Illini Basketball Preconference Schedule Released



Nine home games, seven match-ups with 2010 postseason teams – including five NCAA Tournament teams – and trips to New York, Seattle, Chicago and St. Louis highlight the non-conference slate for the Illini Fighting Illini.

They will tip off the regular season with three consecutive home games: hosting a Regional Round of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, UC Irvine on Nov. 8 and Toledo on Nov. 10 as part of that event.

Then the Illini welcome their little sister school, the fighting Salukis of Southern Illinois to Champaign on Nov. 13, as Bruce Weber faces his former program for the first time as Illinois’ leader.

Chris Lowery, who previously served as Weber’s assistant for three years, including at Illinois in 2004, leads the Egyptian Dogs. Fighting Illini football team also hosts Minnesota on Nov. 13 in what promises to be a busy day for the college sports media. And just wait till Big Ten season gets here.

By Paul M. Banks


Illinois then travels to…”New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do. Now you’re in New York” for the Championship Round of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. In its first appearance at Madison Square Garden since 2003, Illinois will face Texas in the second semifinal game on Nov. 18 (8 pm, ESPN2). The preceding semifinal features Pittsburgh versus Maryland. (I hope it’s not the Terps, Illinois never fares well against them).

The championship and consolation games are slated for the following day, Nov. 19 (6 pm/4 pm, ESPN2).

The Illini return to Champaign for a home game vs. Yale on Nov. 23 before departing to Kalamazoo, Mich., to face Western Michigan on Nov. 27. Wow! What a class disparity in consecutive opponents there. The alma mater of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons and the Bush family dynasty; then a trip to a place that….well, no one would ever want to go for vacation.

A pair of marquee matchups await the Illini the following week.

Up first is the 12th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge, with the Fighting Illini hosting North Carolina on Nov. 30 (8:30 pm, ESPN). Please don’t bring up 2005! That game still makes me queasy; especially with that horrid officiating. Following the showdown with UNC, Illinois travels west to meet Gonzaga in the “Battle in Seattle” on Dec. 4. I love it when a basketball contest has the same nickname as a famous 1999 anti-corporatism demonstration rally.

The Illini are back at Assembly Hall for consecutive home games versus Oakland on Dec. 8 and Northern Colorado on Dec. 12.

Following semester exams (ah yes, how I miss the old Psychology Building at UI along Sixth and Daniel) the Orange and Blue wrap up the non-league portion of its schedule with a pair of neutral-site contests.

Illinois makes its annual appearance in Chicago on Dec. 18, facing UIC at the United Center. (That should probably be a measure of redemption from last year’s Gonzaga collapse) Then the Illini square off with Missouri on Dec. 22 in the 30th edition of the Busch Braggin’ Rights (do you really brag about this game? Seriously, call everyone you know in Missouri and tell them how much they suck after this game) at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Payback for last year is required.

Illinois will play two exhibition games prior to the regular season, hosting Lewis on Oct. 29 and Southern Indiana on Nov. 2. The Orange and Blue Scrimmage, meanwhile, is scheduled for Oct. 24 at the Assembly Hall.

Remaining times and television information, along with the 2010-11 Big Ten schedule, are expected later this month.

Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru

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