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Ranking the state’s Division I college basketball teams: Will Northwestern and Illinois stay on opposite courses?

Chicago Tribune — Shannon Ryan Chicago Tribune

Jan. 14--Illinois ended a 15-game losing streak against Wisconsin last week and has won three straight to enter the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in five seasons at No. 24.

Northwestern found nearly as much joy in beating Nebraska on Saturday to end a five-game skid.

The teams face each other Saturday in Champaign as Illinois tries not to lose its footing and Northwestern attempts to regain its. For the Wildcats, it’s the first of four straight games against ranked opponents.

It’s one of the more interesting matchups in the state, where teams are fumbling away opportunities. Only five of Illinois’ 13 Division I men’s teams have winning records.

Here are the Tribune’s latest power rankings, with records through Monday and last week’s ranking in parentheses.

Illinois 12-5, 4-2 Big Ten (1)

Life is good in Champaign. The Illini sit alone in second place in a tough conference, and they’ve beaten four teams (Wisconsin, Michigan, Rutgers and Purdue) in the top 35 of the NCAA’s NET rankings.

DePaul 12-4, 0-3 Big East (2)

Don’t panic yet, but what has happened to the Blue Demons? They have yet to win a conference game and have a frightening upcoming stretch at No. 14 Villanova and at home against No. 5 Butler and No. 25 Creighton.

Bradley 12-5, 3-1 Missouri Valley (4)

Carver Arena isn’t a welcoming environment for opponents. The Braves are 10-0 at home.

Loyola 11-6, 3-1 Missouri Valley (3)

Freshman Marquise Kennedy had his best game with 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting in a 34-point victory against Evansville. More of that, please, Ramblers fans say.

Northwestern 6-9, 1-4 Big Ten (5)

It’s official: The Wildcats won’t be winless in conference play. An emotional win over Nebraska came on the strength of 10 3-pointers.

UIC 7-12, 2-4 Horizon (7)

The Flames may have found their turning point in delivering Wright State its first road loss and first conference loss.

Northern Illinois 9-7, 2-1 Mid-American (6)

There’s a three-way tie atop the MAC West. Can the Huskies make a move? Their next three games are East crossovers against Akron, Bowling Green and Kent State, who are a combined 37-11 (8-1 MAC).

Southern Illinois 8-9, 2-2 Missouri Valley (8)

The Salukis scored a season-low 19 points in the second half of a loss to Bradley.

Illinois State 6-10, 1-3 Missouri Valley (9)

A shuffled lineup didn’t help much as the Redbirds lost at Indiana State for their eighth straight defeat away from Redbird Arena.

SIU-Edwardsville 4-13, 1-3 Ohio Valley (10)

The Cougars have lost three straight since opening conference play with a surprising win at Belmont.

Eastern Illinois 7-9, 0-4 Ohio Valley (11)

The Panthers need to cut back on their 13.3 turnovers per game to end a five-game skid.

Western Illinois 5-10, 2-3 Summit (12)

The Leathernecks broke a three-game losing streak by beating Denver, which is winless in the league.

Chicago State 4-15, 0-4 Western Athletic (13)

The Cougars have lost nine in a row, including six straight by at least 20 points.

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