Last week the Fighting Illini and Arizona Wildcats announced a new home-and-home series between the two schools for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.
The series will begin with the Illini traveling west to Tucson to play on November 19, 2019. The Wildcats will return the favor by coming to Champaign for a matchup on December 12, 2020.
This will be Illinois’ first non-conference home-and-home series with a Power 5 school since one with Vanderbilt in 2008 and 2009.
In an athletic department statement, here is Illinois’ head coach Brad Underwood talking about why his program scheduled a series with Arizona.
“Since I came to Illinois in March 2017 I’ve talked about the importance of playing a great schedule,” Head Coach Brad Underwood said. “It’s a win-win for everyone; these are the types of games that players want to play in, recruits want to be part of, and fans want to watch and attend. Arizona is a tremendous team, and there is a shared history between our two programs that will create quite a bit of excitement as the next two chapters of this series unfold in Tucson and Champaign.”
Illinois and Arizona have a fun history playing each other 14 times, with the Wildcats holding an 8-6 edge in the all-time series. The most memorable game in the series (especially for Illinois fans) came in 2005. Both teams were looking to move on to the Final Four, and Illinois shocked Arizona by coming back from 15 points down with just over four minutes remaining. Take a look at the final nine minutes of play below.
Projecting this far ahead on what this match-up could bring is difficult. Arizona could be down this season but with only two seniors on their roster, will be better next season. Illinois is also young this season, but could be better in 2019-20 as Coach Underwood continues to build his program.
Kudos to both Illinois and Arizona for scheduling this. November and early December can sometimes be a wasteland of terrible match-ups. This gives fans some added excitement and serves as an encouragement to schedule more games like this.