinois (6-5): The Salukis finally got Illinois and Purdue on their schedule, but this wasn’t the year for it. Southern Illinois just isn’t the team of the past. The Salukis have been up and down all season, and this could be the end of the line for Chris Lowery. They defeated Northern Illinois on Wednesday.
9. Northern Illinois (3-6): The Huskies have played better than expected. They have only won three games, but they’ve hung with nearly everyone. It helps that Xavier Silas is putting together a special season. They lost to Southern Illinois on Wednesday.
10. Eastern Illinois (5-7): The Panthers’ record isn’t impressive, but they have fared well against in-state opponents. Eastern Illinois has defeated Bradley and Western Illinois. That has to mean something.
11. Western Illinois (5-6): The Leathernecks don’t have a lot of wins to show for it, but they have stayed competitive in all their games. Even against Missouri, they only lost by five points early in the season.
12. Chicago State (3-10): The Cougars have played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the state, and they’ve paid for it. Six opponents have scored 90-plus points on the them. It’s going to take first-year coach Tracy Dildy some time to turn the program around.
13. SIU-Edwardsville (2-11): The Cougars have taken their lumps. It hasn’t helped that they’ve been without star forward Mark Yelovich, who has a broken foot and will miss the rest of the season.
Illinois and Northwestern top ESPNChicago's in-state college basketball rankings.