Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey. He’ll offer up insights every morning on Brad Underwood’s team:
The state of the Jimmy V Classic is peak college basketball scheduling in 2020.
Part of the field has already changed. Gonzaga is still set to play Tennessee, but Baylor will reportedly face Illinois instead of Rutgers. The location of the games has also changed. First was New York City. Then in the Orlando bubble. And now, per CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein, on Dec. 2 in Indianpolis.
Should the Jimmy V Classic go off as now scheduled, that would mean two high profile games for Illinois in less than a week. Two games against likely top 10 teams in the country — Baylor on Dec. 2 and at Duke on Dec. 8 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
A few thoughts on Illinois-Baylor:
— Not only are both teams likely to be ranked in the top 10 when they play, but they also feature an All-American guard at the top. Jared Butler is Baylor's answer to the Illini's Ayo Dosunmu. Both, maybe somewhat surprisingly, opted out of the NBA draft and for another year of college basketball.
— Odds are Butler won't be guarding Dosunmu. It will not be surprising to see Baylor throw redshirt senior guard Mark Vital — arguably one of the top defenders in the country — at Dosunmu.
— The Bears have some familiar names on their roster in former Illinois targets Flo Thamba and Dain Dainja. Both could factor into Baylor's frontcourt, which is really the only part of the lineup coach Scott Drew has to rebuild.
— It will be more a game of dueling backcourts, though. Baylor will pair Vital, Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague and now-eligible Presbyterian transfer Adam Flagler with Butler, while Dosunmu is joined by an equally as deep group including Trent Frazier, Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo (not to mention Da'Monte Williams and Austin Hutcherson).
— The X-factor for Baylor might be 6-foot-10, 235-pound senior center Tristan Clark. Last season he was still dealing with his recovery from a knee injury that cost him half his sophomore year. Healthy, he's a double-double threat.
— Brad Underwood should like this Baylor roster just for the number of players with ridiculous wingspans, which the Bears actually list. Shoutout to them. Baylor has six players with a 7-foot wingspan or better, including Dainja (7-7 wingspan at 6-9), Thamba (7-5 at 6-10) and now-eligible UNLV transfer Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (7-3 at 6-8).