There are games all day once again, with Indiana kicking the day off against Stanford in “Maui” while Illinois and Baylor are set to square up in a top five showdown in Indianapolis as part of the Jimmy V Classic.
Game of the Day
#5 Illinois Fighting Illini vs #2 Baylor Bears
- Time/TV: 10:00 PM ET (ESPN)
Illinois is set to participate in the Jimmy V Classic and will play later tonight with a chance to knock off the #2 Baylor Bears. Illinois rolled through their first two games before struggling against Ohio last time out. They avoided the upset, thanks to Ayo Dosunmu’s 27 points. The junior has been explosive so far, averaging 25.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game. Highly touted Kofi Cockburn has also looked the part, averaging 15.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. Illinois has also gotten some much needed offensive firepower in freshman guard Adam Miller, who is averaging 18 points per game and shooting 47.1% from three.
Baylor is coming off of a 26-4 season that saw them ranked as high as #1 in the nation. They’re looking to build off of that success in 2020-21 and wrecked Washington by 34 points on Sunday. Guards Jared Butler and Macio Teague are averaging 18.5 and 18 points per game, with Butler shooting 58.3% from three in the first two games. Mix in guards Adam Flagler and Davion Mitchell, who are also averaging double figures, and you have an explosive backcourt that is more than capable of matching Dosunmu and Miller.
One issue Illinois needs to work on if they want to contend for a Big Title this year is improving their shooting. The addition of Miller has been a big plus and they’ve been much improved shooting the ball so far but they’ve also faced a relatively soft schedule. Can they do the same against one of the top teams in the country?
Illinois has looked improved and should have the edge inside, thanks to Cockburn. But the Bears feature a loaded and deep backcourt full of speed and sharpshooters that give Illinois little room for error. Ayo Dosunmu has been fantastic throughout the first week, but he’ll need to pop off tonight if the Illini want to pick up a big win here.
Illinois is improved enough that winning tonight wouldn’t be a big surprise. That being said, the Baylor backcourt is the real deal and should be enough to give the Bears an edge here.
- Time/TV: 1:30 PM ET (ESPN)
In the Maui Invitational third place game Indiana will take on Stanford.
When previewing the Indiana and Providence game I mentioned Indiana had issues with shooting consistently and often found themselves relying too heavily on Trayce Jackson-Davis. They took care of business against the Friars but were wrecked by Texas in a game where no one besides Jackson-Davis (17 points) did much of anything. On the day they shot 23.9% from the field, 20% from three and scored 44 points. Almost half of those points came from the free throw line.
Stanford knocked off Alabama in the first round and almost upset #14 North Carolina before falling 63-67, thanks in part to a 23-43 rebound disadvantage. They did force 24 turnovers and held the Tar Heels to 33.3% from three.
This game should be more of the same for Indiana as they will rely heavily on Jackson-Davis and hope to find some shooting from the perimeter. If that happens they are more than capable of beating Stanford just like they did Providence. If we get more of a colder shooting performance it might not be as bad as yesterday, but Stanford has the roster to knock off the Hoosiers. Expect Indiana to play a bit better than yesterday but to struggle just enough from outside to let the Cardinal take third place in the Maui Invitational.
Morehead State Eagles at #23 Ohio State Buckeyes
- Time/TV: 5:00 PM ET (BTN)
Morehead State will face their second ranked opponent when they travel to face Ohio State today. The Eagles finally picked up a win against Arkansas State this weekend after getting blown out by Kentucky and Richmond. Leading the way is freshman Johni Broome, who is averaging 14 points per game. Ohio State will look to bounce back after struggling with UMass-Lowell. The Buckeyes were held to 40% from the field, including only 22.2% from three on 18 attempts. Fortunately for Ohio State, they held a 33-14 free throw advantage in a seven point win. Ohio State will look to work on their shooting against an overmatched Morehead State.
Pick: Ohio State
VCU Rams at Penn State Nittany Lions
- Time/TV: 5:00 PM ET (FS1)
Penn State will get an interesting challenge from a VCU program that hung around with West Virginia and knocked off Memphis in their last outing. Nah’shon Hyland is leading the Rams backcourt with 16 points per game while guard Keshawn Curry is adding an additional 10.7 points and 5 rebounds per game. The Rams have been a bit turnover prone, averaging 15.7 per game, while only shooting 28.6% from three.
Penn State pulled away in their opener against VMI to win by 21 points. Paced by their backcourt, Penn State was led in scoring by Jamari Wheeler. They didn’t shoot particularly well from three outside of Wheeler, though, with the other four starters hitting only 2 of their 11 attempts. Penn State also still has some serious questions inside that seem unlikely to be answered anytime particularly soon. The VCU game should be a good test for a Penn State team that is expected to take a step back this season. It should be close, but I’m leaning towards VCU.
Ball State Cardinals at Michigan Wolverines
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (BTN)
Up next for Michigan will be the Ball State Cardinals. In the Cardinals first game they lost in overtime to Northern Kentucky. Last time out Michigan avoided a horrendous upset and hung on against Oakland in overtime. The Wolverines should fare better tonight, but will need to stop K.J Walton and Ishmael El-Amin. The duo scored 28 and 15 points respectively in their opener. Isaiah Livers has led the Wolverines with 19.5 points per game and will look to do the same as Michigan tries to improve to 3-0.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions at Northwestern Wildcats
- Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (BTN)
Northwestern will finally open their season tonight when they host Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Golden Lions got trounced by Marquette and Wisconsin, losing by a combined 76 points. They fared a bit better against Iowa State, but ultimately lost 63-80. Junior guard Shaun Doss is the only Lion averaging in double figures with 19.3 points per game, while the team is shooting an icy cold 36.2% from the field and 24% from three. While the Wildcats might have a bit of rust to deal with, they get a cupcake to open the season and should be more than capable of handling the 351st best team according to the KenPom ratings.