Illinois will certainly have the opportunity to prove they are once again among the Big Ten's best in 2014. The Illini have one of the toughest road slates in the conference.
John Groce's squad will travel to Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin for road only games, and they have home-and-homes with Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska.
Luckily for Illini fans, they should get to see a fair amount of wins in the State Farm Center. Illinois has home only match-ups with Penn State, Rutgers, Indiana and Maryland. Here's the breakdown of where Illinois will play its B1G opponents:
|Home Only||Road Only||Both|
|Penn State||Ohio State||Nebraska|
Last year Illinois started its conference season poorly, going 3-10 in its first 13 games. They turned it around in late February, finishing 4-1 in conference to round out its Big Ten record at 7-11. This season should look slightly different.
Illinois opens the conference slate with trips to Michigan and Ohio State, but then the schedule eases up for about a month. Included in their next eight games are home match-ups with Maryland, Purdue, Penn State and Rutgers.
Here's the entire Illinois schedule:
#Illini open #B1G play at MICH & at OSU. We open conf. play w 4 of first 5 games on road for first time since 1965-66 pic.twitter.com/CmQFZFJTdZ— Illinois Basketball (@IlliniHoops) August 21, 2014
The toughest games for Illinois during that span will likely be contests in Minnesota and Nebraska. The Illini have a chance to be around or even above .500 going into February.
From there, the schedule becomes a gauntlet. A game in Madison and home match-up with Michigan are sandwiched by the home-and-home with Michigan State. Then, Illinois travels to Iowa before getting Northwestern and Nebraska back at the State Farm Center.
Overall, Illinois' conference slate is pretty difficult. Their road schedule couldn't be much tougher, and their home-and-homes include the Wolverines, Spartans and Cornhuskers.
There are a few bright spots though. Illinois gets the Big Ten's bottom feeders at home, and they get two games against Purdue and Northwestern. January is filled with winnable games, so Illinois can build some momentum before facing its toughest stretch.