Baylor’s Davion Mitchell (45) plays against Washington in an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
- Baylor is a 2.5-point favorite over Illinois on Wednesday night in the Jimmy V Classic in Indianapolis
- Both teams are ranked among the top five in the country, Baylor at No. 2 and Illinois at No. 5
- See odds, lines, and spread for this top 25 matchup between Illinois and Baylor below
Baylor and Illinois will never know if they would have made it to the Final Four last season after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the NCAA Tournament.
However, both teams have national championship aspirations this season and square off at 9 PM EST on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020 in the Jimmy V Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The Bears are favored in the matchup of unbeaten teams ranked in the top five.
#5 Illinois vs #2 Baylor Odds
Odds taken Dec. 1 at FanDuel
Baylor’s Guards Set Tone
Second-ranked Baylor opened the season last weekend in the Las Vegas bubble by walloping Louisiana-Lafayette 112-82 as a 21-point favorite and easily covering the 11.5-point spread in an 86-52 rout of Washington.
Acting head coach Jerome Tang was much happier with the Bears’ defense against Washington than in the opener. Baylor held the Huskies to 36.5% shooting after the Ragin’ Cajuns burned the Bears for 52%.
Tang, a longtime Baylor assistant, was filling in for Scott Drew, who was forced to quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Junior guard Jared Butler led Baylor with 20 points against Washington and is averaging a team-high 18.5 so far in the young season.
That is expected after Butler led the Bears with 16.0 points per game last season when they went 26-4 and won a Big 12-record 23 games in a row at one point.
Jared Butler just tried to posterize 7′ 4″ Riley Sorn pic.twitter.com/luOdArf0YJ
— Drew Mastin (@andrewmastin) November 30, 2020
Sophomore guard Adam Flagler has quickly developed into a scoring threat as he is averaging 14.5 points a game. He sat out last season after transferring from Presbyterian, where he was the Big South Freshman of the Year in 2018-19.
Two other guards are also scoring in double figures – MaCio Teague (18.0) and Davion Mitchell (12.0).
While Baylor has one of the deepest backcourts in the country, the Bears have also been strong in the frontcourt. They outrebounded Washington 50-19 and had 24 second-chance points off 21 offensive boards.
2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
Illinois’ Dynamic Duo
After breezing to wins over North Carolina A&T (122-60) and Chicago State (97-38), Illinois struggled to put away visiting Ohio last Saturday.
The Fighting Illini rallied for a 77-75 victory after trailing by four points with 1:57 to go. Illinois was favored by 15.5 points.
The star tandem of junior guard Ayo Dosunmu and sophomore center Kofi Cockburn, two of the best players in the Big Ten, led the way.
Two pretty pull-ups by Ayo Dosumnu pic.twitter.com/RQefBvHtEF
— Simon Rath (@HawksDraftNerd) July 6, 2020
Dosunmu scored 24 points, while Cockburn had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Cockburn has 15 double-doubles in 35 career games.
Dosunmu’s two free throws put Illinois in front 76-75 with two seconds remaining. Trent Frazier then stole the inbounds pass, drew a charging call, and made one free throw.
I know it’s early in the season & only day two of college basketball but, Illinois looks like the best team in all of college basketball. They have three really good guard between Ayo Dosumnu, Adam Miller, and Andre Curbelo. That’s not mentioning having 7’0 285lbs Kofi Cockburn.
— NBA Draft Scouting (@NBADraftScoutin) November 26, 2020
Dosunmu is averaging team-highs with 25.7 points and 6.7 assists a game. Cockburn is at 15.0 points and 11.7 rebounds. The pair has made a strong impression on many observers.
Also scoring in double figures is freshman guard Adam Miller at 18.0 points per game, providing coach Brad Underwood with a needed reliable third scoring option.
Illinois junior guard Austin Hutcherson has missed the first three games because of a back injury and is out indefinitely. He has had back problems since being injured in an automobile accident during his freshman year of high school.
#Illini Underwood: Austin Hutcherson is in California with his family seeing a specialist for his back.
— Derek Piper (@DPiper247) November 26, 2020
After sitting out last season following his transfer from Division III Wesleyan, Hutcherson was expected to see significant playing time in 2020-21.
Baylor Looks for Breakthrough
Illinois has beaten Baylor in all three meetings. The last matchup came on Nov 28, 2014, when the Illini notched a 62-54 victory in Las Vegas.
This is a dandy of a matchup, but look for the Bears to finally break through against Illinois as they have a bit more experience and depth.
The Pick: Baylor -2.5 (-110)
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.