Texas and Illinois take part in the first game of the 2022 Jimmy V Classic doubleheader. Which of these two will come out with the victory?
TV schedule: Tuesday, December 6th, 7:00 pm ET. ESPN
Arena: Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York
Coming into the season, both the Longhorns and Fighting Illini had questions about their respective ceilings for the 2022-23 campaign. And to this point, both have been highly impressive, combining for a 12-2 record and several wins over ranked opponents.
Texas (6-0) is currently unbeaten with a pair of home wins over Gonzaga and Creighton. In the 72-67 victory over the Bluejays, Marcus Carr led the way with 19 points, five rebounds, and five assists on 7/20 shooting. Tyrese Hunter, Timmy Allen, and Dillon Mitchell were all in double figures and while they shot just 4/19 from three-point range as a team, the perimeter defense shut down Creighton to maintain a lead throughout the game.
The Longhorns are as athletic a team in the country but their opponent can match them in that aspect. Illinois (6-2), split last week’s games, including a 29-point blowout win over Syracuse, followed by a road loss at a ranked-Maryland squad. Terrence Shannon, who leads the team in scoring on the season, had 19 points in the game. Coleman Hawkins and RJ Melendez also were in double figures but the Illini didn’t have much help out of those three players.
Texas has done well against opposing guards so far this season and that’s a point of concern with Illinois. Skyy Clark and Jayden Epps have had flashes but also have been inconsistent as well. If Carr and Hunter dominate them, it could be a long one for the Illini in the game. On the other hand, the Big Ten team does have size in both Hawkins and Dain Dainja, against a Longhorns squad that isn’t as big inside, with Christian Bishop and Dylan Disu getting all of the minutes at the five-spot.
This will be a fun matchup of ranked opponents that can create plenty of offense without having many pure shooters. But it also could be ugly if there are plenty of fouls being called as well. So far, Texas has looked more consistent than Illinois but has been largely at home, whereas the Illini have been in several tough games away from home. That’s something I think will play a factor late, with Shannon making a case for Big Ten Player of the Year once again.
Prediction: Illinois 77, Texas 73