On March 16, 2003, Illinois captured its first Big Ten Tournament title in its third appearance in the championship game, by defeating Ohio State, 72-59, at the United Center. Brian Cook earned MVP honors and finished his career with a Tournament total of 157 points in 10 games to rank second all-time behind former teammate Cory Bradford.
Illinois has the most all-time Big Ten Tournament wins (16) and the best all-time Big Ten Tournament winning percentage (.696, 16-7).
Illinois is playing in the opening round for the first time since 1999 and just the second time in Big Ten Tournament history.
For the Illini the United Center is a home away from home. Illinois has played 35 games at the United Center, owning an all-time record of 29-6 (.829).
Junior guard Chris Hicks was a student athletic trainer at Illinois before joining the Illini team.