Once-ranked Illinois mired in longest losing streak in 40 years

Illinois' fall from grace has been swift and historic and it's anyone's guess when it might end.

A month ago Illinois was 13-2 and ranked No. 23 in the nation. Tuesday night the Illini lost their eighth consecutive game at home against Wisconsin essentially ending any hopes for this team, barring a long winning streak that ends with a Big Ten tournament title.

The eight-game losing streak is the longest in 40 years for the Illini, who are alone in the basement of the Big Ten at 13-10 overall and 2-8 in the conference. The losing streak is double the longest streak Illinois coach John Groce had previously experienced. He endured a four-game losing streak during his second season at Ohio.

There were no indications this was coming back in early January. Illinois didn't face the toughest nonconference schedule, but it wasn't a slate filled with wimps either. The Illini beat UNLV and Missouri, its best victories and it lost close games to Georgia Tech and Oregon and started conference play 2-0.

Illinois entered the week as the worst shooting team in Big Ten play this season, making just 37 percent of its shots and 27 percent of its 3-point attempts. This isn't a terrible defensive or rebounding team, but it just doesn't seem to have enough offense, particularly in the post, which isn't good for a team that doesn't shoot well over defenses.

The best chance for Illinois to break out of this slump comes in the next two games at Penn State and at Nebraska. Beyond that, maybe a win comes Feb. 26 at home against Nebraska. Regardless of when the next win is earned, it's amazing the Illini have played themselves into a spoiler role after such a strong start.

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Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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