We are just over a week away from hoops season and it cannot come fast enough. Today we countdown the top 10 games on the 2018-19 Illinois Basketball Schedule in Part III of our schedule preview.
If you missed Part I and II you can check them out in the links below:
Part I — Games #31 - #21
Part II — Games #20 - #11
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)
Here’s the top 10 games on the 2018-19 schedule.
10. @ Iowa
Iowa is a bit more personal as I have plenty of Hawkeye friends and family. Iowa’s advantage in the front court is making me uneasy already. The parquet floor also earns this one some points.
9. Michigan State
This one is at home so maybe there’s a chance? It’s always exciting when the top dog comes to town. Sparty should be the top dog this year in the Big Ten and this is the Illini’s only matchup with them.
I expect Indiana to be a tournament team and I expect Romeo Langford to be super fun to watch. I don’t think the Illini have much of a chance in Bloomington, but there is definitely upset potential for the contest in Champaign.
7. @ Northwestern
I’m anxious to see if the Wildcats’ renovations were able to cover up the fact that it looks like they play in a high school gym. It’s also pretty fun when most of the crowd is in orange.
6. Gonzaga — Maui
How can you not be excited when the third game of the season is against the #3 team in the country? The odds of victory are slim, but they exist. And if Illinois somehow pulls off the upset, that will change the entire outlook on the season. I also want to see if the Rui Hachimura hype is real. If he can’t beat up the Illinois front line then he’s in trouble.
Another potential upset game at home, much like Indiana. The State Farm Center has some good opponents visiting all season long. Charles Mathews, Xavier Simpson, Ignas Brazdeikis and Colin Castleton are all ghosts of Illini Recruiting past, which will certainly add some intrigue.
4. @ Notre Dame
Personally I just really don’t like Notre Dame. All of the familiar names are gone except for Rex Pflueger. I assume it’s gonna be a bunch of random white guys drilling threes on us for two hours, which could be immensely frustrating. However, the ACC/B1G Challenge is always fun and can really change the shape of the nonconference season.
The Gavitt Games come early as the Illini play the Hoyas in the second game of the season. I don’t think Patrick Ewing is a very good coach. He has NBA assistant coaching experience but this smells like “hire the famous alum to be the face of the program!”. However, in his first year he did produce my favorite clip of the college basketball season:
No exaggeration, I think about Patrick Ewing yelling “HAVE YOU EVER SHOT THAT SHOT” once a day pic.twitter.com/NCkn7INRCK— octehrber (@tehrrific) February 28, 2018
That’s basically how I would coach. Just roasting your players. I love it.
But this is the second game of the season and the Illini’s first real test at home. If Underwood coaches circles around Ewing and the Illini explode on offense for a big win, there’s going to be a lot of excitement heading into Maui.
2. Maui Round 2 (Iowa State/Arizona)
Illinois just announced that it scheduled a home-and-home with Arizona for the next two seasons, meaning if we get them in Maui we will face the much scrutinized Wildcats for three straight years. While many are expecting them to take a step back after being the subject of the FBI invesitigation, Arizona is still an elite program with plenty of talent which would make a Maui matchup extremely intriguing.
However, the matchup with Iowa State is even more intriguing. That’s because Talen Horton-Tucker is on the Cyclones. That’s right! Remember him? Man, he’d be nice to slide in behind Kipper to play some wing on this team..... Former Illini target George Conditt is also a part of the large freshman class that makes up this Cyclone roster. The Ayo vs. THT rivalry is enough to make this potential matchup tantalizing.
1. Mizzou (Braggin’ Rights)
This matchup was probably going to be number 1 regardless, but with the news that broke last week it solidified it’s ranking. That’s right, in case you missed it, the NCAA granted Mark Smith’s waiver to play immediately after transferring from Illinois without having to sit out a year. What was his hardship exactly? We have some ideas but nobody really knows and the NCAA doesn’t seem interested in releasing any details.
Ahmad Starks: I have a family member who is gravely ill, and I am transferring to Illinois to be closer to them.— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) October 27, 2018
NCAA: No waiver
Mark Smith: I played badly last year and Brad Underwood yelled at me.
NCAA: Wavier granted!
Anywho, the loss of Jontay Porter for the season is a real bummer. But Mizzou still has a good haul of talent and it doesn’t really matter who is on either roster, this game is going to be close.
Mark Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon both signed their original letters of intent with the Illini. And in their true sophomore seasons they will be taking the court as opposing players to the Orange and Blue. They are going to hear it from the orange half of the building and I simply cannot wait.
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