The Fighting Illini’s schedule for the 2013-14 basketball season has officially been released, and for John Groce’s rebuilding squad, an encore trip to the Big Dance won’t come easily with 14 games against teams that made the tournament last year.
“We have a saying in our program that `every day matters’ and that applies very much to this schedule, that every game matters,” Illinois head coach John Groce said. “With five freshmen and nine new players in the program, as well as our returning players adapting to new roles, it is important that we embrace every game as its own challenge.”
The season will kick off with five consecutive games at the newly-renamed State Farm Center, beginning with Alabama State on Nov. 8, followed by Jackson State (Nov. 10) and Valparaiso (Nov. 13). In-state rivals Bradley and Chicago State will visit Champaign on Nov. 17 and 22, respectively.
The Illini close out the month with three of the next four games away from the State Farm Center. They travel to Las Vegas to face UNLV on Nov. 26 before returning home to meet IPFW. U of I will make its first of five appearances on ESPN by traveling to Atlanta on Dec. 3 for a rematch of last season’s B1G/ACC Challenge victory over Georgia Tech. The team will remain in Atlanta for five more days before meeting Auburn at Philips Arena in another rematch of last season.
After the lone December home game against Dartmouth (Dec. 10), the Illini close out the nonconference slate with three consecutive neutral-court matchups–Oregon in Portland on Dec. 14, Missouri in St. Louis for the annual Braggin’ Rights game (Dec. 21) and UIC at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 28.
For the first 12 conference games, the Illini will alternate between home and away every two games, beginning at home on New Year’s Eve against defending B1G champion Indiana on ESPN2 (the school’s first home game on Dec. 31 since 1982) and Penn State on Jan. 4. Groce’s squad then travels to Wisconsin (Jan. 8) and up the road to Northwestern (Jan. 12).
Home games with Purdue (Jan. 15) and Michigan State on Jan. 18 are followed by trips to Ohio State (Jan. 23, ESPN) and Indiana on Jan. 26.
Iowa (Feb. 1) and Wisconsin (Feb. 4) will help Illinois usher in the month of February, and the pattern of two consecutive home games followed by two away games concludes at Penn State on Feb. 9 and at Nebraska (Feb. 12).
Closing out the B1G season, the Illini alternate home and road dates for the last six games, starting with Ohio State on Feb. 15 at the State Farm Center before trekking to Minnesota (Feb. 19). Nebraska will visit Champaign on Feb. 26 before the Illini meet Michigan State in East Lansing (March 1, ESPN2).
The Illini host Michigan on Senior Day (March 4, ESPN) before closing out the regular season at Iowa (March 8 or 9).
The Big Ten Tournament will be held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis March 13-16.