Good Morning, Illini Nation: A difficult Big Ten slate

Aug. 25—Welcome to "Good Morning, Illini Nation," your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He'll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood's team:

Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti was in Champaign on Monday and Tuesday and spent time at Illinois soccer, volleyball and football practices. He also got some one-on-one with Illini basketball coach Brad Underwood.

Was the future of the Big Ten discussed? Sure. Namely how an 18-team league might schedule its season. Do we have any answers to that? Not yet.

Underwood is more focused on what this year's Big Ten schedule will look like. That Illinois has two games apiece against the likes of Purdue, Michigan State, Maryland, Northwestern, Iowa, Michigan and Rutgers is something Underwood has mentioned multiple times in the last week.

The rest of the Big Ten schedule includes home games only against Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska and road games only at Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

"We might have the toughest schedule," Underwood said. "I think our dual, two-game group of teams we play this year is obviously very challenging. ... The league is going to be the best it's ever been. The best it's ever been top to bottom. Everybody is talking about Purdue. Purdue is probably going to be No. 1 in the country. Michigan State is going to be up there high. They made a run in the NCAA tournament.

"Wisconsin's got everybody back. Maryland's got everybody back. You're talking about Ohio State that got hot at the end of the year and is going to be very, very good. Northwestern has most of their guys back coming off a top finish. Indiana wsa transfer heaven and got a bunch of guys from the portal. The league is going to be great. That will help us strength of schedule, That will help us competitively as we head into the NCAA tournament at the end of the year."