ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (12-0)
vs. MISSOURI TIGERS (9-1)
St. Louis, MO
Tip-off: Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Line: Missouri -1.5, Total: 142.5
The Braggin' Rights game has even more luster than usual on Saturday, as it features two of the best teams in the nation with No. 10 Illinois taking on No. 12 Missouri.
This series has been played annually since 1983, but the Tigers have had the upper hand recently with three straight victories. However, the Illini are 12-0 SU so far this season, including 4-1 ATS in non-home games. This includes an impressive double-digit win at then-No. 10 Gonzaga. Missouri has ripped off five straight wins (2-2 ATS) since its lone loss of the season to Louisville, currently ranked fifth in the nation.
Which top-12 team will come out on top Saturday? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The StatFox experts continue to roll in the past eight days, posting a collective 36-16-1 ATS (69%) since Dec. 14. StatFox Scott is 8-2-1 ATS (80%) over this stretch, while StatFox Dave is 14-5 ATS (74%) in these eight days. The experts now have a collective 54.2% ATS mark (150-127-6) in college basketball Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Gary, who is 7-1 ATS since Monday, and sits at 61% ATS (33-21) for the season, while Dave is at 56% ATS (56-44-2) on the year.
The Illini are led by dynamic PG Brandon Paul who averages 18.8 PPG of the team's 76.9 PPG (43rd in D-I). Paul has scored in double-figures in every game, while also leading Illinois in both rebounds (5.1 RPG) and assists (3.5 APG). Illinois grabs just 36.6 RPG (129th in nation) with a weak frontcourt. Senior SG D.J. Richardson is second on the team in both scoring (11.5 PPG) and rebounding (4.6 RPG) despite standing just 6-foot-3. C Nnanna Egwu, who is 6-foot-11, blocked four shots in Sunday's 66-53 win over Eastern Kentucky, but pulled down just two boards in 28 minutes of action. Starting PF Tyler Griffey averages a mere 3.5 RPG in his 23.5 MPG.
Missouri has a couple players with experience in this rivalry. PG Phil Pressey (12.3 PPG, 5.8 APG) was the star in last year's 78-74 win with 18 points and five assists. PF Laurence Bowers (team-high 16.3 PPG) has played in this series three times, with 13 points and nine rebounds in a 75-64 Tigers victory two years ago. Bowers has been outstanding in the past four games with 19.5 PPG (62% FG, 7-of-9 threes). His 6.4 RPG is also a big reason why his team ranks 4th in the nation in rebounding margin (+13.3 RPG) and have the 7th-most offensive boards in the land (16.1 per game). C Alex Oriakhi has also been a glass eater with 8.6 RPG to go along with his 10.6 PPG (51% FG). Oregon transfer G Jabari Brown made his Tigers debut on Monday with 12 points in the 102-51 pounding of South Carolina State, but he made just 3-of-9 FG and 1-of-7 threes. Missouri makes just 33.1% of its threes with Bowers (60%) as the only player above 40% from downtown.