Busting Brackets

Illinois vs Baylor: 2020-21 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

CHAMPAIGN, IL - MARCH 08: Ayo Dosunmu #11 of the Illinois Fighting Illini is seen during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at State Farm Center on March 8, 2020 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
CHAMPAIGN, IL - MARCH 08: Ayo Dosunmu #11 of the Illinois Fighting Illini is seen during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at State Farm Center on March 8, 2020 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Wednesday night will feature a spectacular matchup with two top-five ranked teams with Illinois and Baylor.

TV Schedule: Wednesday, December 2nd, 10 pm ET, ESPN

Arena: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN.

A non-conference battle with No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini (3-0) versus No. 2 Baylor Bears (2-0) is set to tip-off on Wednesday night in primetime. The matchup is part of a Jimmy V Classic doubleheader at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, with No. 11 West Virginia versus No. 1 Gonzaga in the first game at 7 p.m. ET.

This will mark the fourth meeting that Illinois and Baylor have faced each other, with the Fighting Illini leading the series 3-0. The last matchup between the two teams occurred in 2014 when Illinois won 62-54.

After posting blowout victories in their first two games against North Carolina A&T and Chicago State, Illinois almost became victim to a massive upset on Friday against the Ohio Bobcats. Junior guard Jason Preston for Ohio scored a career-high 31 points against Illinois, which included the Bobcats go-ahead basket to make the score 75-74 in favor of Ohio with 7.4 seconds left.

However, the Bobcats lead in the final seconds was short-lived, as Illinois junior star point guard, Ayo Dosunmu (25.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 6.7 apg), received the proceeding inbound and dribbled the length of the court to draw the shooting foul under the basket with 2.3 seconds left. Dosunmu made both shots at the free throw line to put Illinois up for good, with the Fighting Illini getting the victory 77-75.

In Baylor’s opening game on Saturday, the Bears won 112-82 against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, marking the most points that Baylor has scored in a game since 2013. Baylor had five players with double figures against Louisiana, with senior guard MaCio Teague (18 ppg, 6.5 rpg) leading the way with 21 points. Four-star freshman guard, L.J. Cryer (8.5 ppg), had an extremely efficient Baylor debut, making five three-point shots to tally 17 points in just 15 minutes off the bench.

On Sunday, Baylor held up much better defensively with an 86-52 victory over Washington, marking the first victory all-time against the Huskies in its fourth attempt. The Bears were led by junior guard, Jared Butler (18.5 ppg, 4.5 apg), who scored 20 points and dished out five assists. Sophomore guard, Adam Flagler (14.5 ppg, 4 apg), made five three-point shots and scored 17 points from the bench.

As for Illinois, the Fighting Illini will look to control the glass on Wednesday. Illinois leads the nation in total rebounds and is a phenomenal plus-109 (162-53 in total rebounds in favor of Illinois) on the glass during their first three games. Sophomore center, Kofi Cockburn (15 ppg, 11.7 rpg) has been a major force inside, converting on 64 percent of his shots, while tallying a double-double in all three games and leading Illinois in rebounds.

The Fighting Illini will also look to cut back on the turnovers. Illinois had 16 total turnovers against Ohio and was only able to force the Bobcats to turn over the basketball seven times. In all three games, Illinois had turned over the basketball more than their opponents, with a minus-14 turnover margin so far this season. The Fighting Illini will face a stiff test from a scrappy Baylor defense which forced 12 steals against Louisiana on Saturday.

In their last game, Illinois allowed Ohio to shoot 9-for-19 from three-point range (47.4 percent). The Fighting Illini defense will have another major test in guarding Baylor’s sharpshooting perimeter. The Bears are shooting 28-for-56 (50 percent) from the outside during their first two games.

For Baylor, the Bears will need to lock in on stopping the big two of Dosunmu and Cockburn. Dosunmu has been off to a strong start, scoring 22 or more points and at least five assists in his first three games this season. While Cockburn leads the Fighting Illini in rebounding averaging 11.7 rebounds per game.

On the boards, Cockburn will battle Baylor senior forward Mark Vital (6.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg). Vital grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds in Baylor’s win against Washington, which Baylor ended the game at plus-31 on the glass.

After allowing 82 points in their opening game to Louisiana, Baylor tightened up nicely on defense, allowing Washington to just 36.5 percent shooting. Baylor will look to stop a Fighting Illini offense, which will enter Wednesday’s matchup inside the top 15 nationally in shooting percentage, converting on 56 percent of their shots.

This matchup could very well be a close one and could possibly come down to free throws. That’s where Baylor will look to improve at the free throw line, as the Bears are only 12-for-24 shooting at the free throw line through two games.

Wednesday night should feature a terrific showdown with two top-five teams battling it out in the nightcap of the Jimmy V Classic. A great frontcourt battle is set with Kofi Cockburn versus Mark Vital on the boards. Along with a terrific backcourt matchup with Ayo Dosunmu, Adam Miller (18 ppg), Da’Monte Williams (7.3 ppg, 8 rpg), and Trent Frazier (9.3 ppg) for Illinois versus Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell (12 ppg, 6.5 apg), and Adam Flagler for Baylor.

With two high-flying offensives, this matchup could potentially become a shootout. Illinois enters Wednesday’s matchup averaging 98.7 points per game, while Baylor is averaging 99 points per game.

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As for both Illinois and Baylor, both teams know how much this game means to them. A victory for either team would provide a huge momentum push towards their next game. Illinois is looking to start 4-0 entering next Tuesday’s matchup against No. 6 Duke. Baylor is looking to go 3-0 before their big 1 versus 2 showdown against No. 1 Gonzaga on Saturday.

Prediction: Baylor 82, Illinois 80