What is the lack of opponents within the state?

It’s a RELEASE SZN schedule!

Brad Underwood Illinois fighting Illini They revealed their full non-conference schedule for 2022-23 late last month.

Before getting into anything else, let me say this is a perfectly fine schedule. There is a great mix of challenging matches against championship-caliber NCAA teams (University of CaliforniaBaylor/Virginia, Syracuse, Texas), Braggin’ Rights’ annual match with Mizzou, and cupcake opponents (or “buy games,” if you prefer to be polite) like UMKC, Lindenwood, and Bethune-Cookman.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see a date with Eastern Illinois on this year’s schedule. Not that I have any particular fondness for Charleston – although Jimmy J sure is handsome! – It’s oddly rare for Fighting Illini to compete against a classmate in the state.

To my surprise, the last regular season game between EIU and Illinois came back on December 10, 2002. For reference, that was during Brian Cook’s senior game season and five days after my seventeenth birthday. The average retail price of gasoline was $1.36 per gallon. Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” was the #1 song on the radio (by the way, still great).

This got me thinking about Illinois’ recent – and in many cases, not recent – history against its in-state neighbors.

Western Illinois (last meeting: 2003, 94-66 West)

  • The Leathernecks played for the Illini four times in five seasons between 1999-2003. Fun bonus fact: Brad Underwood was on the sidelines for those games while working as Leathernics’ assistant.

Northern Illinois (2009, 80-61 watts)

  • The Illini & Huskies only played twice of all time, with the other encounter coming in December 1994.

Southern Illinois (2010, 85-63 W)

  • Salukis & Illini met only two more times (1982, 2001), with Illinois winning each contest.

Illinois State (2011, 63-59 W)

  • Sam Maniscalco (!) led the Fighting Illini with 14 points, including five in the last minute, as Illinois won the game and the Cancun Challenge Championship.
  • How does it happen that these two schools, whose campuses are only 50 miles apart, haven’t played each other in over a decade?

SIU-Edwardsville (2011, 66-46 W)

  • SIUE was still in its embryonic stage from first-section collars (they joined in 2008) but they haven’t made much progress since then. Cougars just exist to feed the college basketball ecosystem.

Bradley (2013, 81-55 W)

  • John Ike – Remember him? He led Alleni with 17 points.
  • Illini is 14-3 in 17 all-time games with the Braves.

Illinois – Chicago (2015, 83-79 watts)

  • Illinois and the UIC have clashed almost annually for the better part of a decade, playing eight consecutive seasons starting in 1990. Former Lou Henson assistant Jimmy Collins was the Flames coach from 1996 to 2010.

Depol (2017, 82-73 watts)

  • One-time program saver Mark Smith scored 21 points (12-12 FT) in the first school game in 60 years. like what?

Chicago State (2020, 97-38 watts)

  • Fighting Illini outperformed the Cougars 55-10 – Kofi Cockburn had 11 rebounds, Illinois’ 59-point win was the biggest since…the day before, a 122-60 win over North Carolina A&T.
  • Certainly a much better result than the 2015 game, where Jalen Coleman-Lands—yes, that Jalen Coleman-Lands—hit the bell three to avoid the worst defeat in the program’s history.

Loyola Chicago (2021, 71-58 liters)

  • I don’t remember this game. Can someone tell me what happened?
  • These two schools played a group in the ’80s, but have faced each other only four times since 1999, including the so-called “game” at the 2021 NCAA Championships.

The last time Illini launched multiple in-state programs was in the same season in 2011 (they played four(!)—Loyola, SIUE, Illinois State, Chicago State).

What is the reason for this gap? Is it something outrageous? Is Illinois intentionally Dribbling her public school classmates – Kansas comes to mind refusing to play Wichita State. There have been many coaches and athletic directors in Champaign over the past 20 years…what gives?

Maybe I’m in the vocal minority, but it seems to me that there would be a huge benefit to scheduling one or more, let’s just say NIU, SIU, WIU, and Illinois in a given year. I think it would be a positive and would give each program some strength, even more so if Illinois were competing at the championship level – you seriously mean to tell me that Huskies, Salukis, Leathernecks, or Redbirds wouldn’t overwhelm the probability of hitting. Who is Eleni?! Hell, Illinois have played Augustana and McKendree on REGULAR SEASON more recently than nearly all of the other teams on this list.

It’s definitely weird, if nothing else.

With a 20-game Big Ten schedule and an increased focus on multiteam events in neutral locations (MTEs) and big crossovers, Illini is unlikely to squeeze any other opponents in the state into an already crowded schedule.

For now, I think I’ll have to settle for Jermaine Hamlin’s revenge game on November 7.

Do you think Illinois basketball should determine the scheduling of more in-state teams while playing outside conventions? Comment below!

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