Illinois basketball believing that iron sharpens iron in future schedule

To be the best you have to beat the best, and that is what Illinois basketball will attempt to do in future schedules
Illinois v Iowa State
Illinois v Iowa State / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Illinois basketball team played well during the 2023-24 season, finishing with 29 wins overall.

This run was special for the Illini. That 29-win mark was the most since the 2005 national title march. We also won the Big Ten Tournament and got to the Elite 8, another first since 2005.

Illinois was prepared for a solid run in the postseason for multiple reasons. We had tremendous experience and veteran leadership. On top of that, this team was battle-tested.

During the 2023-24 campaign, the Illini didn’t play a cakewalk schedule. We went up against talented teams throughout the season. In the non-conference alone, the Illini played then-ranked No. 4 Marquette, No. 11 Florida Atlantic, and No. 17 Tennessee.

The Big Ten didn’t get much easier either. Twice we had to play a top-five Purdue Boilermakers squad that eventually made it to the NCAA tournament title game.

Playing tough teams helps with experience and knowledge of what it takes to beat the best of the best. Iron sharpens iron, and the Illini are taking that mentality into future schedules as well.

On Tuesday, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reported that Illinois and Duke are looking to finalize a deal that would have the two college giants meeting up at Madison Square Garden during the 2024-25 season.

Rothstein followed that report with another report on Wednesday that has Illinois and Alabama working on a deal that would have the teams match up for the next two seasons. The first game would be in Birmingham and the 2025-26 contest in Chicago.

Illinois basketball has a short history with both Duke and Alabama

In today’s college basketball world, both of these matchups are a big deal. These three teams are playing some of the best basketball in the country, and they are trending as powers in a changing college landscape.

Illinois doesn’t have a long history with either program, though. The matchup with Alabama the next two seasons will only be the fifth and sixth times these two teams have played. The Crimson Tide lead the matchup 3-1, and the last game was in 2015 when Alabama beat Illinois in the first round of the NIT, 79-58.

Duke and Illinois have had a little bit longer of a history, as the Blue Devils lead the Illini 5-3 in the eight games they have played against each other. Illinois got the best of Duke in Durham in the last matchup back in 2020.

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