Illinois would accept an NIT bid even though the Illini couldn't host a first-round game because of a scheduling conflict.
The NCAA Tournament is in the back of the minds of the Illini, and that's OK with Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber after the 65-54 win over Iowa Sunday.
Weber kept pushing the buttons to motivate the Illini (17-12 overall, 6-10 in the Big Ten) before meeting No. 13 Michigan (21-8, 11-5) on senior night at Assembly Hall Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN).
A spot in the NIT is much more likely for Illinois. The school would accept a bid from the NIT, athletic director Mike Thomas said, and the Illini are a No. 3 seed in NIT-ology. Illinois couldn't host a first-round game because of a scheduling conflict with Assembly Hall programming, according to an athletic department spokesman.
But Weber still attempts to get the Illini to believe. He already played the tape of Illinois' comeback from 15 down in the final 4 minutes to beat Arizona in the regional final for a berth in the Final Four in 2005.
"We said anything can happen,'' Weber said. "Believe in the unbelievable. When we were at Ohio State, we showed them the last 4 minutes of the game. I'm still dumbfounded how we won.
"They all know about it. They watched it as a kid. It's just amazing. You keep thinking, how the heck? We just let it run. You don't have to say much.''
If there's a need for more motivation, Weber will go to a text from Michael Orris, the Crete-Monee senior guard who sent a message to Weber Sunday night.
"He's about winning and toughness and being a teammate,'' Weber said. "He said it's amazing when everybody on the team puts ego, stats and personal agendas away and concentrates on his, everything is successful.
"I'm going to give (the Illini) the message.''
The Illini likely need a sweep of Michigan and No. 14 Wisconsin this weekend, and perhaps a win or two in the Big Ten Tournament, to steal a berth in the NCAAs.
"We had to get one (win) before we could even really make it part of our dreams, our hopes, our goals," Weber said. "Now you get one, now you get two. You got a Michigan team that is really high rated. They could obviously be another marquee win for us to put on the resume.
"If you get that, then you got to go to Wisconsin and play another high-ranked team and see if you can get a big road win.''
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.