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Why this Illinois team is much better than last season’s

Is it finally the year?

The Fighting Illini continued their strong start to the college basketball season, beating a ranked Florida Atlantic team that returned its entire squad from a Final Four trip last season, 98-89, a bona-fide Quad 1 win. That came after they won at Rutgers for the first time since 2018, having lost 4 of the last 5 in New Jersey. That was a likely also Quad 1 win against a borderline tournament team. Illinois’ only loss so far has come at home against Marquette, who nearly won the Maui invitational.

With a big game coming up at ranked Tennessee later this week, a win would vault Illinois into national championship contention talk.