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Good Morning, Illini Nation: A look at the Big Ten standings

Feb. 28—Sign up for our daily basketball newsletter here

Welcome to "Good Morning, Illini Nation," your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He'll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood's team and college basketball at large:

A double bye in the Big Ten tournament is significant considering how it shortens the path to a championship. The top four teams in the conference only have to win three games in three days to take home a title.

Purdue, which a 14-3 league record, is basically assured one of the four double byes given its lead on its Big Ten counterparts. Illinois is in second place, but just one game ahead of Northwestern and two ahead of Nebraska and Wisconsin, who are now tied for fourth after the Badgers' brutal February continued Tuesday night with a loss at Indiana.

So the Illini are in solid position for a double bye, but it's not yet a guarantee with four games left to play in the regular season. Starting with today's game against Minnesota. The "easiest" home game remaining, with Purdue set to make the short trip to Champaign next week.

But easy and the Big Ten don't really belong together. Unless Michigan is involved. The Wolverines are 3-14 in the conference and basically the outlier at the bottom of the league. The difference between fourth place and 13th place is just four games. For Illinois specifically ahead of today's game, Minnesota was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten and is now seventh.

"Some of these conferences you look top to bottom and you just know you're going to win," Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. "There's a couple games and a couple teams. Even my first year here we weren't very good, yet we could beat you if you didn't show up. Especially at home. It's just an incredible league that way. Gosh darn, it's hard. If you're a little bit off, you get beat."