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Illinois Fighting Illini Release 2015-16 Non-Conference Schedule

The Fighting Illini have released their 2015-16 non-conference schedule.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

In a recent press release, Illinois officially announced its 2015-16 non-conference schedule. The Illini have faced several marquee teams in recent years including the Baylor Bears, Oregon Ducks, and the Villanova wildcats and have added even more for this season.

There's no doubt that the strongest part of Illinois' schedule will be around the matchup with Notre Dame at home in the 2015 Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but there are plenty of other quality games on the schedule including a Providence team that made the NCAA Tournament last season and a potential matchup with an Iowa State team that has been great in recent years.

Here is the full non-conference schedule.

2015-16 Illinois Non-Conference Schedule:

  • Nov. 8 -- Illinois-Springfield (Exh.)
  • Nov. 13 -- North Florida
  • Nov. 15 -- North Dakota State
  • Nov. 18 -- at Providence
  • Nov. 21 -- Chattanooga
  • Nov. 23 -- Chicago State
  • Nov. 27 -- UAB (Niceville, Fla.)
  • Nov. 28 -- Iowa State/Virginia Tech (Niceville, Fla.)
  • Dec. 2 -- Notre Dame
  • Dec. 5 -- Western Carolina
  • Dec. 9 -- Yale
  • Dec. 12 -- UIC (Chicago, Ill.)
  • Dec. 19 -- South Dakota
  • Dec. 23 -- Missouri (St. Louis, Mo.)
Realistically, this non-conference schedule is going to be built off the home game against Notre Dame, the potential neutral site game with Iowa State, and the rivalry game with Missouri to close non-conference play, but the one that looks the biggest as of now appears to be the Notre Dame game.  The Irish are coming off an Elite Eight appearance last season and with the game in Champaign, there's a decent shot that the Illini could score a marquee victory.  That one should certainly excite fans and offer a great home atmosphere.

Still, even outside of the Notre Dame game, there's a lot to like here.  As mentioned, an Iowa State game could add a lot to a resume and though Missouri has not been great recently, a rivalry win is always a nice boost for a team.  The Providence game is going to be difficult to win on the road, especially considering that it's so early in the season, but realistically, that is a winnable game.  One other game that is not going to get a ton of attention, but is actually more interesting than many think is the Yale game.  The Bulldogs were a pretty good team last year and will be a more competent opponent than their name may indicate.

All that said, this is actually one of the better constructed schedules in the Big Ten for next season, especially for a team that looks like it will have borderline NCAA Tournament potential.  There are marquee opponents on the slate, but every single game is winnable and the Illini will probably be favored or have 50-50 odds every time they take the court outside of potentially the road game against Providence.  Even some of the lower teams like North Dakota State and Yale are decent enough that they should be RPI boosts.  The schedule is probably missing that one game with "sizzle" against a blue blood type of program, but this is a great setup for a team like Illinois.

The Illini definitely need to show more in 2015-16, but with key players like Malcolm HIll and Jalen Coleman-Lands, this could be the schedule that allows them to hit the ground running.