Illinois men’s basketball releases 2013-14 schedule

The Illinois men’s basketball season is 72 days away.

The program released its 2013-14 schedule Wednesday, and the Illini will tip off for the first time in the newly named State Farm Center at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8 against Alabama State.

The hall will host 16 of the team’s 31 games, two exhibitions and one scrimmage before undergoing construction in the spring.

Illinois opens its season with the Orange & Blue scrimmage on Oct. 17, which will be followed by two exhibitions on Oct. 24 and Nov. 3.

Illinois will play its first five games at home before heading to Las Vegas to play UNLV on Nov. 26. Illinois will return home to host IPFW on Nov. 29, but then only have two home games during the month of December.

“With five freshmen and nine new players in the program, as well as our returning players adapting to new roles, it is important that we embrace every game as its own challenge,” head coach John Groce said in a press release. “We have some home games in November that lead into a number of road and neutral-site tests. The nonconference will prepare us for what will be another difficult Big Ten schedule.”

The December slate includes a road game at Georgia Tech and neutral site games against Oregon (Portland, Ore.), Missouri (St. Louis) and UIC (Chicago).

The Illini open Big Ten play against defending conference champion Indiana at home on Dec. 31. They only played Indiana once during the regular season last season, a last-second upset.

Illinois will play a return game in Bloomington this year as well, but will play Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan and Minnesota only once.

Season tickets are now on sale for both the general public and students. General public tickets start at $199, while student tickets cost $158.

The Illini will have five games on the ESPN family of networks: at Georgia Tech (ESPN2), Indiana (ESPN2), at Ohio State (ESPN/ESPN2), at Michigan State (ESPN/ESPN2) and at Michigan (ESPN).

The Big Ten Tournament will return to Indianapolis at the Bankers Life Field House from March 13-16. The NCAA tournament will take place March 18-April 7.

Johnathan can be reached at [email protected] and @jhett93.