When Was the Last Time Illinois Won the NCAA Tournament (Odds to Win March Madness)

Taking a look at Illinois’ NCAA Tournament history and the Fighting Illini’s odds to win it all this season. 

Mar 23, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) is announced for the starting lineup of a second-round NCAA Tournament game against Duquesne.
Mar 23, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Terrence Shannon Jr. (0) is announced for the starting lineup of a second-round NCAA Tournament game against Duquesne. / Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports
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Somewhere in Omaha, Nebraska over the weekend, Illinois head coach Brad Underwood let out a sigh of relief. No. 3 Illinois, which hadn’t made the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2005, punched its ticket to the Sweet 16 by pulling away from No. 14 Morehead State (85-69) and No. 11 Duquesne (89-63).

Illinois has used the momentum of its Big 10 Tournament title run to reach the Sweet 16 and have a tall task ahead of them against No. 2 Iowa State at TD Garden in Boston. Illinois now has the No. 1 overall offense in KenPom behind the dynamic scoring of guard Terrence Shannon Jr. and forward Marcus Domask. 

Illinois is a longshot on the National Championship odds chart, but have the Fighting Illini ever run the table before? Here’s their March Madness history. 

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When Was the Last Time Illinois Won the NCAA Tournament? 

In the NCAA Tournament era, Illinois has never won it all. In 2005, Illinois, coached by Bruce Weber, had five NBA players on the roster and rolled to the national championship game as a No. 1 seed. Illinois got past Arizona, 90-89, in the Elite Eight to reach the Final Four for the first time in program history. When they got there, Illinois suffocated Louisville, 72-57. In the title tilt, Illinois came up short to Roy Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels, 75-70. 

Illinois Has Tough Road Back to Final Four 

The NCAA Selection Committee did Illinois little favors when putting them in the East Region, which included three other conference tournament champions. Illinois would likely have to beat two of them, starting with No. 2 Iowa State on Thursday, to reach the Final Four. If they beat the Cyclones, odds say that No. 1 UConn, the national title favorite, would be in the Elite Eight waiting for them. 

That’s why Illinois is the third-favorite out of four teams to win the East Region at +600 ($100 wins $600), according to FanDuel Sportsbook. That gives Illinois an implied probability of 14.29% to reach the Final Four. 

Due to its tough draw in the tournament, Illinois is No. 12 on the national championship odds boards at +3300 ($100 bet wins $3,300). 

Illinois might be a longshot to run the table, but the Fighting Illini are short underdogs in Thursday’s Elite Eight contest against the Big 12-champion Cyclones.


Game odds update periodically and are subject to change.