Alabama basketball finalizing two-year series with Illinois

The Alabama Basketball Team celebrates during post-game celebration against Clemson at Arena in Los Angeles, CA on Saturday, Mar 30, 2024.

By WVUA-23 Sports Reporter Theodore Fernandez

There were many factors responsible for Alabama basketball’s historic run to the Final Four this past month. The superhuman play of Mark Sears, the emergence of Grant Nelson, and head coach Nate Oats’ fast-paced offensive sets all are key reasons for the Crimson Tide’s run. But a more overlooked aspect of last year’s team was its grueling non conference schedule. Alabama dropped non conference games to Clemson, Arizona, Creighton, and Purdue last year, and it’s hard to argue that the experience of playing those four teams, all of whom finished in the top 15 of the final AP poll, didn’t help the Crimson Tide come March.

Now Oats has added another marquee opponent to Alabama’s future schedule as the Crimson Tide are finalizing a deal to play Illinois over the next two seasons.

The Fighting Illini are fresh off an Elite Eight appearance and have been among the most dominant programs of the 2020s under head coach Brad Underwood. Illinois is set to come to play in a “neutral site” game at Legacy Arena in Birmingham at some point in December. Alabama will then return the favor, heading to Chicago’s United Center in December 2025.

The Crimson Tide now once again have stacked nonconference schedules for the next two seasons. Next season, Alabama will play in a multi-team event that awards $1 million in NIL to players and the teams that play in the tournament. The Crimson Tide will play three teams out of a list of Houston, Oregon, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Rutgers, and San Diego State, and another team that is still to be determined.

The Crimson Tide will also play Creighton at home and will take part in the SEC/ACC challenge, where Alabama, as the most successful SEC program currently, will almost certainly draw either Duke or North Carolina. The Crimson Tide also has an unconfirmed game against St. John’s in New York on the schedule for 2024.

The 2025-26 season will see Alabama head to Chicago for that Illinois game, and it will also feature a matchup between the Crimson Tide and the Arizona Wildcats at Legacy Arena. That game was on the schedule for next season, but was pushed back earlier today, likely to accommodate the Illinois series.

Alabama basketball is not ducking any opponents. The Crimson Tide can be expected to continue to play elite teams year-after-year as it looks to build off last year’s Final Four appearance.

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