The schedule is out for the 2019-2020 season. Finally. But there’s still one opponent being finalized. And we’re waiting on times. But beat writer SCOTT RICHEY breaks down the slate that was released on Friday for the Illini:
Nov. 1 vs. Lewis
Exhibition game against the D-II school will be first chance for Illinois fans to see the most hyped Illini team in a seriously long time.
Nov. 5 vs. Nicholls State
Brad Underwood dominated the Southland Conference when he was at Stephen F. Austin, so the Colonels should be used to it.
Nov. 8 at Grand Canyon
Challenge for Illinois will be handling the rave-like atmosphere a packed GCU Arena will likely provide in the return game to Phoenix.
Nov. 10 at Arizona
Toughest nonconference game — bar none — for the Illini will be their trip to Tucson where a five-star studded backcourt awaits.
Nov. 18 vs. Hawaii
The island vibe is coming to Illinois this season after last year’s Maui Invitational, and the results should be more favorable for the Illini.
Nov. 20 vs. The Citadel
Strap in for this one. Few teams (just nine, in fact) played at a higher tempo than the Bulldogs last season, which should actually suit Illinois.
Nov. 23 vs. Hampton
Jermaine Marrow finished eighth in the NCAA in scoring last season (24.4 ppg) and is most real threat to go all Winthrop 2016 Keon Johnson.
Nov. 26 vs. TBA
The contract for this game is apparently still being finalized, but odds are it will be another low- or mid-major team to round out the schedule.
Dec. 2 vs. Miami
A 14-18 record last season was the first sub-.500 finish by a Jim Larranaga team since 1997-98, so expect the Hurricanes to be better this year.
Dec. 7 at Maryland
What a way to jump into Big Ten action. The Terrapins return nearly their entire roster and are being projected as a possible top-10 team.
Dec. 11 vs. Michigan
Best shot for a win in early conference action might be the Wolverines if they’re still getting adjusted to new coach Juwan Howard’s style.
Dec. 14 vs. Old Dominion
Jeff Jones’ Monarchs are the only other Illini nonconference opponent (Arizona being the first) to have played in last season’s NCAA tournament.
Dec. 21 vs. Missouri
Cuonzo Martin and Co. (you remember Jeremiah Tilmon and Mark Smith, right?) snapped Illinois’ five-game Braggin’ Rights streak last year.
Dec. 29 vs. North Carolina A&T
Previous games against MEAC opponents have run the gamut from probably too close (N.C. Central, 2017) to blowout (Coppin State, 2014).
Jan. 2 at Michigan State
The string of playing last season’s top Big Ten teams continues with the Spartans. Also, see next two games for a real look at brutal start.
Jan. 5 vs. Purdue
Home game against the Boilermakers makes Illinois 4 for 4 on starting Big Ten play against last year’s best. But no Carsen Edwards at least.
Jan. 8 at Wisconsin
Illinois last won in Madison in 2010, but this might be the year to steal one away from the post-Ethan Happ, searching-for-a-new-star Badgers.
Jan. 11 vs. Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights are still waiting for a breakthrough in the Steve Pikiell era — one that includes zero wins against an Underwood Illini team.
Jan. 18 vs. Northwestern
Chris Collins is basically hitting the reset button this season, which makes for a perfect opportunity for Illinois to extend its winning streak.
Jan. 21 at Purdue
A win on the Boilermakers’ home court would be an accomplishment considering Purdue is 63-4 at Mackey Arena the last four seasons.
Jan. 25 at Michigan
Illinois’ struggles in Ann Arbor date back just as long as their losing streak in Madison, but the talent balance might actually tip the Illini’s way.
Jan. 30 vs. Minnesota
Last year’s home game ended up a 95-68 Illini blowout win, and that was with Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey playing for the Gophers.
Feb. 2 at Iowa
Busy couple days in Iowa given gameday coincides with Super Bowl Sunday and the next day marks the start of the Iowa Democratic caucuses.
Feb. 7 vs. Maryland
More than a few fun matchups in this game, starting with the backcourt battle between Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu and Maryland’s Anthony Cowan.
Feb. 11 vs. Michigan State
Beating the Spartans at State Farm Center last season led to a court storming. Locking up Cassius Winston — again — might lead to another.
Feb. 15 at Rutgers
Rutgers in the Big Ten has generated a mix bag of results for the Illini. None crazier than the triple OT “thriller” in 2015-16 in New Jersey.
Feb. 18 at Penn State
Slowing down Lamar Stevens will be key in this one — something Illinois struggled to do in two losses last season to the Nittany Lions.
Feb. 24 vs. Nebraska
Upside to not facing Nebraska until the final three weeks of the season is plenty of game film to scout the Cornhuskers’ 15 new players.
Feb. 27 at Northwestern
Underclassmen still outnumber scholarship juniors and seniors on the Illini roster, but it’s still a more experienced team than the Wildcats.
March 1 vs. Indiana
Lone game against the Hoosiers coming at State Farm Center is a boon for Illinois considering last win in Bloomington came in 2010.
March 4 at Ohio State
Not getting a second game against the Buckeyes cuts down on the “What might have been?” feelings from the fan base in regards to E.J. Liddell.
March 8 vs. Iowa
Won’t be hard for the Illini to fare better against the Hawkeyes this season after dropping games by 24 and 21 points in 2018-19 season.