Ilinois basketball has been a standout member of the Big Ten but when is the last time they won a national championship?
Few teams in the Big Ten have as devoted a fan base as the Illinois Fighting Illini. A regular contender for conference titles, Illinois has really stepped up into national title contention on the men’s side under the guidance of head coach Brad Underwood.
This year’s edition of the Fighting Illini is fighting alongside Purdue and Wisconsin for the Big Ten’s regular-season title with a National Player of the Year candidate in center Kofi Cockburn. Illinois has built a strong resume to this point that should have the Fighting Illini in the mix for a top-four seed at the NCAA Tournament in March.
The 2021-22 season hasn’t gone as well for Illinois’ women’s program, which is just 6-13 overall and 1-7 in Big Ten play. There is still a path for the Fighting Illini to reach the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament by winning the Big Ten’s automatic bid in the conference tournament.
Has Illinois basketball ever won a national championship?
The answer to this question is a little complicated for the Fighting Illini’s men’s program, which has never won the NCAA Tournament. The closest shot at a title for Illinois came back in 2005, when Illinois’ excellent team with Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head got all the way to the national championship game with a 37-1 record before losing to North Carolina by five points.
The Fighting Illini do have a national championship under their belt from the Helms Athletic Foundation, which was founded in 1936 and retroactively assessed all college basketball seasons prior to the founding of the NCAA Tournament in 1939. The foundation released its results in 1943, awarding Illinois’ 1915 team that went 16-0 the national title for that year.
Illinois’ women’s basketball team doesn’t have a title to its name at this point. The closest approach at this point came through a pair of Sweet 16 appearances in 1997 and 1998.
Illinois basketball’s NCAA Tournament history
On the men’s side, Illinois has made the NCAA Tournament 31 times, including their most recent appearance in 2021 that snapped an eight-year March Madness drought. A full list of Illinois’ NCAA Tournament appearances follows below.
- 1942, 1949, 1951, 1952, 1963, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2021
The women’s program hasn’t been as successful as the men’s program for Illinois with just eight NCAA Tournament appearances, including their most recent trip coming back in 2003. Here is a full list of the Fighting Illini’s appearances in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
- 1982, 1986, 1987, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003
Illinois basketball’s NCAA Tournament Final Four Appearances
The men’s basketball program has made the Final Four five times for Illinois, with their most recent appearance on the season’s final weekend coming back in 2005. Here is a full list of Illinois basketball’s appearances in the men’s Final Four.
- 1949, 1951, 1952, 1989, 2005
Illinois’ women’s basketball program has never reached the Final Four. The closest they have come to that point is the aforementioned Sweet 16 appearances in 1997 and 1998.
Illinois basketball’s All-time NCAA Tournament record
Over the course of its history, Illinois’ men’s basketball team has appeared in 73 NCAA Tournament games, posting a won-loss record of 41-32. The Fighting Illini have one more loss than NCAA Tournament appearances since they lost twice in the 1942 tournament, losing in the Elite Eight as well as the regional third-place game, which was a feature of some of the first NCAA Tournaments.
Illinois’ women’s basketball program has appeared in 16 NCAA Tournament games throughout their history, posting an 8-8 record in those contests.
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