The Missouri Tigers are ranked ninth in the nation in men's college basketball. They will take on the Illinois Illini in the 31st annual Braggin' Rights game Dec. 22 in St. Louis . Both teams are doing well on the season. Missouri is undefeated at 11-0. Illinois is 11-1 and ranked 25th in the country.
The Missouri Tigers have dominated every game they've played, including wins over California and Villanova. They've not scored less than 80 points in every game. The Braggin' Rights game is an annual tradition in St. Louis as the border states have both of their largest public institutions go at it in college basketball.
Illinois leads the all-time series 20-10 since the game moved to St. Louis. Missouri has won the last two games in the series. Illinois' website states the Illini are 13-4 in the series in St. Louis when ranked in the top 25. Historically, Illinois has the advantage. But not in 2011.
Illinois uses stingy defense to win games. Missouri uses a wide open offense. One unmovable force has to give in what should be one of the best basketball games of the year for the Tigers.
A win against a quality Illinois club will give the team momentum going into Big 12 Conference play in early January. Missouri has had more rest than Illinois having last played Dec. 18. Illinois has played twice since Dec. 17, a loss against UNLV and then a win against Cornell. Missouri will be more rested and ready to play.
Bench play will be the key to a Tigers' victory. All five starters average eight points or more per game, with three in double figures. Missouri's bench has around 22 points per game versus just 14 for Illinois. Super sub Michael Dixon plays 26 minutes for Missouri and averages 12.4 points, 3.2 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
Missouri will have to play its best game of the year to beat Illinois. There are no classes right now, so the players can focus purely on basketball. In terms of talent and togetherness, Missouri should easily win against Illinois. I predict an 80-67 victory. Both teams should get near their offensive average in points scored in what should be a dandy of a Braggin' Rights game.
William Browning is a lifelong Missouri resident originally from St. Louis. He attended the University of Missouri in the late 1980s and is a fan of all Mizzou Tigers sports. He currently resides in Branson.