Last season the Missouri Tigers snapped a nine-game Illinois Fighting Illini winning streak in the Busch Braggin' Rights game. This season the two teams enter the game with 10 wins each, marking the first time in NCAA basketball this season that two double-digit win teams will square off.
Missouri (10-1) is coming off a completely dominating performance, where they set a Mizzou Arena record with 116 points scored in a blowout win over Central Arkansas. It was the second blowout win in as many games for the Tigers, after sweating a few out early on.
Illinois (10-2), on the other hand, is coming off a humiliating 57-54 loss to the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames. Prior to that loss the Illini were playing pretty good ball, having defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs and North Carolina Tar Heels, while only falling to the Texas Longhorns in OT.
With a visible dividing line separating the Black and Gold faithful from the Orange and Blue, this is one of the best annual non-conference games in the country. Having been played annually since 1980, the Illini hold a decisive 20-9 series edge, though the games have been a lot closer than the record indicates.
Those in Tiger stripes are hoping head coach Mike Anderson reinstates sophomore guard Mike Dixon, Jr. , who has missed the past two games while being suspended for violating team rules. Adding to the need for Dixon to return is news that freshman guard Phil Pressey fractured a finger during practice on Sunday and is out for two weeks. With Lil Press out and Dixon's status up in the air, Mizzou will need guards Marcus Denmon and Matt Pressey to D-up against Illini guard Demetri McCamey.
McCamey is a physical guard who is averaging 15.8 ppg and 7.2 apg. McCamey's backcourt mate, and second leading scorer, D.J. Richardson nets 12 ppg. Conversely, the two Illini guards will have their hand full of Tigers, who as a team average 18.4 apg, which ranks eighth in the country.
The Illini's frontcourt is anchored by a pair averaging 10.3 ppg a piece. Mike Davis, 6'9, and 7'1 Mike Tisdale will have to utilize their size in order to match-up with Mizzou's athletic 6'8 forwards, Laurence Bowers and Ricardo Ratliffe. Expect Kim English to play aggressive helpside defense to contain the Illini big men.
The two squads come into the game both ranked for the seventh time in the life of the series, with Illinois holding a 6-0 advantage in those games. Mizzou is currently ninth in the AP poll, while Illinois is 21st.
Tip is set for 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday and can be seen on ESPN 2 (though if you're in StL and don't go you should turn in your college basketball fandom card).