The schedule preview marches on with games #20-#11. If you missed Part One, you can read it here. The final installment of the schedule rankings will come next week, where the top ten games on this year’s schedule will be revealed.
The way I’m ranking these games is completely arbitrary. There’s no real formula or logic. These are simply the games I want to watch the most right now. If a magical genie appeared in my apartment and asked “Which Illini game would you like to watch right now?”, this would be the list in that order.
The most important factors, in no particular order, are:
- Quality of Opponent
- Rivalry (program rivalry, or just my own personal rivalry with schools I simply dislike)
20. @ Minnesota
The road affair with Minnesota is slightly higher because it features The Barn, which has an elevated floor and some students that dress up like zoo animals. Unfortunately, it still features Richard Pitino.
Tim Miles is basically John Groce with hair and glasses. They’re a team who could be pretty good this year but doesn’t really scare me. I don’t care who’s on the roster, I expect to beat Nebraska.
18. Penn State
If Tony Carr was still here this game would be top 10. We may have our version of Tony Carr in Ayo Dosunmu though.
17. @ Purdue
Mackey Arena is usually loud and Carsen Edwards is electric. Purdue should take a step back this year, but it’s hard to see Illinois going there and stealing a win.
Faces of Medill Grads are on milk cartons all over the country after the Cats had an extremely disappointing encore to their first NCAA Tournament season. Third to last game of the season, but a chance to end it on a good note.
15. @ Nebraska
The first game of the Big Ten season! Even if it’s in the beginning of December, it’s hard not to be hyped about conference play. Nebraska strangely has a pretty cool home court and rowdy fan base.
14. Ohio State
The second of two December Big Ten games. This one is in the United Center so it gets a bit of a bump.
13. 3rd Round Maui (Duke/Auburn/Xavier/SDSU)
Depending on how the first two games go, Illinois will play one of the four teams listed above. San Diego State is probably the worst opponent of the bunch and ex-Michigan coach Steve Fisher is no longer there so that matchup would be kinda blah. Xavier lost Coach Mack, which means they lost Coach Murray, which means the opportunity for the Bill Murray Bowl is gone. Duke has the best roster in the country and the most hate-able coach in the country so that would be fun.
Scratch that, Auburn has the most hate-able coach in the country. I think Illini fans would love a chance to play Bruce Pearl’s squad.
12. @ Maryland
This one will be played at Madison Square Garden in NYC. Even though Illinois lost there in the first round of the conference tournament, the novelty of the Garden alone deserves a top-12 ranking.
11. @ Indiana
This one is at the other Assembly Hall. Indiana doesn’t really view Illinois as much of a rival, but there’s definitely enough history and contempt to make this one a little more interesting. Also, I want to watch as much Romeo Langford as possible.
Come back next week for the final part of the countdown!
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