Quad 1 Weirdness
I gotta make this quick. I'm flying back to Illinois today and I want to get this finished before I have to leave for the airport. Somebody start an imaginary clock for 55 minutes and then I'll try to hold myself to that clock. Ready... GO.
Every Monday morning for the last several years I've tweeted our NET team sheet. That's the sheet that the Committee will use for each team when going through the seeding process. You know the drill at this point. Quad 1 games are against teams ranked 1-30 at home, teams 1-50 on neutral courts, and teams 1-75 on the road. Each quadrant follows similar tiers.
And your record in each quadrant changes weekly based on where your opponents are ranked in the latest NET release. Wisconsin just fell to #77 in the latest NET rankings, which means that they crossed two thresholds for us. The win over Wisconsin in Madison is now a Quad 2 win, not a Quad 1 win. And the win over Wisconsin in Champaign, despite the fact that they were #14 at the time, is now a Quad 3 win, not a Quad 2 win. Wisconsin would need to climb back into the top-75 for those to switch back on our team sheet.
As I say every time I write about this, it's not like the Committee views those games as hardline Quad 1 or Quad 2 games. They'll acknowledge that one of the wins (or losses) is to a team that keeps bouncing around either side of #75. If your team sheet changes on Selection Sunday when some opponent moves from #76 to #75, it's not like the Committee will see that as some huge "wow, they now have an extra Q1 win AND an extra Q2 win - change the whole bracket." It's all about the body of work.
And, obviously, there can be major changes across a season. Ohio State was #11 in the NET rankings in early January. Now they're #41 (and still falling). A team sheet with two wins over Ohio State looked really good in early January but might not look like anything in early March.
All of that said, our team sheet is still so odd at the moment. Here it is:
The non-conference looks great there. UCLA and Texas remain massive wins. But the Big Ten games on that sheet are all kinds of weird. Mostly because the 2023 Big Ten is all kinds of weird.
Let's just get to the stat that sent me down this path. Because I tweet these every Monday (and have been doing so for years), I can go back and look at our team sheets from certain dates in the past. So I went back and looked at the data on our February 7, 2022 team sheet and our February 8, 2021 team sheet. And here's where I landed:
February 8, 2021: 6 Big Ten Quad 1 wins
February 7, 2022: 5
February 6, 2023: 0
Remember, the Committee doesn't care about conference/non-conference. There's no stat on the team sheet that says "yeah, but Illinois is 0-4 in Big Ten Quad 1 games." They simply bring the UCLA, Virginia, Texas, and Missouri games into the conversation and say that Illinois is 2-6 in Quad 1 (with the two, most importantly, being top-10 wins on a neutral court).
But I'm just pointing at the weird stuff right now. And the Big Ten is weird, right? February 6th and we don't have a single conference Q1 win?
Maybe I should use W-L to demonstrate the difference instead of just listing the wins. Here's the Q1 conference record one week into February the last three years:
February 8, 2021: 6-2
February 7, 2022: 5-1
February 6, 2023: 0-4
So yes, 2021 and 2022 had more opportunities. At this point, 2021 had eight chances for Q1 wins, 2022 had six, and 2023 only has four. Minnesota is #235, so tomorrow night's game will be our first Big Ten Quad 4 game in a long time (nowhere close to Q1). Our next opportunity for a Q1 win will be Rutgers on Saturday (they're currently #19).
But overall, it's really odd. 13 games into the Big Ten season after tomorrow night and only four of those 12 games were Quad 1 games? How? We could get one back if Wisconsin climbs above #75 (any road win over a top-75 team is Q1), but I can't really see any others migrating across the Q2/Q1 line. Ohio State would need to jump 11 spots or Michigan State 15. Being 0-4 on February 6th is just so... weird.
There's basically two ways to look at this:
Illinois Ain't Played Nobody
This would be totally true if it wasn't for UCLA/Virginia/Texas. Going 2-1 in those three games props up our entire resume right now. Not only have we played somebody, we chose to schedule games with #5, #8, and #15 in the non-conference.
But in conference play, it's kinda true. After the Minnesota game we'll have played 13 conference games and only four of them are Quad 1. Our best win through those 13 games would be... on the road at Wisconsin? Beating #77 on the road shouldn't ever be your best conference win. But we haven't had many Q1 opportunities, and we lost those four, so Wisconsin it is.
The Final Seven Conference Games Will Tell Us Everything
I wrote about this a little last week but now I'm writing about it a lot. As of right now, we have four Q1 losses (Maryland, Northwestern, and Iowa on the road and Indiana at home). Here's where the final seven games shake out (if the game was played today):
Rutgers - Quad 1
at Penn State - Quad 1
at Indiana - Quad 1
Northwestern - Quad 2
at Ohio State - Quad 1
Michigan - Quad 2
at Purdue - Quad 1
Five Quad 1 games to go. I think Ohio State will hang on to a top-75 ranking (they're 11-12 at the moment but still #41), so I believe all five of those games will stay as Quad 1 games (unless Rutgers loses a bunch and falls out of the top-30). Five more chances to boost that resume, starting Saturday.
Gotta go pack and then head to the airport. So while I have several other things to say, I need to end this here.
Illini basketball. Ain't played nobody (in conference). But all of that is about to change. Go Illini win those games.