The Illinois vs Baylor pick caps off the Jimmy V Classic on Wednesday night. This matchup of Top 5 teams is set to be a good one, as the Fighting Illini have started the season 3-0 and Baylor 2-0 after a high scoring weekend.
#2 Baylor is a -5.5 favorite in this neutral site contest that would have favored Illinois playing one state over in Indiana, but there are no spectators allowed at the 2020 edition of this tourney. The Bears have value considering Illinois struggled to a 77-75 win over Ohio on Friday. The Fighting Illini have what appears to be one of the deepest teams in the country though, and an outright win from Brad Underwood’s team wouldn’t be that big of a shocker.
Not Many Weaknesses for Illinois
The Fighting Illini are coming off just a 2-point win over Ohio last time out as -15.5 favorites, but they were also playing in their third game in as many days. The team comes into the Illinois vs Baylor pick rested, and ready to avoid the tired, sloppy play that led to committing 15 turnovers against the Bobcats.
Surviving an early season challenge may also give the Illini an advantage as they head into what should be a very tough game with Baylor. The Bears on the other hand won both their games by at least 30 points over the weekend. Ayo Dosunmo hit two free throws to help avoid the upset, and has netted 28, 22, and 27 points in his three games so far.
Dosunmo is set to shine again on the national stage, but he’s far from the only threat for this talented Illini squad. Both Dosunmo and Kofi Cockburn entertained NBA thoughts in the offseason, but each returned for what looks like a potential Final 4 run. The 7’0, 265 pound Cockburn has led Illinois to the best rebound rate in the nation (75.3%), but Illinois also has a strong outside game while setting a school record with 17 three-pointers against Chicago State.
Baylor Up For a Test?
It’s hard to expect another blowout win for Baylor on Wednesday following their 112-82 win over UL-Lafayette and an 86-52 stomping of Washington to start the year. One thing that is optimistic for the Bears is that the Illini defense gave up 31 points to Ohio’s Jason Preston last time out, which bodes well for Baylor’s preseason All-American Jared Butler.
Butler has put up 17 and 20 points this season, solid numbers put also those that pale in comparison to Illinois’ All-American Dosunmu. Baylor should be able to hang with the Illini on the boards, as they are 2nd in the country with a 65.6% rebound rate.
Wednesday’s meeting very well could come down to role players. Illinois freshman Adam Miller went for 28 points in the opener, but MaCio Teague has averaged 18 ppg for Baylor. Ultimately these are just two well-coached, talented, deep teams.
Free Illinois vs Baylor Pick
Dosunmu and Butler are set to put on a show on Wednesday night, but Illinois ultimately has a huge (literally) x-factor in Cockburn. Throw in the familiarity of playing in Indianapolis for Illinois and Baylor possibly looking ahead to a matchup with #1 Gonzaga on Saturday and there’s a lot to like about the Fighting Illini.
Illinois 76 – Baylor 70
Free Pick: Illinois +5.5