Underwood & Self have 'talked about' a future Illinois-Kansas series

Underwood & Self have ‘talked about’ a future Illinois-Kansas series

CHAMPAIGN — There’s always an ongoing conversation about which juicy nonconference matchups fans would like to see their teams seek out.

That’s been a big talking point this offseason in college basketball. Duke and Arizona announced a home-and-home series back in July. A month later, Kentucky and Gonzaga created quite a buzz in announcing a six-year series beginning this season.

This fall, word surfaced that Indiana and Kentucky were working on rekindling their storied series. John Calipari confirmed the rumors at SEC Media Day last week, stating that the two sides have agreed in principle to matchups beginning in 2025.

illini head coach Brad Underwood has been aggressive on the scheduling front from the very moment he took the job. Illinois has a very challenging nonconference slate this year, headlined by the Continental Tire Main Event in Las Vegas and the Jimmy V Classic in New York.

Underwood also really likes home-and-home series in the nonconference, stating that it’s great for the fans to see those marquee matchups in their home building. Illinois and Arizona completed the second leg of a home-and-home last season in what was a high-level matchup in front of a sold-out crowd.

For obvious reasons, the most popular pick among fans and media for a future home-and-home opponent is Kansas. Former Illini head coach Bill Self returned to Central Illinois back in April for Underwood’s Coaches vs. Cancer event in Gifford. The two coaches put up again last weekend in St. Louis to have their teams battle in a closed scrimmage.

Illini Inquirer asked Underwood on Thursday if he and Self would consider matching up their squads in a game or two that counts in the future.

“Sure, why not? I’m 0-for my career in Allen Fieldhouse as a player and as a coach. I deserve the opportunity to try to get one in there,” Underwood said. “Bring (Self) back here and let our 16,000 boo him all to world’s end, I think that’s only fitting. We’ve talked about it. I don’t know if it’ll happen. He’s got a series and with everything that’s going on with conference realignment right now, I think we’re all kind of somewhat in a holding pattern. But it’d be fun…here. Not sure it’s fun there.”

To Underwood’s point, he has an 0-9 career record at Allen Fieldhouse during his time in college basketball and he’s 2-19 overall against the Jayhawks (0-5 as a player, 2-14 as a coach). Illinois holds a 3-3 all-time record against Kansas. Self defeated the Illini 73-59 in the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2011, which is the lone meeting between the Illini and their former head coach since he left Champaign in 2003.

Self went 78-24 (.767) in three seasons at Illinois from 2000-03, while winning back-to-back Big Ten regular season titles and advancing to the Elite Eight in 2001.

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