One of the great rivalry games that fell by the wayside in conference realignment was Missouri’s two annual battles with Kansas.
While we don’t know when those two will meet again, the Tigers will continue to play another of their rivals as it was announced that Missouri and Illinois have extended their annual series through 2017.
Illinois leads the all-time series 20-11 but Missouri has won the last three meetings after losing nine straight to the Fighting Illini.
The Bud Light Braggin’ Rights game will continue to be played at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, with this season’s meeting being played on December 22.
“There is nothing like this game in all of college basketball,” Missouri head coach Frank Haith said in a statement released by the school.
“The fan bases are split down the middle and the enthusiasm is second to none. You add in a national television audience and the excitement of the holiday season and you get the best rivalry game of the non-league season.”
Haith won his first Braggin’ Rights game last season as the Tigers held off Illinois by the final score of 78-74.
And while Missouri did lose some key pieces they welcome back point guard Phil Pressey and are a deeper squad than last season’s Big 12 tournament champion squad.
Transfers Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Alex Oriakhi (UConn) and Jabari Brown (Oregon; eligible in December) are just three of the newcomers who will assist Pressey, Michael Dixon Jr. and the healthy Laurence Bowers in the Tigers’ first season in the SEC.
As for Illinois this will be the first year of the John Groce era, with seniors D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul leading the way.
“I’ve heard about the importance of the Illinois-Missouri game since the day I took the job here at the University of Illinois,” Fighting Illini Head Coach John Groce said in a statement. “This is one of college basketball’s best non-conference rivalry games.
“When you factor in the longevity of the series, holding it at a neutral site in St. Louis with the crowd split 50-50, and playing it right before the holidays; you are talking about a big-time environment for our players, alumni and fans.
“I’m excited about experiencing this rivalry for the first time, and that we are extending the contract so the Braggin’ Rights game will continue for many years.”
Illinois will have to account for the departure of Meyers Leonard, who was drafted by Portland in the first round of the NBA Draft.
But regardless of what the two teams have coming back it’s good to see that the game will continue to be played annually.
Photo credit: Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch