College Basketball Odds – Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Missouri Tigers Game Preview
By Steven Wisner of North Shore Sports, INC
BookMaker is the only online sportsbook where you can get the earliest betting spreads, totals, moneylines and props. If you want to wager on NCAA lines like the pros do, you need to join BookMaker today! The matchup between the Illinois Fighting Illini and Missouri Tigers will take place Wednesday, December 23, 2015, at 7 p.m. ET at the Scottrade Center. You can watch the game live on ESPN2.
These two teams will meet each other in St. Louis for the Bud Light Braggin’ Rights Game. These teams have been matching up in late December since 1980. Illinois has won the last two outright, but Missouri has covered the spread in four of the last six meetings.
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HOW THE ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI CAN COVER THE SPREAD
Coming into action, the Illini have won four straight games, including a 91-79 victory over South Dakota that gave them the win both SU and ATS.
For the Fighting Illini to find success in this match-up, they’ll need to focus on the offensive side of the court and outshoot the Tigers.
Illinois’s defense has been well below average, but on offense, the team is shooting a very respectable 45.6 percent from the floor and is particularly effective from long range.
Guards Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn lead the team in scoring with 18.5 and 18.4 PPG respectively. Most recently, Hill put up 34-points and 11-rebounds against South Dakota to accrue his second double-double of the season.
In addition to being the team’s leading scorer, Hill is also tops in assists with 48, steals with 18, blocks with 11 and is second in rebounds with 5.8.
Given Hill’s dominance on the outside and Nunn’s high scoring average, the Illini will have a good chance at winning the battle on the outside. Then, all they’ll need is to hold their own down low.
HOW THE MISSOURI TIGERS CAN COVER THE SPREAD
Illinois will be playing without forward Mike Thorne Jr. who’s out with a knee injury. Without the big man, the Illini are vastly overmatched in the paint and on defense as Thorne was the team’s leading rebounder.
The Tigers have the edge on the boards without Thorne, but neither team have been rebounding machines early on. Whoever ends up winning the battle of the glass will hold the upper hand overall.
Defensively, the Tigers have been a bit better than the Illini, holding the opposition to 41.2 percent shooting from the floor, but on offense Missouri is averaging just 68.8 PPG.
Offensive struggles aside, the Tigers are the healthier team and have Kevin Puryear leading the team in scoring down low, shooting 50.6 percent from the floor and averaging 12.1 PPG. He should match up well with whoever Illinois throws out there to body up with him.
In the backcourt, the Tigers don’t have the talent to matchup directly with Hill and Nunn, but Missouri does have quite a bit of depth on the outside. Terrence Phillips is the team’s next highest scorer with 9.4 PPG and he also has 14 steals. Meanwhile, Wes Clark leads the team in assists with 32.
Illinois’ defense is troublesome, but the Tigers’ aren’t a whole lot better in that department. Look for the Illini to put up the better offensive numbers with Nunn and Hill the two best players on the court.
The duo should allow Illinois to dominate along the perimeter while Hill’s rebounding ability will help give the Fighting Illini the chances it needs to overcome Missouri.
While the Illini are the better team and should get the win, keep an eye on where the spread falls. This should be a close game. Illinois has bounced back in SU competition with four straight wins, but as a team, the Illini are still having issues covering the spread, going just 1-3-2 ATS in their last six games.
Illinois 75, Missouri 70