College Basketball Picks: Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Missouri Tigers, Braggin’ Rights Preview

No. 24 Illinois Fighting Illini at No. 8 Missouri Tigers
Thursday, 12/22/11, 9:00 PM EST, TV:  ESPN2
Opening Point Spread:  Missouri -6
Current Betting Line:  Missouri -7
Opening Total:  138.5
Current Total:  138
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

The Missouri Tigers are one of six remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball

Illinois bounced back from its first loss of the season to capture a 64-60 victory over Cornell as 16.5-point home favorites on Monday.  The Fighting Illini will now look to snap a two-game losing streak in this particular series.  “We’re the underdog,” stated Fighting Illini head coach Bruce Weber.  “We’ll see if we can keep it close.  It’s not going to be easy.”  The program still owns a 20-10 advantage in Braggin’ Rights games played in St. Louis.  Illinois is 3-13 ATS on a neutral court the last two-plus seasons.

The Fighting Illini are led offensively by D.J. Richardson, who is averaging 14.4 points per game, which is an 8.4-point improvement from his scoring average of a year ago.  Four players career a double-figure scoring average and at least 10 players average at least nine minutes on the roster.  It’s important to note that the squad’s only loss came against a high-regarded UNLV team, as it will need to dictate the tempo in this particular contest.

Missouri looks to improve to 12-0 in the 2011-12 season and will play inside the Scottrade Center Thursday night.  The Tigers are one of six unbeaten teams and the first in the Big 12 Conference to reach the 11-win mark.  First-year head coach Frank Haith is ready to experience one of the biggest rivalries in college sports.  “It’s going to have an NCAA tournament feel, is what I hear,” Haith commented this week.  “This is a game that will help a team.”  Offensively, the team is third nationally and first in the Big 12 in shooting 52.6 percent from the floor.  Missouri is 3-0 ATS when playing on a neutral court this year.

The Tigers lead the country in outscoring opponents by a 27.7-point margin, while sitting second in scoring 87.9 points per game.  Three starters are averaging double-digits in scoring, with senior guard Marcus Denmon leading the way in scoring 19.6 points per game.  Denmon and Kim English have combined to make 66 of the Tigers’ 94 three-point field goals.  The duo are tied for first in the Big 12 Conference in averaging 3.0 makes from beyond the arc a contest.

Bettors will likely back the Fighting Illini due to their 8-3 ATS mark as an underdog of 7 to 12.5 points, while the Tigers are 2-5 ATS when the total is 130 to 139.5.

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