PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — It’s been a long wait.
Hopefully, the wait ends Wednesday when college basketball teams start the season. Teams haven’t played since March when the pandemic ended last season before the NCAA Tournament could start.
The season’s start was delayed about three weeks to Nov. 25 and the NCAA prohibited exhibition games and closed scrimmages against outside competition this year.
Illinois opens the season at home for a multi-team event Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Illinois, ranked eighth in the preseason polls, tips off against North Carolina A&T Wednesday at 1:00.
Expectations are as high as they’ve been in Champaign since the 2005 team went to the Final Four. All-American Ayo Dosunmu and Big Ten freshman of the year Kofi Cockburn return to the lineup after flirting with the NBA draft this summer.
“It’s unreal and has been an amazing journey. I’m very excited to be a part of this program,” said senior guard Trent Frazier. “To see the progression of where we have taken this program from 2017 to now is incredible.”
Bradley’s expectations are high, too. The Braves are coming off consecutive Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championships are are considered contenders for the league title along with Northern Iowa and Loyola.
Bradley is playing in a four-team event in Cincinnati hosted by Xavier. The Braves tip off against Toledo on Wednesday at 2 p.m.
“If we can come out of this tournament 3-0 or 2-1, it will be an eye opener for everyone,” said Bradley senior forward Elijah Childs. “And an eye opener for us as to what we can do.”
The Braves will play Xavier and Oakland in their other games in Cincinnati.
Illinois State is picked ninth in the preseason Valley poll and lost its most experienced player when Keith Fisher opted out of the season over COVID concerns this month. The Redbirds open the season at No. 23 Ohio State.
“We are looking forward to playing someone else. Are we ready? We’ll find out on Wednesday.” said ISU coach Dan Muller. “It’s a great bonding experience for your team. So the fact we get to go on the road a little bit, even though it’s a different situation, I think is important for this team.”
The Bradley women, picked to finished second in the MVC preseason poll, open the season at home Wednesday against Kansas City. Fans are allowed to attend Bradley men’s or women’s games this season.
“I think it’s going to be a little emotional, honestly if we can get to that tipoff,” Bradley women’s coach Andrea Gorski said Monday. “To have this team out there with their regular uniforms on, game uniforms on. It will look different, for sure, without our great fan base there.”