Illinois Looks to Win its 6th Straight in the Annual Braggin’ Rights Game against the Missouri Tigers

The Illinois Fighting Illini and the Missouri Tigers will face off yet again at the Enterprise Center in Saint Louis, Missouri for the annual Braggin’ Rights game. This series first began in the 1980’s with the Illini winning the matchup 84-62. Since then there have been some fantastic games like the 108-107 triple-overtime game where the Missouri Tigers were victorious , and who could forget the recent Rayvonte Rice step-back three point jumper to sink Missouri as time expired in 2014. Illinois has been dominant in the last few years winning every game in the series since the 2013-2014 season. Currently, the Fighting Illini lead the series 25-12 and would be looking to win their sixth straight.

Some fans believe that the Braggin’ Rights game has lacked some of its luster in recent years as both basketball programs have been going through rebuilding years. I have heard rumors that this year’s game will be back to normal attendance which will bring back one of the great atmospheres in all of college basketball rivalry games.

THE MISSOURI TIGERS

The Missouri Tigers (7-3) come into the Braggin’ Rights game straight off a 71-56 victory against the Xavier Musketeers on Tuesday night. Infamous to Illinois fans, Missouri C Jeremiah Tilmon had a career game scoring 23 points on 10-13 shooting while also grabbing 10 rebounds. Former Illinois guard and Mr. Illinois Basketball winner Mark Smith has also been enjoying a strong start to the season averaging 12 points per game, 6 rebounds a game, while shooting 47% from three point range. For Smith, it will be a pretty special game for him Saturday as he’ll have an opportunity to prove his former Head Coach Brad Underwood wrong about letting him leave the program.

Finally, Mizzou’s most important player might be senior guard Jordan Geist as he is the most experienced player on this Mizzou roster. During the season Geist is averaging 12.7 points per game, 4.3 rebounds a game, and 2.4 assists a game. Two years ago, Geist scored his Braggin’ Rights career high of 12 points in a loss to the Illini. This will be his last year to try and break that spell of no Braggin’ Rights victories in his time at Missouri.

Projected Starting 5:

G Mark Smith So.

G Jordan Geist Sr.

G Javon Pickett So.

F Kevin Puryear Sr.

C Jeremiah Tilmon So.

Under the Radar Player to Watch:

G Torrence Watson Fr.

THE ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI

The Illinois Fighting Illini (4-7) have been playing better as of late as they are currently riding a two game win streak against the UNLV Running Rebels and the East Tennessee State Buccaneers. In both games, the Illini had solid half-time leads before playing less than stellar second halves. Playing a full forty minute game is something that this group needs to keep working on, granted they were without three significant players against ETSU in freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu, freshman guard Alan Griffin, and freshman small forward Tevian Jones. Dosunmu and Griffin are both expected to play against Missouri while Jones’ situation is still up in the air.

Trent Frazier has been fantastic in his last two games despite his recent 3-4 game slump. The sophomore guard is averaging 15.4 points per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, and 3.4 assists per game. He will have to have another strong performance if the Illini are to pull off their 6th straight victory in the series. Another pleasant surprise for Illini fans is the play of freshman forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili as he has emerged as a leader on and off the court for this young Illini squad. If he can clean up the fouls, his offensive versatility will be a huge asset to Underwood’s offense.

Projected Starting 5:

G Ayo Dosunmu Fr.

G Trent Frazier So.

G Aaron Jordan Sr.

F Kipper Nichols

F Giorgi Bezhanishvili

Under the Radar Player to Watch:

F Samba Kane Fr.

Major Storyline

Once thought to be the next great duo in orange and blue, the matchup of Trent Frazier and Mark Smith will be one that will intrigue many. When Smith came to Illinois he was the face of the program and many fans believed he’d finally be that state player that would take the program back to the promise land. Things didn’t workout that way despite Underwood continuously comparing Smith to Jason Kidd. Smith then decided that he would transfer out of Illinois once Trent Frazier became the face of the program. Once Smith decided to transfer to Missouri, he became one of the most infamous individuals in Illinois history; rivaling former Iowa Assistant Bruce Pearl for his recruiting antics with the Illini. All eyes will be on him as he returns to face his former teammates.

Prediction

Neither team is great this year but that won’t take anything away from how competitive this rivalry game will be. Expect things to get a bit chippy at times as both teams will be trying to establish their game plans. It’ll be a battle between the strengths of both teams; the guard play of the Illini and the forward play for Missouri. Last year, the Illini owned the first half with a 20 point half-time lead over the Missouri Tigers before Mizzou clawed themselves back in and fell just short of completing the comeback in the second half. I’m picking this game to come down to the wire as it almost always does.

Prediction

Illinois 67 Missouri 66

Line: Illinois -1.0

O/U: 139

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s