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CHICAGO – As the days turn shorter and the weather turns colder, collegiate sports fans start looking towards the hardwood over the next few months.

College basketball season is officially underway on Tuesday for Division-1 men’s and women’s basketball programs in the area and around the state,with a few games being staged featuring teams of local interest.

Eleventh-ranked Illinois opens up their schedule at home against Jackson State at the State Farm Center on Tuesday night as they hope to continue their success that started last season. The team lost All-American Ayo Dosunmu (NBA) and guard Adam Miller (transfer) but return a number of key players from the group that won a Big Ten Tournament title and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Kofi Cockburn leads the group, but he’ll be out the first three games of the season due to an NCAA suspension after he sold his school-issued gear to “The Player’s Trunk” before the NIL took effect in July.

After four-straight losing seasons, Northwestern will look to climb back up in the Big Ten starting on Tuesday when they host Eastern Illinois at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Chris Collins will have a good shot to do that as he returns four starters along with eight of ten players who averaged more than ten minutes per game in 2020-2021.

A new era of Loyola men’s basketball begins at Gentile Arena on Tuesday night as Drew Valentine takes part in his first game as a head coach with the Rambler against Coppin State at Gentile Arena. He’ll have a number of players back from the group that won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament championship last season while also advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

A day later, Coppin State will be the opponent of the start of a new era of DePaul men’s basketball as head coach Tony Stubblefield makes his debut at Wintrust Arena on Wednesday. He takes over for Dave Leitao as he looks to lead the Blue Demons back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

Gerald Gillion will begin his tenure on Tuesday at Chicago State at home against the University of St. Thomas at 7 PM.

UIC is also in action on opening night as they face Dayton on the road to open their 2021-2022 campaign.

DePaul women’s basketball will open their season on Tuesday night against Texas Southern, and it’s a night to honor one of their own. The team is hosting Allie Quigley night just a few weeks after the guard and 2008 graduate of the school won her first WNBA championship with the Chicago Sky.

Illinois women’s basketball already opened their season early on Tuesday with a 73-56 win over North Carolina Central in Champaign.

Meanwhile, Northwestern will start their season on Wednesday against UIC at Welsh Ryan Arena, hoping to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for a second-straight season, which would be just the second time it’s happened in program history.