CHAMPAIGN — Since Illinois women's basketball coach Matt Bollant arrived in town in March, fans have been insisting they would attend some games this season. They'll have plenty of opportunities.
The schedule released Friday shows the Illini playing 17 times at the Assembly Hall, plus two exhibition games. That's a stark contrast to last season's schedule that featured 11 home dates.
"This is a basketball community. People like basketball here. If we can put a great product out on the floor that they'll enjoy watching, I think the fans will come," Bollant said. "We've got some Sunday games, some weekday games. We've got a lot of variety. There's no excuses not to come out and see some games."
The nine nonconference home games are highlighted by dates with Wake Forest, Colorado, Oregon and Georgia. In-state foes Bradley and Illinois State also will visit the Assembly Hall.
The Illini will spend Thanksgiving in the Bahamas playing Tulsa and either Iowa State or Loyola Marymount at the Junkanoo Jam. They'll also visit Texas Tech and Memphis.
"It's a tough schedule, a lot of BCS teams, a lot of good teams. Thankfully they're at home, so that will help," Bollant said. "It's a little early to judge, but we're home a lot and I like the fact that we're going to be challenged."
For a team that went 11-19 in a season that ended with coach Jolette Law being fired, the schedule is tough but one Bollant thinks his new group can handle. The Illini return Karisma Penn, Adrienne GodBold and Amber Moore, making the transition easier for the new staff.
"One of the things we keep telling them is we're not sure this has to take real long. They're going to determine that, but we're athletic enough to have success right now. As we add the skill and teach them how to work and if they do those things — it's hard to know right now — but it doesn't have to take that long," Bollant said. "The more we're around them, the more we feel it can happen quickly."
DATE OPPONENT TIME
Oct. 30 vs. Millikin (exhibition) 7 p.m.
Nov. 6 vs. Concordia (exhibition) 7 p.m.
Nov. 11 vs. Evansville 2 p.m.
Nov. 15 vs. Bradley 7 p.m.
Nov. 18 vs. Cleveland State 2 p.m.
Nov. 23 vs. Tulsa (at Bahamas) 3:45 p.m.
Nov. 24 vs. TBA (at Bahamas) TBA
Nov. 29 vs. Wake Forest TBA
Dec. 1 vs. Colorado 2 p.m.
Dec. 3 vs. UAB 7 p.m.
Dec. 5 at Texas Tech 7 p.m.
Dec. 9 at Memphis TBA
Dec. 12 vs. Oregon TBA
Dec. 21 vs. Illinois State TBA
Dec. 28 vs. Georgia TBA
Jan. 2 vs. Purdue TBA
Jan. 6 at Ohio State TBA
Jan. 10 at Northwestern TBA
Jan. 13 vs. Michigan State TBA
Jan. 17 at Nebraska TBA
Jan. 20 vs. Northwestern TBA
Jan. 28 at Minnesota TBA
Jan. 31 vs. Iowa TBA
Feb. 3 at Wisconsin TBA
Feb. 7 at Michigan TBA
Feb. 10 vs. Minnesota TBA
Feb. 18 vs. Wisconsin TBA
Feb. 20 at Penn State TBA
Feb. 23 vs. Indiana TBA
Feb. 28 vs. Ohio State TBA
March 3 at Purdue TBA
March 7-10 Big Ten tourney (Hoffman Estates)