College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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Just looked at the line for tonight's game for the time. Illinois is a 22 1/2-point favorite against Nicholls State. Can't say that's much of a surprise — or a stretch. We'll find out, I suppose.

All of your updates for tonight's game will be right here, so make sure to keep following along:

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Suffice it to say, the Illinois basketball team is ready for the start of the 2019-20 season. 

"I feel like this is a great opportunity to do something special as a collective unit," sophomore guard Ayo Dosunmu said. "It’s a great chance. We’re focused on Nicholls State first, but we know what’s at task this week. We know it’s one of the biggest weeks of Illinois basketball history in recent memory. We just want to come out and try and play hard, compete and trust our instincts and trust what we’ve been working on in practice every day."

Technically, Illinois has already played once. An exhibition against Lewis. The Illini won, but didn't have the best start. As in a 14-2 early deficit to the Flyers.

"I didn’t think at one point we were in trouble," junior guard Trent Frazier said. "We were fine. We didn’t worry about it. We just kept continuing to do what we do ... and we won."

"It was one of our first times playing not the same team," Dosunmu added. "We beat up on each other in practice. It was little things coached fixed for us and went over in film. Little techniques. Little details."

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Can you feel the excitement? The buzz in the air? It's college basketball season!

Officially, that is. While teams have played in (not so) secret scrimmages and exhibitions in the past few weeks, the 2019-20 season begins in earnest tonight. Well, earlier today actually. Baylor already knocked off Central Arkansas.

Illinois will tip off its 115th season in program history against Nicholls State — one of Brad Underwood's old Southland Conference foes. He dominated the Colonels when he was at Stephen F. Austin. Odds are he's hoping for the same tonight.

This game counts. While it's not a glamour matchup in the mold of the Champions Classic, this is an Illinois team that needs wins. Last year's 12-21 record won't cut it with expectations soaring for this year's team. The first step to getting back to the NCAA tournament after missing the last four seasons starts tonight.

No pressure.

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).