Illinois' Brad Underwood Looking Forward To Challenging Schedule That Includes Duke, Arkansas, Alabama

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Fighting Illini has a mostly revamped roster for this season.

They lost key players Marcus Domask and Terrence Shannon to graduation and a few others to the transfer portal. It doesn't mean coach Brad Underwood is shying from tough competition. Aside from the Big Ten, they play a non-conference schedule that includes Duke, Alabama and Arkansas.

"We're going to play a tremendous schedule, maybe the best ever," Underwood told reporters earlier this week. "It's exciting to be a part of." 

In three months since their Elite Eight run ended, the Illini have added recruits Morez Johnson, Tomislav Ivsisic and Will Riley and Ben Humrichous from the transfer portal. All are on campus, with hopes being ready by the start of the season.

The Illini open the non-conference schedule against Arkansas Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving) in Kansas City. The Razorbacks are led by new coach John Calipari. They then have the annual Braggin' Rights game against Missouri Dec. 22 in St. Louis. Dates are unknown for Alabama and Duke but they are set for Birmingham and New York.

Alabama lost to eventual champion UConn in the Final Four last year while Duke was knocked off by North Carolina State in the Elite Eight.

"Some of these games, the national media, the TV networks like us," Underwood said. "That's a big thank you to our fans because they do travel. It's also put us in that status: We're pretty good. People think a lot of us." 

Shandel Richardson is the publisher of Illini Now. He can be reached at

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Shandel Richardson