Stephen Cohn: Illinois 74, Missouri 67
Unless Illinois is playing a mid-major, Brad Underwood’s team has not showed the ability to run away against good competition yet this season. That case is going to continue against Missouri, minus Michael Porter Jr. Expect a big game from former Illinois commit Jeremiah Tilmon, though, as he likely goes off for a huge night against what-could-have-been. But a health Leron Black and a bounce-back game from Mark Smith is likely too much for a team still in the bottom of the SEC.
Sean Cler: Missouri 78, Illinois 74
Illinois has a lot of promising things going coming into this game. It seems like they have played everyone close lately and something's got to give. Missouri played Underwoods former team Stephen F. Austin very close this week and squeaked out a win. I have a feeling the Tigers will be on alert after that. Illinois will push them to the limit again, but I think Missouri’s talent level is just at a different level than the Illini at the moment.
Michael Berns: Illinois 70, Missouri 68
The Illini are winners of the last four Braggin’ Rights games in a row, three of those four decided by five points or less. I think we have another nailbiter on our hands. Missouri can score in large bunches. Illinois will pressure Mizzou in turning the ball over, ala Brad Underwood’s style. It’s a sad thing that Michael Porter Jr is not playing; I would have loved to have seen Underwood’s defense key in on one of the most talented young players we’ve seen. In the 2017 version of Braggin’ Rights, Trent Frazier hits the go ahead bucket with just seconds remaining — a classic for the ages.
Austin Jabs: Illinois 62, Missouri 57
I realize that the Illini have lost 5 of their last 7. I realize that Missouri has won 8 of their last 9. The Illini are in desperate need of a win, and what better way to get some momentum than with a marquee win against a rival? I fully expect a monster game from Leron Black and can honestly see a 15 point 15 rebound game on Saturday. Illinois and Missouri match up well on the court, but Underwood is a much better coach than Martin in my opinion, so the edge has to go to the Illini on Saturday.
Brad Repplinger: Miznoz 76, Illinois 71
Here’s the thing…
We (as writers and fans) are not entirely sold on the idea that this team will be “accident-free” from this point forward. What has been a decently optimistic start to the Underwood era has been plagued with errors and miscues that should be easily fixed. The issue? Youth. History shows that young teams get into a bit of trouble when playing in rivalry games, and something smells like another “Northwestern-esque” finish from the Orange and Blue. Hate to be “that guy”, but there’s something in the air that smells like “7 assists all game” and “4 turnovers in the last 30 seconds” heading into this year’s Braggin’ Rights game. Recommended viewing procedure is looking at your TV through the bottom of your eggnog-filled moose mug.
Tristen Kissack: Illinois 78, Mizzou 73
Illinois has won the last four Braggin’ Rights matchups, and the streak continues this year. Missouri turns the ball over to the tune of 15 times per game. I like that stat considering how well the Illini have been defensively. If Illinois can come out and give fans an atypical solid first half, then I think they have a great shot at winning this ball game. This about the time I expected guys to really start getting “it.” The Illini pick up wins against Missouri and Grand Canyon before jumping back into conference play.
Matt O’Neall: Illinois 76, Mizzou 74
New coaches, new players, renewed rivalry. The Tigers size is going to a problem for the Illini. If Michael Porter Jr. was playing, I’d have Missouri winning pretty easily. Illinois has had trouble closing and MPJ would have been one of the better closers in the country this season. I’ve watched all the heartbreaks this season, and my heart has broken each time. So why I am I picking them to win? In order for Illinois to keep breaking their fans hearts, they have to come out and inspire the University and the fan base. I have a feeling this is one of those games.
Brandon Birkhead: Missouri 80, Illinois 75
This certainly feels like a game that Illinois could get blown out of the water quick in. Illinois has been playing badly, and this game seems to be a very bad matchup for Illinois. I am also very concerned with Illinois’ foul issues in a emotional game such as this, and Mizzou can easily win this game on the free throw line if the Illini let them.
That being said, this is a game that is always close. There is just so much emotion in the players, and the crowd is crazy — and will be especially so in the first sellout in years for the game. Illinois will find a way to make it an exciting contest, but until I see this team execute well in late game situations, I can’t pick them in close games. Mizzou pulls it out late.