Breaking down the Illini's schedule

Breaking down the Illini's schedule

Wednesday marked the release of Illinois’ full 2017-18 men’s basketball schedule. Beat writer SCOTT RICHEY breaks down new Illini coach Brad Underwood’s first slate of games:

Nov. 10    vs. Southern*    Last double-digit scorer left for Jaguars is Jared Sam

Nov. 12    vs. Tennessee-Martin*    Transfer guard Kevin Little might end up leading scorer

Nov. 17    vs. DePaul^    Game against Blue Demons will be first for Illini since 1957

Nov. 19    vs. Marshall*    Herd averaged 28 three-point attempts per game last year

Nov. 22    vs. Augustana (Ill.)    Last year’s runner-ups could contend for D-III title

Nov. 24    vs. North Carolina Central*    One rotation player returns from tourney team

Nov. 28    at Wake Forest#    Demon Deacons had eight-win improvement last season

Dec. 1    at Northwestern    Game will be played at Allstate Arena in Rosemont

Dec. 3    vs. Maryland    Anthony Cowan, strong sophomore class anchors Terps’ rotation

Dec. 6    vs. Austin Peay    Govs’ coach Matt Figger replaced Dave Loos after 27 seasons

Dec. 9    at UNLV    Underwood had commitment from UNLV guard Amauri Hardy at OSU

Dec. 13    vs. Longwood    Lancers finished last season on 16-game losing streak

Dec. 16    vs. New Mexico State&    Lou Henson went 728-390 at Illinois and NMSU

Dec. 23    vs. Missouri%    Tigers’ 2017 recruiting class now ranks fourth in country

Dec. 30    vs. Grand Canyon    Antelopes play Louisville a week before facing Illini

Jan. 3    at Minnesota    Gophers return almost all of last year’s NCAA tourney team

Jan. 6    at Michigan    The 2016 trip to Ann Arbor wasn’t a close nine-point loss

Jan. 11    vs. Iowa    Michael Finke averaged 14.5 ppg in ‘16-17 wins vs. Hawkeyes

Jan. 15    at Nebraska    Glynn Watson (13 ppg) is Cornhuskers’ top returning scorer

Jan. 19    at Wisconsin    Only returning starter for Badgers is Ethan Happ

Jan. 22    vs. Michigan State    Spartans will start season a top five team

Jan. 24    vs. Indiana    Hoosiers must replace Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon

Jan. 30    vs. Rutgers    Corey Sanders has scored 56 points in two games vs. Illini

Feb. 4    at Ohio State    Buckeyes have just 10 scholarship players on roster

Feb. 8    vs. Wisconsin    Greg Gard is 42-18 (.700) in 1 1/2 seasons leading Badgers

Feb. 11    vs. Penn State    Nittany Lions won by 13 last year at State Farm Center

Feb. 14    at Indiana    Robert Johnson (12.8 ppg) is only returning double digit scorer

Feb. 17    vs. Nebraska    Wastson, Isaiah Roby and Nana Akenten were N-G All-State

Feb. 20    at Michigan State    Miles Bridges scored 21 points in ‘16-17 MSU loss at UI

Feb. 22    vs. Purdue    One-time Illini target Nojel Eastern could be key for Purdue

Feb. 25    at Rutgers    Losing in New Jersey to end ‘16-17 season burst NCAA bubble

* — Global Sports Invitational
^ — Gavitt Tipoff Games
# — Big Ten/ACC Challenge
& — Dynegy Shootout (Chicago)
% — Braggin’ Rights (St. Louis)

Beat writer Scott Richey weighs in on the Illini's Big Ten opener vs. Northwestern: 

The last time Illinois played at Allstate Arena in Rosemont — March 26, 2005 — ended up pretty memorable in Illini lore. The Elite Eight. A 14-point deficit to Arizona with 3 1/2 minutes to play. Then a furious comeback, capped by a dagger three from Deron Williams to send the game to overtime and the Illini, eventually, to the Final Four.

Illinois will return to the site of one of the biggest games in program history for the first time in a dozen years on Dec. 1 to face Northwestern. It’s an odd confluence of events. An early Big Ten tournament (Feb. 28-March 4 in New York City) meant early December conference games. Renovations to Welsh-Ryan Arena pushed the Wildcats 16 miles from home.

Brad Underwood’s first Illinois team will be tested. Northwestern returns nearly its entire roster from last year’s historic NCAA tournament team — a team that lost twice in the regular season to the Illini.

Illinois will return to the site of one of the biggest games in program history for the first time in a dozen years on Dec. 1 to face Northwestern. It's an odd confluence of events. An early Big Ten tournament (Feb. 28-March 4 in New York City) meant early December conference games. Renovations to Welsh-Ryan Arena pushed the Wildcats 16 miles from home.

Brad Underwood's first Illinois team will be tested. Northwestern returns nearly its entire roster from last year's historic NCAA tournament team — a team that lost twice in the regular season to the Illini.