NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT 2ND ROUND: Battle of Illinois, 12:10 P.M.: Midwest (1) Illinois vs. (8) Loyola Chicago, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, CBS: Fighting Illini Game preview

March 20, 2021

1 ILLINOIS (24-6, 16-4 B1G) at the NCAA Tournament

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Career Record: 180-82 (.687), 8th year
At Illinois: 71-55 (.563), 4th year
NCAA Tournament at Illinois: 1-0, 1st appearance
NCAA Tournament, Career: 3-0, 5th appearance


Appearances: 31st
Record: 41-31
Final Fours: 5


Record: Illinois leads 12-3
Streak: Illinois W-3
Last Meeting: Illinois 67, Loyola Chicago 49 (Nov. 11, 2011 at Champaign)
NCAA Tournament Meeting: Loyola Chicago 79, #8 Illinois 64 (March 16, 1963 at East Lansing, Mich.)


• Following a 78-49 victory over Drexel in the first round, Illinois advances to the NCAA Tournament round of 32 and will face Loyola Chicago on Sunday.

• While Loyola Chicago received an 8 seed, they are currently No. 8 in kenpom. Illinois is 7-2 this season against teams ranked in the top 10 in kenpom, with seven straight wins. 

• Illinois is aiming to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005, when the Illini went on to play in the national championship game.

• Illinois is making its 31st all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and first since 2013. 

• Illinois has compiled a 41-31 (.569) record all-time in NCAA Tournament games. 

• Illinois’ 41 NCAA Tournament wins ranks 23rd among all schools.

• Illinois has earned a #1 seed for the fourth time in NCAA Tournament history: 1989, 2001, 2005, 2021.

• Illinois and Michigan gives the Big Ten two #1 seeds for the first time in 20 years, since Illinois and Michigan State both earned #1 seeds in the 2001 NCAA Tournament.

• Illinois and Loyola Chicago have met once in the NCAA Tournament, a 79-64 victory by the Ramblers in the 1963 Mideast Regional Final. Dave Downey led the Illini with 20 points but Loyola’s Jerry Harkness scored 33, which remains the highest point total against the Illini in an NCAA Tournament game. 

• Since 1975, when the field was increased to 32 teams, Illinois has advanced to the Sweet 16 eight times, the Elite Eight four times, and the Final Four twice. 

• Illinois has the third-most NCAA Tournament wins among teams yet to win a national championship, trailing Oklahoma and Purdue (42 apiece).

• Illinois has made five appearances in the NCAA Final Four, finishing as the national runner-up in 2005, placing third in 1949, 1951 and 1952, and tying for third in 1989.

• Illinois has the most Final Four trips among teams without a national title, tied with Houston and Oklahoma.

• Head Coach Brad Underwood has brought Fighting Illini Basketball back to being a national contender. His rebuild of the program brought success in year three of his tenure, leading the Illini to a top-25 finish and what would have been an NCAA Tournament appearance before the postseason was canceled due to COVID-19. He has now directed the Orange and Blue to a #1 seed in year four as Illinois makes its return to March Madness for the first time since 2013. 

• While Underwood is making his first NCAA Tournament appearance with Illinois, it is his fifth trip to the big dance with his third program in eight seasons as a Div. I head coach. He led Stephen F. Austin to three consecutive appearances from 2014-2016, advancing to the Round of 32 in 2014 and 2016. He also took Oklahoma State to the Tournament in his lone season in Stillwater in 2017. He has now led Illinois to the Round of 32, owning a 3-4 career record in the NCAA Tournament. 

• Illinois is a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time, owning a record of 13-3 all-time.

• Illinois is 30-14 as a higher (better) seed in the NCAA Tournament.

• Illinois is playing in Indianapolis in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time, and first since 2005. The Illini are 6-1 all-time in the NCAAs in Indianapolis:


• Winners of eight straight and 15 of its last 16, Illinois is ranked No. 2 in the final AP poll of the 2021 season.

• Illinois’ 24 wins is its most since 2009 (also 24) and ties the 10th-winningest season in school history.

• Illinois is No. 2 in kenpom adjust efficiency margin (30.70), equaling the highest rating in program history along with the 2005 NCAA runner-up squad. 

• Illinois is one of only three teams ranked in the top 10 in both offensive (8th) and defensive (4th) efficiency by kenpom, joined by Gonzaga and Michigan.

• Illinois has won seven straight over AP ranked opponents entering Sunday’s game vs. No. 17 Loyola Chicago. The Illini single-season record for wins over top-25 teams is nine, set in 1989.

• This is the seventh time in school history that Illinois is in the top 5 of the final AP poll, and first time since 2005, when the Illini finished the season at No. 1.

• Illinois won the 2021 Big Ten Tournament championship, the program’s third conference tournament title and first in 16 years (2003, 2005, 2021).

• Illinois won 19 games against Big Ten teams; 16 during the regular season and three in the conference tournament. That equals the second-most wins ever against Big Ten competition in a single-season:

• Five of Illinois’ last six wins entering the NCAA Tournament came against ranked opponents, including four over top-10 foes. 

• The Illini defeated No. 5 Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal and No. 9 Ohio State in the championship game, registering back-to-back wins over top-10 teams for the second time in two weeks. In the final week of the regular season the Illini won at No. 2 Michigan and at No. 7 Ohio State.

• Illinois went 16-4 in conference play, the winningest Big Ten season in school history. The previous UI record of 15 league victories was set in 1984 (15-3, co-champions) and equaled in 2005 (15-1, champions).

• Illinois won its last three regular season games, all on the road over an 8-day span against teams ranked in the top 10 in kenpom at Wisconsin (10), at Michigan (3) and at Ohio State (9). 

• The victories at No. 2 Michigan and at No. 7 Ohio State were Illinois’ first against top-10 teams in back-to-back games since the 2005 NCAA Tournament, when the No. 1-ranked Illini defeated No. 9 Arizona in the Elite Eight and No. 4 Louisville in the Final Four.

• Illinois won nine road games, most among high-major conference teams and tied for fourth-most in the NCAA.

• The Illini have recorded a total of nine top-10 wins the last three years under Coach Underwood, including an active streak of six straight this season with five of those six coming away from home.

• Illinois’ six top-10 wins is a school record, breaking the previous single-season mark of five set in 1989.

• Leading the Illini is Ayo Dosunmu. Owning numbers of 20.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game, Dosunmu is racking up First-Team All-America accolades and contending for National Player of the Year as well. He is the only player in the NCAA over the last 11 seasons to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and five assists, all while leading Illinois Basketball back among the nation’s elite.

• Dosunmu is on pace to become just the second Big Ten player since 1993 to average 20 points, six rebounds and five assists, joining Ohio State’s Evan Turner, the National Player of the Year in 2009-10.

• Dosunmu is the USA Today National Player of the Year, a finalist for the Naismith Trophy, Oscar Robertson Trophy and Cousy Award, a semifinalist for the Wooden Award, and a first-team All-American by every organization, highlighted by garnering Illinois’ first-ever AP first-team All-America honor.

• Dosunmu earned Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament, averaging 19.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists over the three wins while leading Illinois to the championship. 

• Dosunmu recorded two triple doubles last month (vs. Wisconsin and at Minnesota), joining Michigan State’s Magic Johnson as the only two players in Big Ten history with multiple triple doubles in league play.

• Dosunmu has scored in double figures in 42 straight games, the longest active streak in the NCAA.

• Kofi Cockburn is third in the NCAA with 16 double-doubles this season. He posted double-doubles in 12 Big Ten games, averaging 18.6 points and 9.9 rebounds during league play.

• Cockburn ranks third in the NCAA in field goal percentage at 65.7% and leads the nation with 75 dunks.

• Cockburn is the only player in the nation averaging at least 15 points and nine rebounds on 65% shooting.

• Cockburn is an All-American alongside Dosunmu, earning second-team distinction by the Associated Press, NABC, USBWA and Sporting News. He also is one of 15 players listed on the Wooden Award National Ballot. 

• Dosunmu and Cockburn are combining for 38.2 points per game, the seventh-highest scoring duo nationally, and third among the high-major conferences. 

• Big Ten All-Defensive Team selection Trent Frazier has also seen his scoring increase recently, averaging 12.3 points (196) and shooting 36.5% from 3-point range (31-85) while making an average of 2.1 treys over the last 15 games. He has scored in double figures in nine of those 16 games, with three performances of 20+ points.

• Freshman Andre Curbelo ranked third inthe Big Ten in assists during league play at 4.6 apg. He is averaging 4.1 assists on the season, standing fifth on the school’s all-time freshman assists chart behind legendary Illini point guards Bruce Douglas, Derek Harper, Dee Brown and Deron Williams.

• Curbelo has scored in double figures in six of the last eight gamesaveraging 13.3 points (106) and 6.0 rebounds (48). 

• Curbelo is the third-leading freshman scorer in the Big Ten, averaging 9.1 points, while Adam Miller is the Big Ten’s No. 6 freshman scorer at 8.3 ppg.


• Illinois has now won eight straight games, and 15 of its last 16 since Jan. 19. 

• Illinois’ 29-point victory tied its second-largest margin ever in NCAA Tournament game.

• Illinois shot 57.1% from the field (36-63), making the fourth-most field goals in an NCAA Tournament game in Illinois history. 

• Illinois had only five turnovers, tied for the third-fewest by an Illini team in NCAA Tournament history.

• Illinois outscored Drexel in the paint, 58-16. Illinois’ 58 paint points equaled its season high (Dec. 23 at Penn State).

• Illinois improved to 13-3 all-time as a 1 seed, and 30-14 as a higher seed, in the NCAA Tournament. 

• Illinois improved to 23-8 when playing its opening game of the NCAA Tournament, and won its third-straight opening-round game (2011, 2013, 2021).

• Ayo Dosunmu had 17 points with game highs of 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals, recording the 26th double-double in Illinois’ NCAA Tournament history.

• It was Dosunmu‘s sixth double-double of the season and seventh of his career.

 Dosunmu passed Nick Weatherspoon (1970-73) and Efrem Winters (1983-86) on Illinois’ all-time scoring list to move into 12th place with 1,495 career points.

• Kofi Cockburn had a game-high 18 points on 8-11 shooting. Cockburn ranks third in the NCAA in field goal percentage, now at 65.7% on the season.

» Complete Illinois Game Notes (PDF)


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