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Braggin’ Rights preview: Illinois vs. Mizzou

Missouri (5-5)
29-16 overall, 22-12 in Braggin’ Rights games
Tip: 6 p.m. CST in St. Louis

Let’s be optimists here. (1) The Braggin’ Rights game is always awesome, whether because of the big ass trophy or the Scottrade Center visibly split Yellow and Orange, the game never disappoints. (2) Illinois has a 4-game win streak (nevermind how they got there). (3) Illinois has won the last two Braggin’ Rights contests. (4) Mizzou is ranked lower in RPI, by KenPom, scores less per game, and has won fewer games coming into tonight’s matchup.

If we’re being a little less optimistic, however, this game lacks some of the sparkle of previous contests. Until I looked it up, I had completely forgotten that both of these teams were ranked just three years ago, when #12 Missouri beat #10 Illinois. Both teams have fallen on hard times since. BUT they’ve fallen together, so at least this game is a match-up of roughly equivalent teams.

The Tigers are currently on a 9-game losing streak against Power 5 opponents and, like Illinois, bring a lot of fresh faces to this edition of the Braggin’ Rights game. While they’ve been better than Illinois on the defensive end (just like 256 other Division I schools), their offense has sorely lacked firepower this year: leading scorer Kevin Puryear, a freshman forward, has just 12.1 points per game. If Illinois can avoid any lulls in offense and keep Mizzou from getting any big hot streaks, this could be another win for Groce et al.

Projected lineups

Mizzou: Wes Clark, guard; Namon Wright, guard; Terrence Phillips, guard; Ryan Rosburg, forward; Kevin Puryear, forward

Illinois: Jaylon Tate, guard; Kendrick Nunn, guard; Jalen Coleman-Lands, guard; Malcolm Hill, guard; Michael Finke, forward

Bold prediction

Like South Dakota, Mizzou doesn’t overwhelm with size. So, I think this could be another game where Illinois has some success on rebounding. Yale caused some difficulty because they got second chances and prevented Illinois from getting the same, but if that is less of an issue against Mizzou, the Illini could benefit.

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