Monday, December 22, 2008

Something to Brag About

The annual Border War between Mizzou and Illinois is, in my very biased opinion, one of the best non-conference rivalries in college basketball. And this year's Braggin Rights game has the potential to be a good one.

Mizzou comes into the game ranked #25 in the AP poll. The Illini are riding an 8-game winning streak, having won every year since 1999.

The Tigers have just one loss on the season -- to Xavier. Illinois has just one loss on the season -- to Clemson. Both Xavier and Clemson are currently ranked, Xavier at #12 and Clemson at #22.

Mizzou is shooting 48.2% on the season (36.4% from 3), while holding opponents to 39%. Illinois is shooting 48.6% on the season (39.1% from 3), while holding opponents to 39.4%. The Tigers average 20.4 assists per game, while the Illini average 19.7 assists per game.

Mike Anderson's team has a clear edge in rebounding and has stronger inside players. Bruce Weber's boys have been shooting really, really well in recent games, especially from 3-point range. Both coaches have teams that are fighting to regain national respect, and both teams are much better than they were last year. Both teams will have half the Scottrade Center behind them.

Given all this, the winner really will have something to brag about.

To win, the Illini will need to play with the defensive intensity they showed in the second half of the Detroit game and limit turnovers. Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale will be under more pressure than they have faced, and Alex Legion will be glad he got his first game as an Illini out of the way. Let's hope he worked through some of his jitters.

Should be a good game. Go Illini!


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