FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – University of Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb announced his team’s schedule for the 2011 season Monday, with the team slated to play in the third-annual Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge on Feb. 18-20, and the Metrodome Tournament at 2010 NCAA Tournament qualifier Minnesota. The Illini will face three NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago in 2010 – Minnesota, Illinois State and Saint Louis, and will play a three-game series at Florida Gulf Coast, which went 38-20 last season. The season start date of Feb. 18 will be the fourth-earliest start date in school history and earliest since Illinois started the 2001 season on Feb. 17.
“I’m extremely excited about our strength of schedule in 2011,” Hartleb said. “We have a combination of tournament play and three-game series in our pre-conference games, which should prepare us not only for the Big Ten season but also for postseason play. And we’ll play a tough mid-week schedule, highlighted by our game at Busch Stadium. Our schedule will be challenging, but the group of players that we have will put us in position to compete at a high level throughout the season.”
The Illini will open the season with the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge, facing Pittsburgh on Feb. 18, Cincinnati on Feb. 19 and West Virginia on Feb. 20. Illinois will travel to Florida Gulf Coast, which has won three consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season titles, the next weekend to face the Eagles in a three-game set Feb. 25-27. The Orange and Blue then travel to DeLand, Fla., the next weekend for the Bright House Invitational, hosted by Stetson. Illinois will face Central Michigan, Stetson and Columbia in that event.
The next weekend, the Illini will take a rare early northern trip when they participate in the Metrodome Tournament, hosted by 2010 NCAA Tournament qualifier Minnesota. Illinois will take on Gonzaga on March 11, Butler on March 12 and the host Gophers on March 13. The next weekend, the Orange and Blue will travel south to play in a tournament hosted by Southern Illinois. Illinois will play Northern Illinois on March 17 and 18 in Marion, Ill., and Carbondale, Ill., respectively, followed by 2010 NCAA Tournament qualifier Saint Louis on March 19 and the host Salukis on March 20. On the final non-conference weekend, the Illini will host Indiana State for a three-game series at Illinois Field, March 25-27.
Illinois will then head to St. Louis, Mo., to play Missouri at Busch Stadium on March 29, the second-straight year the teams have squared off in the home of the St. Louis Cardinals. The next day, the Illini will host 2010 NCAA Tournament qualifier Illinois State before traveling to Penn State for the first Big Ten series of the year. The last time Illinois visited State College, they swept the series from the Nittany Lions. The Illini travel to Bradley on Tuesday, April 5, before returning home for a three-game set with Iowa April 8-10. After traveling to Mattoon, Ill., to face Eastern Illinois and hosting Southern Illinois the next week, the Orange and Blue will travel to Michigan for a three-game series with the Wolverines.
The Illini travel to Illinois State on April 19 before hosting EIU on April 20 to start a five-game home-stand, the team’s longest of the season. Included in that stretch is a three-game series with Michigan State and a date with Bradley on April 27. The squad then travels to Evanston, Ill., to square off with Northwestern in a Big Ten series before once again heading south and playing Southern Illinois at Rent One Park in Marion, Ill. The Illini host Ohio State May 6-8 before traveling to Purdue on May 13-15. The Orange and Blue will wrap up the regular season with a three-game series against Indiana at Illinois Field on May 19-21. The Big Ten Tournament will return to Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio, in 2011, and it will run from May 25-28.