Men’s basketball schedule announced

By Erik Hall

Illinois men’s basketball released its 2004-2005 schedule Wednesday.

The schedule includes 17 home games with a game against a team from each of the other five major conferences.

“We tried to get a variety of teams from different parts of the country,” Bruce Weber, men’s basketball head coach, said. “We covered the country and different varieties of styles of play.

The big thing is preparing for the big picture. With the Big Ten, it’s being able to go on the road and win, and also going into the NCAA and playing against a variety of styles.”

The Illini open their regular season Friday, Nov. 19, hosting Delaware State at Assembly Hall. The 17 scheduled home games are the most since the 1995-1996 season.

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The Illini have eight Big Ten home games. One highlight of the Big Ten season comes with Minnesota’s visit to Assembly Hall on Jan. 29. The 1:30 p.m. game will culminate Illinois’ celebration of their 100th basketball season.

The only consecutive conference road games for the Illini come with trips to Penn State on Wednesday, Feb. 16 and Iowa on Saturday, Feb. 19.

Illinois’ consecutive conference home games come against Northwestern on Wednesday, Feb. 23 followed by Purdue on March 1 or 2, depending on whether ESPN televises the game.

The Purdue game will be Illinois’ last home game and the second to last Big Ten game for Purdue head coach Gene Keady, who plans to retire after this season. Weber served as an assistant to Keady for 18 seasons at Purdue before becoming a head coach.

“I’m glad we have (Purdue) here and not at his place on the last game,” Weber said. “It will be an interesting journey for him this year.”

The top teams Illinois plays outside their 16-game Big Ten schedule include several big name schools. The ACC sends Wake Forrest to Assembly Hall on Dec. 1.

Illinois travels to Washington D.C.’s MCI Center to play Georgetown on Dec. 9. Illinois plays neutral court games against SEC member Arkansas, Pac-10 member Oregon and Big 12 member Missouri.

“You always hear that leagues are stereotyped,” Weber said. “You’re going against a Gonzaga who plays a lot of zones. Oregon plays a lot of different zones and pushes it. Arkansas obviously has athletes. Wake Forrest has two of the best guards in the country and they’re a great team. A variety of different styles is important.”

Weber had hoped to play a school from Texas so Jack Ingram, Deron Williams and Warren Carter could have a game close to home, but none fit in this season’s schedule.

Carter expects to play a game in Texas before he leaves Illinois.

“It would be great to play a Texas team,” Carter said. “I’m sure we’ll wind up playing one my junior or senior year. We’re playing Arkansas, which is right there next to Texas. If someone wants to see me play that bad they can come.”

Weber said he and assistant coach Jay Price tried hard to get a Texas game.

“It’s tough to get teams,” Weber said. “It’s not as easy as everybody thinks. Coach Price put a lot of time into the schedule, lots of calls. One thing people don’t realize – when you have high expectations, a lot of people don’t want to play us. Everybody is trying to do the best thing for their school and to keep their jobs. There is more to it than the average fan realizes about the difficulty of scheduling.”