The NCAA Committee on Infractions yesterday placed the University of Illinois basketball team on three years' probation, including a ban from the NCAA tournament this season and severe limitations on recruiting and scholarships the next two years.

However, Illinois escaped the so-called "death penalty" as a repeat offender following its third major infractions case in six years -- the other two involved football -- because the committee dismissed the two most serious charges and found mitigating circumstances to override minimum penalties for repeat offenders passed by the NCAA membership in 1985.

Those dismissed charges alleged that assistant coach Jimmy Collins offered cars and cash to two top recruits, Deon Thomas and LaPhonso Ellis.

"The committee determined after considering all the information . . . that the standard of proof prescribed {in the bylaws} had not been satisfied," the infractions report said.

Illinois Chancellor Morton Weir said the school won't appeal. It "probably would not succeed, whereas we're sure it would lengthen the process and simply draw it out to a conclusion that would be no different than the one we now face," he said.

The violations found by the NCAA include improper off-campus recruiting contacts; three players getting car loans from an auto dealership owned by a booster, who did not require full credit information; improper use of complimentary admissions; and the sale of NCAA tournament tickets to high school coaches whose players Illinois was recruiting.

Although the NCAA determined there were no "unique circumstances" in the Illinois case, it decided the crimes did not fit the punishment and there were mitigating curcumstances because Illinois uncovered some violations and imposed its own sanctions on the coaches.

Under the sanctions imposed, the Illini will not be allowed any paid recruiting visits or off-campus recruiting in basketball for the calender year 1991. Only Coach Lou Henson and one assistant will be allowed to recruit off campus in 1992. Collins is banned from recruiting for two years, retroactive to September 1989.

The NCAA also accepted Illinois' self-imposed sanctions of withholding pay raises for Henson and his staff until May and forbidding them to receive bonuses for the Illini's participation in the 1990 NCAA tournament.

Illinois also will be allowed to issue only two scholarships each of the next two years. That comes as an immediate blow to Henson, who took the Illini to the Final Four two years ago. "A week from today, we probably would be signing five players," Henson said. "Now we have to tell those young men and their parents that some won't get scholarships because of the sanctions."

The two most serious charges involved allegations that Collins offered Thomas use of a car and $80,000 and offered Ellis a car and $5,000 a year. Thomas enrolled at Illinois, but sat out last season as a redshirt; Ellis went to Notre Dame.

In another infractions development, the NCAA said it will announce sanctions on the Missouri basketball program at 10 a.m. today. The institution has admitted that assistant coach Bob Sundvold purchased a plane ticket for a player. An unspecified number of other infractions are alleged. Missouri is the only Big Eight school never to be on probation.