COLUMBIA, Mo. — The No. 23 ranked Missouri Tigers are preparing for their annual Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis against their rival, the Illinois Fighting Illini. The Tigers come in undefeated on the season at 10-0, while the Illini stand at a 9-2 with a couple of tough losses on the road to Georgia Tech and Oregon.
Mizzou has owned this series recently, winning four games in a row. But that’s nothing compared to the nine in a row that Illinois won before that. Can the Illini swing the balance back into their favor? Let’s examine some of the elements of this game.
Rayvonte Rice has really stepped up and been an asset this year for the Fighting Illini, scoring a season-high 25 points in a game at UNLV that saw him shoot 9-20 from the floor and 3-6 from behind the 3-point line. Rice has averaged 17.7 points per game this season. Mizzou has two big gamers in Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown. Clarkson transferred in from Tulsa and has blossomed into a phenomenal talent now in his junior year. Clarkson got 31 points at home in a game against Southern Illinois and averages 19.4 points per game so far for the Tigers. Brown is averaging 19.0 point per game while being a serious threat from behind the 3-point line. He’s hit a 3-pointer in every game for the Tigers this season.
Illinois won a tough and gritty game at UNLV 61-59. A solid game like that on the road is a huge feather in the cap for the Illini. Mizzou has beaten a ranked opponent as they defeated No. 18 UCLA at home 80-71. Although at home, defeating a UCLA team that beat them last year in overtime was important.
The Illini are shooting a respectable 45% from the field, but Mizzou is averaging 50% of their shots. In fact, the Tigers are averaging 79 points per game while the Illini rank 218th in the country with a 71.5 per game average.They posted a 24-56 field goal mark in their last game against Oregon. .
There’s two guys on the Illinois team that are 6’10″or above, Maverick Morgan who plays about ten minutes per game, and then Nnanna Egwu puts in a good amount of time and scores 8.3 points per game right now. Mizzou on the other hand has four players that are 6’10” or above: Stefan Jankovic, Hayden Barnard, Ryan Rosburg and Keanau Post. This distinct size advantage is evident in the stats as well, as Mizzou ranks 29th in the country in rebounds per game and Illinois ranks 118th.
John Groce is in his second year at Illinois where hes amassed a 32-15 record so far, 0-1 in the Braggin’ Rights game. He came to Illinois after coaching for four seasons with the Ohio Bobcats, taking them to the NCAA tournament in each of their last three seasons. Frank Haith is entering his third season for the Tigers, but his tenth overall as a head coach. Frank Haith now has 192 career wins and a 63-16 overall record while at Mizzou.
Mizzou had a lot of big questions with so many unfamiliar players incoming this year, five total. But Frank Haith is yet again showing why he earned National Coach of the Year honors in his first season with the team; he’s able to keep his guys focused, and they in turn keep finding ways to win. This Tiger teams will win some more games and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them move up in the polls, maybe even to the top-10.
In any event, I’m calling a 86-79 Mizzou win, extending their streak to five games in a row over their non-conference rival.
- Mizzou jumps in to both polls (stavasportsblog.wordpress.com)
- Mizzou Stays Undefeated, Beats Western Michigan 66-60 (fox2now.com)
- Illini Falls at Oregon 71-64 (fox2now.com)