Tracy Abrams, Jabari Brown

No. 23 Missouri’s soft schedule makes Saturday’s loss to Illinois painful

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Tracy Abrams answered a Jabari Brown three by drawing a foul and hitting two free throws with 4.6 seconds left as Illinois claimed Braggin’ Rights over No. 23 Missouri with a 65-64 win in St. Louis on Saturday evening.

Abrams finished with 22 points and Rayvonte Rice chipped in with 14 for the Illini, who entered Saturday 9-2 with road losses to Georgia Tech and Oregon.

Jordan Clarkson was sensational for the Tigers, finishing with 25 points, eight assists and six boards, but Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross struggled shooting the ball for much of the night. Both hit big threes in the final two minutes, but the Tigers needed those big threes because they were a combined 7-for-20 from the floor and 4-for-11 from three.

It’s tough to make any kind of a declaration about either team after a game like this beyond stating that both of them looked like NCAA tournament teams. Think about it like this: if Jordan Clarkson is able to make a clean catch on the final in-bounds, he would have had more than four seconds and a full head of steam to either get fouled or score at the other end. Illinois only had the lead because Abrams drew a bit of a ticky-tack foul.

That’s how close it was.

But the bottom line is that Illinois won, giving them a second nice win away from home in non-conference play — they also won at UNLV. Missouri’s resume consists of home wins over West Virginia and a UCLA team that got worked by Duke in New York on Thursday. The Tigers could very well end up being the third-best team in the SEC, but they only get Kentucky, Florida and LSU once each, with two of those coming on the road.

Where are the quality wins going to come from for Frank Haith’s club?

If Missouri ends up on the bubble, this close loss could end up being a really big deal.

BUBBLE BANTER: All of the action on the fringe of the NCAA tournament

Fred VanVleet
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Tonight’s bubble action. This post will be updated as the games are completed.

Cincinnati at UCF, 7:00 p.m.
Pitt at No. 12 Miami, 7:00 p.m.
No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
Ole Miss at Florida, 9:00 p.m.
Georgia at No. 22 Kentucky, 9:00 p.m.
Arkansas at Mississippi State, 9:00 p.m.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: A Big 12 and a Big Ten showdown

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.

We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
  2. Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
  3. Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
  4. Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
  5. No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
  • No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.