Mar 29, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach John Groce during the press conference announcing his hire at Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE
The non-conference schedule for the Illinois Fighting Illini was announced on Wednesday, and it features plenty of home games for new coach John Groce.
It all gets started on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, when the Illini take on the Colgate Raiders at Assembly Hall to kick off the so-called John Groce era. Other home games include dates with the St. Francis Terriers on Nov. 12, Gardner-Webb Bulldogs on Nov. 25, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Nov. 28, Western Carolina Catamounts on Dec. 4, Norfolk St. Spartans on Dec. 11 and Eastern Kentucky Colonels on Dec. 16. The meeting with Georgia Tech will be part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Outside of those home games, Illinois will take on the Auburn Tigers at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 29, continuing their yearly run of contests in Chicago. Last season, though, they fell to UNLV 64-48 at the United Center.
Illinois will also take on the Missouri Tigers in the 32nd Braggin' Rights game in St. Louis on Dec. 22, and will try to overcome a three-year skid in that series. The Fighting Illini also take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Dec. 8, and will take part in the Maui Invitational, which starts on Nov. 19 and kicks off for the Illini when they face the USC Trojans. The Butler Bulldogs, Marquette Golden Eagles, Mississippi St. Bulldogs, North Carolina Tar Heels, Chaminade Silverswords and Texas Longhorns will also play in the tournament.
Groce certainly has his work cut out for him with some of these games, but what's most important is that plenty of those are home games, giving the Fighting Illini the best chance to pick up some good wins in these non-conference matchups.