The mood grows more tense with every loss.

The details that led to a 77-72 overtime defeat at Minnesota Saturday made it even worse for Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber and his Illini.

Playing in the sixth consecutive game decided by five points or less, Illinois lost its third consecutive Big Ten Conference basketball game after grabbing the league lead earlier this month. The Illini's perch on the NCAA bubble already seems precarious, considering the upcoming schedule.

Meanwhile, the criticism has reached the ears of Weber, who didn't like hearing all of the "critiquing'' of his team, because it comes after a win or a loss. 

When Illinois (15-6 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten) hosts No. 10 Michigan State (17-4, 6-2) Tuesday (6 p.m., ESPN), it's a good chance to take the temperature of the Illini fan base.

Q: Who needed the win more: Weber or the Illini?

A: There's still plenty up for grabs in the season, and Illinois isn't the only team to suffer a three-game losing streak early in the Big Ten season. Wisconsin bounced back from a slide that included two losses at home, and Minnesota played its way back into the middle of the pack.

"Tubby (Smith) got his kids to respond,'' Weber said. "Now we'll see if we can respond.''

For a team returning only one starter from last season with six freshmen and a transfer, there's been little patience. Fans have become frustrated with a program that fell into mediocrity since Dee Brown left campus in 2006.

The Illini are still an NCAA bubble team, although the upcoming schedule appears it take some work. Meanwhile, only a late-season challenge for the Big Ten title and/or a run in the NCAAs would get the critics off Weber's back. He really needed that one in Minnesota, because it's becoming harder for him to please the crowd.

Q: How does the Illini football class rate?

A: According to Rivals, the Illini rank 10th in the Big Ten, ahead of Indiana and Minnesota. That's not surprising.

Former coach Ron Zook was handcuffed by bad results during the season. Tim Beckman, who was hired on Dec. 9, had a little more than a month to do a year's work.

"They shouldn't be measured by this class,'' said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. "They're trying to keep their heads above water.''

Running back Dan Ayoola of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and defensive tackle Teko Powell of Miami are the two best prospects in the class, Leming said. He also likes Chicago Mount Carmel defensive tackle Vontrell Williams and Lincoln-Way East receiver Jason Robertson.

The Illini picked up commitments from Lincoln-Way West defensive back B.J. Bello and linebacker Mike Svetina of Brunswick (Ohio) St. Ignatius Sunday, according to Rivals.

Q: Which Illini were invited to the NFL combine?

A: The initial list of combine invitations is limited to seniors, and receiver A.J. Jenkins, tackle Jeff Allen and kicker Derek Dimke were offered invites. Late last week, junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus received his letter.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock listed Mercilus as the No. 3 defensive end in this year's draft.

  John Supinie can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.