Illinois Basketball: Game-by-game prediction of the 2023-24 Illini season

Oct 10, 2023; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood speaks to the media during the Big Ten basketball media days at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2023; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood speaks to the media during the Big Ten basketball media days at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mar 15, 2023; Des Moines, IA, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini forward Coleman Hawkins (33) speaks during the press conference before their opening round game of the NCAA tournament in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /

Illinois 79 vs Western Illinois 59 – Friday, November 24, 2023

Illinois plays a lot of in-state games this season. We should take down Eastern Illinois to open the year, and then Western Illinois should be the next in-state victim. I could see the Leathernecks putting up a fight early on, but we have too much talent and depth to hang with us. I see the Illini pulling away in the second half to win by double digits.

  • Illinois record – 6-0

Illinois 79 at Rutgers 61 (Piscataway, New Jersey) – Saturday, December 2, 2023

Rutgers had a solid unit last season, finishing 18-13 overall and winning a game in the Big Ten Tournament. They also managed to make the NIT. Illinois won the lone game between the two teams in 2022-23 by nine points. The Scarlet Knights did lose some talent too. Three out of their top five leading scorers have departed. Rutgers’ leader in assists and steals is also gone. I think this team will take a step back in 2024-24.

  • Illinois record – 7-0

Illinois 77 vs #10 Florida Atlantic 72 (New York, New York) – Tuesday, December 5, 2023

I would imagine most people didn’t see this being a tough game when Illinois first scheduled it. But the Illini get a chance to take on a top 10 team in Florida Atlantic that just came off a Final Four appearance. This is the Jimmy V Classic, so it is played at Madison Square Garden. The scary part about the Owls is the fact most of the talent returns. I would say the Final Four run was a bit fluky, as they should have been eliminated in the first round, but this is a really good team. This might sound homer-ish, but I have Illinois winning this game and likely moving into the top 10 in the nation.

  • Illinois record – 8-0

Illinois 65 at #9 Tennessee 72 (Knoxville, Tennessee) – Saturday, December 9, 2023

This is a road trip for the Illini, which is highly unusual. Illinois goes to New Jersey on December 2, New York on December 5, and then Tennessee on December 9. That travel schedule is bound to catch up with them. Going to a top-10 Tennessee team is going to be so tough. Most of the Volunteers’ production returns as well. I have this as the first loss of the season for the Illini.

  • Illinois record – 8-1

Illinois 84 vs Colgate 64 – Sunday, December 17, 2023

Illinois gets some much-needed time off, as there is a week in between games. We welcome in Colgate after the first loss of the season. The Raiders played two good teams last season, Auburn, which they lost by 27 points, and Texas, which they lost by 20 points. After the week off, Illinois comes out refreshed and plows into Colgate.

  • Illinois record – 9-1