Tonight is the annual Braggin’ Rights game between the Fighting Illini and the hated Mizzou Tigers, with Missouri having won the last three meetings. Although it seems hard to remember now, this game was once considered a romp for Illinois as they won 9 in row until 2008.
These games are always contentious and miserable to watch for the losing team. Last year’s game swung on a ridiculous intentional foul call on noted beanpole Mike Tisdale (who was recently picked up by the 76ers?!), and the Tigers closed it out on a 13-3 run to win 75-64. This was the game after the 2010 Illini lost to instate ‘rival’ UIC in one of the worst games Illini fans can remember.
Tonight’s game sets up in similar fashion, with the Illini playing terribly in their last couple of games including another loss at the United Center. Playing there was supposedly a genius recruiting move. I’ll let you judge how well that’s worked out.
Missouri is currently the 9th ranked team in the nation, sporting an 11-0 record and an average margin of victory of 28 points. First year head coach Frank Haith has his team firing on all cylinders thus far. Senior guards Marcus Denmon and Kim English are averaging 19.6 and 16.0 ppg respectively.
On the other hand, the No. 24 Illini come in at 11-1 with a 16 point neutral court loss to UNLV on their record. The lineup for the Illini should be the same as it has been all year: Maniscalco, Richardson, Paul, Griffey, and Leonard. Bruce Weber said he will play 4 guards at points during the game to match the quicker Mizzou team, so we’ll see how that plays out.
The current line in Vegas is Mizzou by 7.5, and if I was a betting man I’d take the Tigers minus the points. Here’s hoping the Illini will prove me wrong.
Game Time: 8:05 p.m. CT, ESPN2