Beat writer SCOTT RICHEY offers his thoughts on the Illini's Big Ten hoops draws, which were released Wednesday:
1 The preseason poll is still at least six months away, but expect Michigan State, Maryland, Michigan and probably Purdue to be at the top. Illinois will play all four of those teams twice, setting up 2019-2020 to be an even greater challenge in Big Ten play.
2 Minnesota is one of three teams Illinois will face only at State Farm Center. The last time the Gophers came to Champaign, the Illini had Minnesota down by 36 points, and next year's Gophers won't have Jordan Murphy.
3 One game against Wisconsin is one of the more advantageous aspects of Illinois' schedule. The Illini haven't beaten the Badgers since 2011 — a string of 15 consecutive games.
1 Illini coach Nancy Fahey went winless in her first Big Ten season with the program and won twice in league play in 2018-19. Illinois will get both of those teams — Minnesota and Wisconsin — back at State Farm Center this coming season.
2 Maryland, Iowa, Rutgers, Michigan and Ohio State finished atop the Big Ten this past season, and the Terrapins, at least, are a potential top-10 team nationally. Illinois will play Maryland, the Hawkeyes and Wolverines just once.
3 The Buckeyes could be Illinois' biggest challenge among the teams it'll face twice, with two of their top four scorers returning plus the No. 4 overall 2019 recruiting class.