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With Wednesday’s full unveiling of the 2021-22 schedule for Illinois men’s basketball, beat writer Scott Richey highlights the 33-game slate:

DATE OPPONENT REASON TO TUNE IN ON WDWS 1400-AM OR WHMS 97.5-FM

Oct. 23 vs. St. Francis (Ill.) It’s an exhibition game, but new season equals same expectations.

Oct. 29 vs. Indiana (Pa.) Not the Hoosiers, but can work on anti-Indiana chants in exhibition.

Nov. 9 vs. Jackson State Maybe JSU football coach Deion Sanders hits road for UI opener.

Nov. 12 vs. Arkansas State Double-double race between Kofi Cockburn and Norchad Omier.

Nov. 15 at Marquette First of 25 high-major games on slate. First real test for Illini, too.

Nov. 22 vs. Cincinnati Brad Underwood might be motivated to win this one for Bob Huggins.

Nov. 23 Hall of Fame Classic Kansas State (Bruce Weber) or Arkansas awaits in Kansas City, Mo.

Nov. 26 vs. UT Rio Grande Valley Former Illinois coach Lon Kruger led previous iteration of UTRGV.

Nov. 29 vs. Notre Dame Third meeting between Irish, Illini in Big Ten/ACC Challenge series.

Dec. 3 vs. Rutgers Beat Scarlet Knights and elusive Big Ten title could be within reach.

Dec. 6 at Iowa Different UI staff, but Fran McCaffery will take offense to something.

Dec. 11 vs. Arizona If fans have a say, this type of game should always be on schedule.

Dec. 18 vs. St. Francis (Pa.) Second St. Francis team the Illini will have to prep for this season.

Dec. 22 vs. Missouri Illini look to end three-game skid as Braggin’ Rights back in St. Louis.

Dec. 29 vs. Florida A&M Unique nicknames are your thing. Rattlers qualify on that front.

Jan. 2 at Minnesota Last year’s Illini proved it’s not that hard to win at Williams Arena.

Jan. 6 vs. Maryland Rematch: Terrapins handed Illinois rare loss in Champaign last year.

Jan. 11 at Nebraska ‘Nebraska nice’ might get tested after Illini football topped Huskers.

Jan. 14 vs. Michigan Orange Krush will be ready to let Hunter Dickinson hear it. Loudly.

Jan. 17 vs. Purdue Old-school hoops: Kofi Cockburn against Purdue’s Trevion Williams.

Jan. 21 at Maryland Bonus national attention with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt a Maryland grad.

Jan. 25 vs. Michigan State Little love lost between these teams now because of Mady Sissoko.

Jan. 29 at Northwestern Can the Illini boat race the Wildcats off their home court in Evanston?

Feb. 2 vs. Wisconsin The off-court hits the Badgers are taking doesn’t bother you at all.

Feb. 5 at Indiana Wins at Assembly Hall are hard, but Illini could make it two straight.

Feb. 10 at Purdue Playing at Mackey Arena is also difficult. So is leaving with a victory.

Feb. 13 vs. Northwestern This one will probably fall under the “can’t lose,” category for Illinois.

Feb. 16 at Rutgers Winning at Trapezoid of Terror late in season would be good sign.

Feb. 19 at Michigan State Magic Johnson statue out front. Perfect for Andre Curbelo’s passes.

Feb. 24 vs. Ohio State If season plays out as expected, could have Big Ten title implications.

Feb. 27 at Michigan Michigan fans will voice their displeasure for Illinois. Quite often.

March 3 vs. Penn State No telling how Nittany Lions will be under Micah Shrewsberry.

March 6 vs. Iowa No better way to end regular season against the Illini’s No. 1 rival.

Top five: Big Ten games

1. Michigan (Jan. 14)

➜ The odds of an Illinois fan — or two — carrying in a sign that reads “2021 Big Ten champion” are high.

2. Purdue (Jan. 17)

➜ Illinois has advantage of playing the Boilermakers at home in what could be a game between two Big Ten contenders.

3. Ohio State (Feb. 24)

➜ Illinois will only get one shot at the Buckeyes and two-time N-G All-State Player of the Year E.J. Liddell.

4. Indiana (Feb. 5)

➜ The Illinois-Indiana rivalry lost some of its luster since its heyday, but beating the Hoosiers always plays well in Champaign.

5. Michigan State (Jan. 25)

➜ Did Michigan State live up to typical expectations last season? No, decidedly not. Is it safe to start sleeping on the Spartans? Also no.

Top five: Nonconference games

1. Arkansas

➜ This game isn’t guaranteed — both teams need similar results in the opening round of the Hall of Fame Classic — but it’s a likely AP Top 25 showdown.

2. Arizona

➜ Right move to bump the high-profile game to this season. You don’t want this to tip off in an empty arena.

3. Missouri

➜ Ayo Dosunmu left Illinois without ever hoisting the Braggin’ Rights trophy. Will Kofi Cockburn suffer the same fate?

4. Notre Dame

➜ Chance for Illini to move closer to .500 in Big Ten/ACC Challenge history, but Irish have won twice before in series.

5. Marquette

➜ Gavitt Games matchup in Milwaukee features revamped Shaka Smart program.

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).

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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