Zain Bando, IlliniGuys Student Correspondent
June 30, 2022
The Illinois basketball schedule is beginning to come together for the upcoming season and the Illini now know the conference games they are expected to play in with dates and times to be announced later.
The biggest question that remains to be answered, in my opinion, is how far the Illini expect to go in the tournament given a new lineup entirely? It is important to note that Terrance Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer have deep NCAA Tournament resumes, which is something that the Illini can rely on heavily as the season moves further along and the games get tougher.
Looking at the games, there are at least four that could define the season. Two of them, though, are against the Indiana Hoosiers.
Per the release sent out on June 16, Illinois is set to play Indiana twice during the regular season, which is something Illinois has not dealt with in several seasons. The Hoosiers return two of the most exciting players in the Big Ten and across the nation in Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson, both of whom opted out of a chance to enter the NBA Draft and return to Bloomington.
To most, if not all Illinois fans, Indiana is a school that irritates them to no end. A stunning upset in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals left Illinois searching for answers prior to the NCAA tourney. For Indiana, it was their biggest win.
Many experts and pundits have picked Indiana to win the Big Ten, and rightfully so. Mike Woodson has come in and taken his role very seriously, almost relishing in the underdog role of sorts.
While both games will likely be massive in terms of Big Ten title implications, look for the game in Champaign to constitute as the big one. State Farm Center has been a tough place to win at for the last three years, and it’s no different now. Illinois has defeated Indiana in its last two regular season meetings, as the 2020 game saw Illinois fighting for one of the top three spots in the Big Ten while Indiana was fighting for a tournament berth.
Of course, the 2020 tournament was never held. Now two years removed, the rivalry looks re-kindled, and if the schedule-makers do it right, expect a national audience for at least one of the two games between the two schools.
Given the roster and schedule, if Illinois can win one or both of those games, it will go a long way in securing back-to-back regular season titles.
And as Michael Buffer would famously say before a big fight: “Let’s get ready to rumble!!” Illinois-Indiana will be the Big Ten’s version of a heavyweight boxing match, so stay tuned.
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