The Illinois Fighting Illini made some enemies in the Big Ten this past week.
With the most conference wins in this unprecedented COVID-19 season and a head-to-head victory over the official conference champs, the team claims they should have the regular season title.
Unfortunately for the Illini, this year’s Big Ten champion was determined by win percentage — a conference-high figure accomplished by the Michigan Wolverines.
Michigan finished the year with a 14-3 conference record. Illinois came in close behind (percentage wise) with a 16-4 record. The Wolverines program was forced to shut down for two weeks in response to a COVID-19 outbreak on campus, resulting in the cancelation of three conference matchups.
The Illini’s unquestioned leader and National Player of the Year candidate, Ayo Dosunmo, had something to say about this after the season came to a close. The All-Big Ten First Team guard wasn’t even active for their 76-53 blowout win over the Wolverines last week.
“I think when it’s all said and done, we will be co-champions,” Dosunmu said. “I mean, look at our résumé. We lost four games, I believe. We beat Michigan, who are the champs. They didn’t play three more games. Any day in the Big Ten, anyone can be beat. I think we proved that we’re one of the best teams in the country. With this win tonight (over No. 7 Ohio State), we believe we’re Big Ten champions.”
Of course, Michigan believes it deserves their title as well. With a 19-3 overall record, the Wolverines have solidified themselves as one of the top teams in the nation.
UM superstar freshman Hunter Dickinson had a blunt response for Illinois’ recent title claims.
“If they want to claim they’re Big Ten champs, I guess Iowa can do the same, Wisconsin, might as well put Penn State, Maryland,” Dickinson said. “Anyone can be Big Ten champs if they want because this is a COVID year.”
Hunter Dickinson on Illinois' Big Ten title claim: "If they want to claim they're Big Ten champs, I guess Iowa can do the same, Wisconsin, might as well put Penn State, Maryland, anyone can be Big Ten champs if they want because this is a COVID year."
— Daniel Dash (@DanielDash_) March 10, 2021
Both of these teams will get a real chance to prove themselves this week. As the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, a Michigan-Illinois final matchup is entirely possible.
The Big Ten conference tournament tips off later today with the first-round play-in games starting at 6:30 p.m. E.T.