College Basketball Odds & Picks for Illinois vs. Baylor: Bet the Bears to Down the Illini

College Basketball Odds & Picks for Illinois vs. Baylor: Bet the Bears to Down the Illini article feature image
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David Becker/Getty Images. Pictured: MaCio Teague.

  • We are gifted another matchup between college basketball powerhouses on Wednesday, as No. 2 Baylor battles No. 5 Illinois in the Jimmy V Classic.
  • Scott Drew has changed the Bears' philosophy recently to complement Baylor's three guards, while Illinois brings a formidable opposing duo in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn.
  • Check out BJ Cunningham's full betting preview with updated odds below.

Illinois vs. Baylor Odds

Illinois Odds +4.5 [BET NOW]
Baylor Odds -4.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +165 / -200 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 143.5 [BET NOW]
Time Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds as of Wednesday evening and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today.

In the nightcap of the Jimmy V Classic, we will be treated to an early top-five matchup as Illinois squares off against Baylor.

Outside of Gonzaga, Baylor has been the most impressive team to start the season with blowout wins over Louisiana and Washington. The Bears are absolutely loaded heading into the season and are the favorites to capture their first Big 12 regular-season title in the school’s history. Scott Drew loses only one starter from last year’s roster and may have the best backcourts in the country. That will come in handy on Wednesday when it faces one of the best guards in the country in Ayo Dosunmu.

Brad Underwood has completely transformed Illinois back into the powerhouse it once was. The Illini won more than 21 games last season for the first time since 2013 and were one of the hottest teams in the country heading into the conference tournament before everything got shut down. They have two legit NBA talents in Kofi Cockburn and Dosunmu returning, so Illinois is going to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten.

Illinois Fighting Illini

The reason the Illini rose to prominence last season was because of their drastic improvement on the defensive end of the floor. Underwood switched to a full pack-line defense (similar to what Virginia runs), and it paid huge dividends. Illinois improved from 108th in defensive efficiency in 2018-19 to 35th in 2019-20, per KenPom. Having a 7-foot, 290-pound Cockburn in the middle of its defense also seems to make a difference.

The 2020-21 season is going to be the Dosunmu and Cockburn show in Champaign. Both players flirted with the NBA before deciding to return for another collegiate season. However, those two are going to have their hands full on Wednesday against Baylor’s starting five.

Another big change Underwood made from 2018-19 to 2019-20 is slowing down the pace. Illinois went from 52nd in tempo to 266th, which turned out to be a positive change, as the Illini improved their offensive efficiency.

For Illinois to be successful in this game, everything is going to have to run through Cockburn because Baylor doesn’t have anyone near his size. Baylor’s guards as a whole are significantly better than Illinois’, so I think Dosunmu is going to struggle.


Baylor Bears

The reason Baylor was one of the best teams in the country last season was because Scott Drew changed his philosophy. Drew’s previous teams were some of the biggest in the nation and tried to win with size and athleticism. However, last season, Drew went with a small-ball approach that worked wonders, mainly because he has the best three-guard combination in the country.

Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, and MaCio Teague all return to the Bears’ backcourt. The trio combined to average 39.8 points and 10.5 assists, but their real strength lies on the defensive end of the floor. In 2019-20, the Bears owned the fourth-best defensive efficiency in the country and were top-25 in effective field goal percentage allowed, 2-point percentage allowed, turnover percentage, and steal percentage. Their trio of guards should be able to shut Dosunmu down and dominate on the offensive end of the floor.

The only issue potential issue Baylor is going to have in this game is stopping Cockburn. Baylor ranked 261st in offensive rebound percentage allowed in 2019-20 and doesn’t have the size to match Cockburn.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Outside of Gonzaga, Baylor is the most complete team in the country and should be able to dominate Illinois’ backcourt on Wednesday. The Illini are too reliant on their two stars, which is fine against most teams but not against a squad as good as Baylor.

I have Baylor projected as -7.03 favorites on Wednesday, so I think there’s value on the Bears at -5.

Pick: Baylor -5 (up to -5.5).

[Bet Baylor now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]