Jackson: Breaking down men's schedule

Jackson: Breaking down men's schedule

Return of the Rev
The highlight of the nonconference home schedule figures to be the Nov. 13 game against Valparaiso. Not just because the Crusaders went 26-8, won the Horizon League and reached the NCAA tournament under Bryce Drew.

It’s because Illinois fans will have the opportunity to cheer for former Illini Roger Powell Jr., a starter on the 2004-05 team that went 37-2 and reached the NCAA title game. Powell is entering his third season on Drew’s staff in northwest Indiana, helping the Crusaders to a 48-20 record and consecutive conference titles.

Expect a warm welcome for Powell, considered a rising coach in the business. The Rev was mentioned as a candidate for a spot on Matt Painter’s Purdue staff this summer, and he coached a select group of college players on an overseas tour earlier this month for Athletes in Action.
Beating another (No.) one
When Brandon Paul and Tyler Griffey hooked up last season for a buzzer-beater to upset No. 1 Indiana, it marked the third time in program history the Illini took down a top-ranked team.

This year’s group might get a shot at making it at least four because two Big Ten teams (Michigan, Michigan State) could climb that high. Tom Izzo’s Spartans come to the State Farm Center on Jan. 18 and host the Illini on March 1. The national runner-up Wolverines visit Champaign for their lone matchup against the Illini on March 4.

Saturday specials
Fans in Champaign looking for a live Big Ten basketball fix on Saturdays last season were left wanting (only two conference games at home). But State Farm Center is the place to be on Saturdays this season because John Groce’s club will host four Big Ten games to kick off the weekend.

The March 1 game at Michigan State makes it five, with the potential for a sixth Saturday Big Ten game in the season finale at Iowa (March 8 or 9). All that is in addition to the three consecutive nonconference games in December at neutral sites against Oregon, Missouri and UIC.

Holiday miles
The holiday season is a busy time for travel. But Tracy Abrams & Co. are taking it to a new level.

Starting with a trip to Las Vegas during Thanksgiving week and ending with a round-trip to Chicago three days after Christmas for the United Center game against UIC, the Illini will have traveled about 10,816 miles. That includes two trips to Atlanta (Georgia Tech, Auburn), Portland (Oregon) and St. Louis (Missouri). That’s a lot of time on cramped buses and airplanes for a group of players whose average height is 6-foot-5.

Party time
The last time Indiana visited Champaign, Illinois fans partied like it was New Year’s Eve when the Illini stunned Tom Crean’s top-ranked squad. There will be parties in Champaign-Urbana after this year’s meeting regardless of what happens on the floor. The rivals meet on the final day of 2013 in the Big Ten opener for both.

The Dec. 31 meeting will be the 170th between the programs and the first time they’ve met on New Year’s Eve. The last time Illinois played on New Year’s Eve was 2011, a 75-60 loss at Purdue in Bruce Weber’s final season. The last win was 67-45 against Cincinnati in 2004, the season Illinois started 29-0 and reached the national title game.

2013-14 SCHEDULE

Thursday, Oct. 17    Orange & Blue Scrimmage    State Farm Center    7 p.m.    None
Thursday, Oct. 24    McKendree    State Farm Center    7 p.m.    TBA
Sunday, Nov. 3    Northwood    State Farm Center    5 p.m.    TBA

Friday, Nov. 8    Alabama State    State Farm Center    7 p.m.    TBA
Sunday, Nov. 10    Jacksonville State    State Farm Center    5 p.m.    TBA
Wednesday, Nov. 13     Valparaiso    State Farm Center    6:30 p.m.    TBA
Sunday, Nov. 17    Bradley    State Farm Center    5 p.m.    TBA
Friday, Nov. 22    Chicago State    State Farm Center    8 p.m.    TBA
Tuesday, Nov. 26    at UNLV    Las Vegas    9:45 p.m.    CBS Sports Network
Friday, Nov. 29    IPFW    State Farm Center    7 p.m.    TBA
Tuesday, Dec. 3    at Georgia Tech    Atlanta    6:15 p.m.    ESPN2
Sunday, Dec. 8    vs. Auburn    Atlanta    TBA    TBA
Tuesday, Dec. 10    Dartmouth    State Farm Center    7 p.m.    TBA
Saturday, Dec. 14    vs. Oregon    Portland, Ore.    TBA    TBA
Saturday, Dec. 21    vs. Missouri    St. Louis    TBA    TBA
Saturday, Dec. 28    vs. Illinois-Chicago    Chicago    1 p.m.    TBA
Tuesday, Dec. 31    Indiana    State Farm Center    2 p.m.    ESPN2
Saturday, Jan. 4    Penn State    State Farm Center    1:15 p.m.    TBA
Wednesday, Jan. 8    at Wisconsin    Madison, Wis.    8 p.m.    TBA
Sunday, Jan. 12    at Northwestern    Evanston    6:30 p.m.    TBA
Wednesday, Jan. 15    Purdue    State Farm Center    8 p.m.    TBA
Saturday, Jan. 18    Michigan State    State Farm Center    7 p.m.    TBA
Thursday, Jan. 23    at Ohio State    Columbus, Ohio    6 p.m.    ESPN/ESPN2
Sunday, Jan. 26    at Indiana    Bloomington, Ind.    2 p.m.    TBA
Saturday, Feb. 1    Iowa    State Farm Center    6:30 p.m.    TBA
Tuesday, Feb. 4    Wisconsin    State Farm Center    8 p.m.    TBA
Sunday, Feb. 9    at Penn State    State College, Pa.    3:15 p.m.    TBA
Wednesday, Feb. 12    at Nebraska    Lincoln, Neb.    8 p.m.    TBA
Saturday, Feb. 15    Ohio State    State Farm Center    7 p.m.    TBA
Wednesday, Feb. 19    at Minnesota    Minneapolis    8 p.m.    TBA
Wednesday, Feb. 26    Nebraska    State Farm Center    8 p.m.    TBA
Saturday, March 1    at Michigan State    East Lansing, Mich.    1 p.m. ESPN/ESPN2
Tuesday, March 4    Michigan    State Farm Center    6 p.m.    ESPN
Sat./Sunday, March 8/9    at Iowa    Iowa City, Iowa    TBA    TBA
March 13-16    Big Ten tournament    Indianapolis