The Illini head into the season ranked No. 11 by the Associated Press. Some analytical sites such as KenPom and Bart Torvik have Illinois as high as fifth.
Illinois ended last year’s regular season in the No. 2 spot behind Gonzaga, the highest ranking of the season, but failed to get past Loyola in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
The Zags sit atop the AP Poll again to start the 2021-22 season. Michigan and Purdue lead the way for the Big Ten at 6 and 7, respectively. The returning national champion Baylor Bears come in at 8. Ohio State and Maryland round out the Big Ten appearances at 17 and 21, respectively.
With National Player of the Year frontrunner Kofi Cockburn back for his junior year, alongside reigning Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Andre Curbelo and a host of other returning pieces, expectations are just as high in Champaign.
The Illini get two exhibition matchups against St. Francis (Ill.) and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (yes, you read that right) before starting their season at home against Jackson State on Nov. 9th.
Illinois’ nonconference slate is highlighted with matchups against Marquette on Nov. 15th, the Hall of Fame Classic which gets underway on Nov. 22nd, a home contest against Arizona on Dec. 11th, and the annual Braggin’ Rights game against Missouri on Dec. 22nd.