ST. LOUIS – The excitement seems to be back for 2017's “Braggin' Rights” matchup between Missouri and Illinois at the Scottrade Center.
After multiple years of dwindling attendance (last year drew just 12,409 fans), this year's game is expected to be a sellout thanks to two re-energized fan bases.
First, for Missouri, new head coach and East St. Louis native Cuonzo Martin has the Tigers off to a 10-2 record, already surpassing the meager nine wins the team managed just a year ago. An exciting 2017 recruiting class is powering the Tigers so far. While 2017 number one overall recruit Michael Porter Jr. has only played in one game due to a back injury, fellow newcomers Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon have picked up the slack.
Tilmon heads into the 37th “Braggin Rights” game as one of the main storylines. The former East St. Louis Flyer originally committed to play for then head coach John Groce at Illinois, but after Groce was fired and Martin was hired at Missouri, Tilmon flipped to the Tigers.
For the Fighting Illini, it's been an up-and-down start to 2017. New head coach Brad Underwood has the Illini sitting at 8-5 coming into the showdown against Missouri. Illinois is also headlined by some young stars. Trent Frazier and Mark Smith are two of the freshman leading the way so far for the Illini.
This game is also a homecoming of sorts for Smith, who was named 2017 “Mr. Basketball” for the entire state of Illinois while at Edwardsville high school.
Illinois has had “Braggin' Rights” for quite a while in this rivalry.
Missouri hasn't won since 2012, although there have been numerous nail-biters in the last 4 years.
Illinois also leads the all-time “Braggin Rights” match up 24-12, and is 15-8 against the Tigers at the Scottrade Center.
Tonight's game tips off at 7 on ESPN2.