A surprise pairing will meet for the Maui Invitational title on Wednesday night while the pre-tourney favorites are relegated to action in the consolation bracket. Can Butler continue its run or will Illinois bring the hardware home for the holidays? Check out our preview and pick.

We're used to seeing Butler take down a top-ranked marquee program. Still, it's shocking when anyone runs roughshod over North Carolina in the manner the Bulldogs did Tuesday, wiping the Tar Heels out of a shot at the Maui Invitational crown. 

Kellen DunhamInstead of an ACC-Big 12 matchup for the championship as the odds suggested before the tournament got underway, it will be A-10 vs. Big Ten when Butler tangles with Illinois for the title. The Bulldogs find their way into the finals after a buzzer-beater on Monday followed by their 82-71 thrashing of the Heels Wednesday. 

Illinois reaches the decisive battle after beating Southern Cal in the opener and tourney host Chaminade on Tuesday, 84-61.  While the sponsors didn't get the North Carolina-Texas clash for the championship, Chaminade is certainly enjoying the opportunity to take on the big boys.  The Silverswords shocked the Longhorns in Round 1, and will now get to try their luck against the Tar Heels in the 3rd-4th place consolation on Wednesday. 

Opening odds had Illinois -1.5 with a 133.5 point total. 

North Carolina gets part of the blame for the loss to Butler. The Tar Heels came out a bit cold, missing 10 of their first 14 field goal attempts, and were particularly sloppy for several minutes in the middle of the first half. But more credit for the victory goes to Butler than blame goes to UNC. The Bulldogs made their 3-pointers count (12-for-25) and took advantage of Carolina's first half sloppiness. Butler also sank all six of their first-half free throws while UNC never made it to the line until the 13:13 mark of the second stanza. 

Illinois has definitely enjoyed a softer run into the title game than Butler. Wins over the Trojans and D-II Silverswords won't look near as big next March as the resume that the Bulldogs have built so far against Marquette and UNC. John Groce, eager to impress in his first season at the helm in Champaign, understands that and should have his squad prepared mentally as if they were going to meet North Carolina instead of Butler. 

The key for Illinois will be denying the Bulldogs' Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham clean looks from long-range.  That pair shot 9-of-15 from beyond the arc in the upset of the Tar Heels, and the defensive task will fall on seniors DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul for the Illini. 

My pick: Over 133.5 at BetOnline