Season schedule out; bring on the ballin’

The road to March Madness is now set for the Illinois men’s basketball team.

On Wednesday, the team released the full schedule for the upcoming season with the first regular season game Nov. 11 at the Assembly Hall against Loyola-Chicago.

One of the expected harder portions for Illinois will come in mid-February when it plays four of five games on the road. The Illini travel to Indiana on Feb. 9 and then to Michigan three days later. They then play host to Purdue on Feb. 15 before leaving for Nebraska on Feb. 18 and Ohio State on Feb. 21.

“Everyone’s gonna have some dog days when it’s tough,” head coach Bruce Weber said about the stretch of games. “It’s part of it, and you have to deal with it.

“It was a great opportunity for us to talk about during our Italy trip, this is what it’s about. Can you suck it up when you’re tired and been on the road, been on the bus trip and need to make the next play, play the next game, and we got a little bit (of) experience with that,” Weber added.

Other highlights include a November trip to Cancun, Mexico, as part of the Cancun Challenge and a match against Maryland as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. On Dec. 17, Illinois takes on UNLV at the United Center, followed by a Dec. 22 meeting with Missouri in St. Louis as part of the Busch Braggin’ Rights Game.

Then comes the Big Ten season, which starts Dec. 27 in Minneapolis.

Weber considers Ohio State one of the favorites in the conference this year.

“I joke if Sullinger would’ve left like he should’ve and been one of the top picks, the whole thing would be up for grabs,” Weber said. “With Sullinger, Buford and Craft, it gives you a major advantage with the experience, but who knows what can happen.”