With Illinois now 23-0, it's fair to ask: who can beat these guys? If you
just look at rankings, the only team in the Big Ten who can stop them is
probably Wisconsin, and that game comes up on the 12th. Otherwise, they
have Iowa, without Pierre Pierce, as their biggest challenge. They might
get cocky and blow a game, but from here, it looks like they'll go into their
conference tournament without a loss. So if they come out of that, who is
left to challenge them? More precisely, who can beat them?
Well, as someone said the other day, look for Duke to be in their regional,
unless they are both #1 seeds, since the NCAA loves to schedule high publicity
rematches (we know they say they just follow the formula, but come on - it's not
all by chance). Duke took them down last year, but it was really hard to
do. We never count Duke out of anything, but it would be very tough.
Otherwise, certainly UNC is capable, and Wake Forest is as well, despite the
earlier loss. The rematch would be on a neutral court, and Wake has
improved a lot since then, and an undefeated team is a fat target.
Otherwise, just perusing the rankings, we don't think Kansas can do it.
Kentucky plays tough enough defense to do it, and we might actually pick
Oklahoma State in that matchup.
B.C.? They've got a tough nature, but they've also struggled a lot to get
where they are.
Syracuse would be a tough matchup, because they have a lot of experience and
the zone would slow Illinois down, although not necessarily the outside
Outside of those teams, and the possible mid-major shocker, we'd look at
Washington. That's an athletic, fast team, capable of playing superior defense.
If they run the table and win it all, that would be incredibly impressive,
needless to say. But we'd guess, like UNLV, that as things tighten up in
the tournament, and undefeated Illinois might, too.
One more candidate: on a good day, with everything clicking, Maryland.