WCIA — You know basketball season is finally upon us when the first Associated Press Top 25 poll is posted, and Illinois men’s basketball just snuck it’s way into the rankings at No. 25.

The Illini are one of three Big Ten teams to be voted into the Top 25, with No. 3 Purdue and No. 4 Michigan State. Receiving votes were Wisconsin, Maryland, and Indiana. A trio of teams in the rankings puts the Big Ten at third-most, behind the SEC (five teams), Big East, and Big 12 (both four teams).

Illinois has seven ranked teams on its upcoming schedule, with No. 5 Marquette, No. 9 Tennessee, and No. 10 Florida Atlantic as its non-conference opponents. Not to mention an exhibition against No. 1 Kansas at the end of October. Head coach Brad Underwood thinks they are in for quite a challenge.

“We’ve got what I think will be the toughest schedule we’ve ever had,” Underwood said. “Last year was kind of a strange year. I think we ended up with one Quad 1 game at home, and a game we lost. Depending on this year we could have as many as 20. The league’s that good. Could be an unbelievable year.”

It all starts Friday, Oct. 20 as NAIA school Ottawa University comes to Champaign for an exhibition game. Tipoff is 8 p.m. with streaking on B1G+.