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5 key games for the Illini 2022-23 season

Illinois basketball

Mar 18, 2022; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood reacts in the first half against the Chattanooga Mocs during the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois basketball team is just about a month away from playing their first exhibition game.

It is exciting to think that this time next month, the Illini will be playing. It feels like it has been years since we saw this team on the court playing against Houston. But, finally, Illinois fans get to see the Orange and Blue hooping it up.

While we wait for the 2022-23 campaign to start, let’s take a quick look at the final schedule for the upcoming season. As of this past Friday, every game officially has a time, date, and location.

Here are five key games for the Illinois basketball 2022-23 season.

1. Illinois vs UCLA – Las Vegas, Nevada – November 18 (Continental Tire Main Event)

There are always non-conference games that are measuring sticks for the Illinois basketball team. The first measuring stick game will be four games into the season against the UCLA Bruins.

The potential future Big Ten foe meets up with the Illini at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the Continental Tire Main Event.

Last season, the Bruins spent most of the time ranked inside the top 10 nationally. The lowest they would drop would be to No. 17 in the nation but would ultimately finish the 2021-22 campaign ranked No. 11.

UCLA would go 27-8 last season with wins over No. 4 Villanova, No. 3 Arizona, No. 16 USC, and No. 18 USC. They would also enter the NCAA tournament as a No. 4 seed and would advance to the Sweet 16 only to lose to No. 8 North Carolina.

It was quite the impressive run by the Bruins in 2021-22. While the Bruins did lose some talent, they will likely be around the top 10 once again, and having them on the schedule this early in the season will show the nation where Illinois is as a program.

Illinois has a few warm-up games before UCLA, but if we can knock off the Bruins, then we should be ranked somewhere inside the top 25. Honestly, though, this game is a complete measuring stick. It will show our flaws and what we need to work on. That will be important.

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