In just the first full week of College Basketball, we already get a top 5 matchup with Final Four potential. In the Sideline Sports preseason preview, I picked Baylor and Illinois to reach the final four, and we rank them #2 and #4 in our Top 25. From a fan perspective, we get a potential preview of that early on in the season, a treat within itself.
How did we get here?
Baylor started their season with matchups against Arizona State, and potentially Villanova canceled due to their Head Coach, Scott Drew, testing positive for COVID-19. The Bears were able to resume basketball activities and get two 30+ point victories vs. Louisiana-Lafayette and Washington. Scott Drews will be back on the sidelines tonight for the Bears.
As for Illinois, they started their year off with a 62 point win against NC A&T, a 59 point win against Chicago State, and then the following day escaped a scare from Ohio with a 2 point victory credited to late free throws by Ayo Dosunmu.
3 Keys to the Game
1. Jared Butler vs. Ayo Dosunmu
Jared Butler and Ayo Dosunmu are both All-American candidates who will go head to head in this matchup. There won’t be a heavy reliance on these two guards with other top 50 players around them (MaCio Teague and Kofi Cockburn), but if one can be limited, the advantage goes to whoever shuts them down.
2. Baylor Pick and Roll
Baylor last year ran numerous sets with Jared Butler working a PnR game with center Freddie Gillespie, who has now graduated. This type of offense is the offense that has to be run to score on Illinois. The sole reason Kofi Cockburn is back in college is his inability to defend the pick and roll. Ohio guard Jason Preston had a field day against him due to his slow feet, where Preston got himself in numerous 1-on-1 situations with Cockburn, where he was able to find his way to the rim. If Baylor can exploit this and find easy buckets at the edge for Jared Butler or MaCio Teague, expect a high scoring battle.
3. Adam Flagler
Flagler sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules but has been a significant piece to the Bears team off the bench thus far. The Presbyterian transfer has averaged 14.5 ppg, 4.0 apg, and 3.0 rpg through his first two games. With the guards’ battle, Flagler can be a crucial bench piece that could be relied on if Butler struggles vs. Dosunmu.