CHAMPAIGN — The fifth-ranked Fighting Illini men’s basketball team is in Indianapolis preparing for Tuesday night’s matchup against second-ranked Baylor.
It’s the first top-five matchup for Illinois since the team’s Final Four season in 2005. Junior guard Ayo Dosunmu calls the contest against Baylor a “legacy game.”
“I think in five, ten years people will still remember it. Number five Illinois played number two Baylor. ‘I watched them get a win,’ you know with COVID, so many different things,” Dosunmu said. “You never know when it (the season) could end, so I’m just trying to enjoy every step of this journey.”
The team traveled late last night before sequestering itself in an Indianapolis hotel. Head coach Brad Underwood wasn’t thrilled about that, because of the increased COVID risk.
“I’m trying to find a way to travel day of (the game) in some conference games, so we can avoid hotels and all that possibility of exposure,” Underwood said.
Underwood says he has a long history with Baylor head coach Scott Drew.
“I’ve known Scott for almost 30 years,” Underwood said. “My days at Western Illinois and his days working for his dad at Valpo (Valparaiso),” Underwood said. “It’s a great challenge. They’re number two in the country for a reason. In my opinion, he doesn’t get near enough credit for how good a coach he is.”
Illinois and Baylor is the second game of the Jimmy V Classic, played to raise money for cancer research in honor of the late coach Jim Valvano. It’s scheduled to start at 9:00pm central time, after #1 Gonzaga faces #11 West Virginia in the first game of the night.
Rob McColley covers University of Illinois athletics for WILL.