Illinois vs Missouri Odds, Picks: Target This Team Total

Illinois vs Missouri Odds, Picks: Target This Team Total article feature image

Photo by Lance King/Getty Images. Pictured: Terrence Shannon Jr. (Illinois)

Illinois vs Missouri Odds

Thursday, Dec. 22
9 p.m. ET
SEC Network
Illinois Odds
-115o / -105u
Missouri Odds
-115o / -105u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Can Missouri find some form defensively against a talented Illinois roster?

Will the Fighting Illini rekindle the form that led to impressive victories over UCLA and Texas?

Here's why I think an admittedly improved Mizzou team under Dennis Gates will still have a difficult time finding an elusive victory over another key rival.

Illinois Fighting Illini

A strong start for the Illini included quality wins against potential No. 1 seeds on neutral courts — UCLA and Texas. Those highs have since given way to the sour taste that emerged after getting trounced at home by Penn State.

Brad Underwood has since made some notable comments regarding team chemistry and the search for answers. Illini fans and message boards all seem to be fearing this is a deja vu storyline from past seasons — early hope followed by a slow decline as the year progresses.

Still, Illinois is the only team in the country that boasts two KenPom top-10 wins. This team has talent in droves, and all was seeming to mesh well despite having nine new additions to this year's roster.

Matthew Mayer and Terrence Shannon Jr. transferred in as major contributors from Big 12 stalwarts Baylor and Texas Tech, respectively. Shannon should be able to get whatever he wants offensively against a Missouri team that has exemplified ole' defense thus far in 2022.

A big question mark for Illinois entering this season was its backcourt. Nearly all of the minutes at two guard positions have been split by three true freshman: Skyy Clark, Jayden Epps and Sencire Harris.

Truthfully, all three have played well and earned their share of playing time — as has been carved out for them. Highly intense and "bright-light" moments have not affected the youthful backcourt in their early tests.

Harris has been the best ball-handler of the three, averaging only 0.5 turnovers per game.

Missouri's defense doesn't figure to be a difficult test in terms of on-ball pressure. This year's Tigers are a far cry from the Mike Anderson "40 minutes of hell" style of play featuring full-court pressure from the jump.

The guards from the Anderson teams of a decade ago were a class above those who will be wearing the black and gold on Thursday night.

If Shannon has a night that resembles his 8-of-9 3-point performance against UCLA, Mizzou's hill will likely be too high to climb.

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Missouri Tigers

Missouri has come together very quickly as a team under the new leadership of former Cleveland State head coach Gates.

Many casual fans may have only paid attention to their disappointing effort when hated-rival Kansas traveled to Columbia. However, Missouri's much improved late-game execution has resulted in the Tigers landing on the right side of all their close contests this far.

Yes, there's always a luck element to closing in tight games. The Tigers benefitted from a hectic end-of-game buzzer beater against UCF. They prevailed despite trailing much of the second half at Wichita State, in large part due to some excellent play-calling and execution in half-court sets.

Having an element of continuity is likely helpful in establishing the trust required to execute in big moments. The connection between Gates and his leader from Cleveland State — guard D'Moi Hodge — provides that continuity.

Kobe Brown returned to Mizzou after leading the '21-22 Cuonzo Martin Tigers in scoring. He's equipped to go toe-to-toe with Illinois' talented big man Coleman Hawkins offensively.

The challenge for Brown will be maintaining the energy and effort needed to contain Hawkins on the glass and the defensive end.

Until Missouri proves it has the ability to compete on the defensive end against an offensively-gifted team like Illinois, I can't trust it has that ability.

Many teams (see: Iowa, Ole Miss, etc.) have fallen victim to sleepy spots against theoretically inferior opponents this week. Illinois will not be sleepy here in a true rivalry game, especially following some recent shaky efforts.

Missouri will likely better the 25-point margin it lost by in 2021. Still, I don't think it's quite ready to beat the Illini as this 2022 battle sets up.

Illinois vs. Missouri Betting Pick

My gut says Illinois wins by 10+, but Mizzou has been improved this year under a new brand of basketball led by Gates.

Unfortunately, while the Tigers are much more aesthetically pleasing to watch on the offensive end, their defense has suffered. I feel very confident in Illinois' focus following two disappointing efforts — plus, this is the Braggin' Rights game.

Whether or not the Illini cover, I would be very surprised if they aren't able to score 80+ points against a porous Mizzou defense.

Pick: Illinois Team Total Over 79.5

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