(KTVI) – Get your basketball brackets ready! Mizzou and Illinois will open up their NCAA March Madness Tournament bids Thursday afternoon.
Before the games begin, here’s some key information to keep in mind for the Missouri Tigers and Illinois Fighting Illini, including how to watch both teams.
Missouri (7) vs. Utah State (10)
- Game time: 12:40 p.m. CT
- TV Network: TNT
- NCAA Region: South
The first season under head coach Dennis Gates was one of Mizzou’s most successful since joining the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers began the 2022-23 campaign on a nine-game winning streak, beat Top-25 ranked opponents on six occasions, and soared as high as No. 20 in the AP season rankings.
Mizzou rattled off several close victories down the stretch. The Tigers outscored opponents by 10 or less in seven of their last eight wins and two of the season’s most memorable games were won on last-second buzzer-beaters. Mizzou earned a No. 4 seed in the SEC tournament and advanced to the semifinals before a loss to the big tourney’s top-ranked team in Alabama.
All-SEC guard Kobe Brown averaged nearly 16 points per game this season. Fellow guard D’Moi Hodge followed closely behind him and generated 86 steals, nearly double the number of other minutes leaders. Nick Honor gets heavily involved in the passing game, nearing 100 assists this season.
MARCH MADNESS HISTORY
Mizzou is 22-28 all-time in March Madness competition. The Tigers return to the NCAA Tournament for the 29th time in program history and first time since 2021. The Tigers are searching for their first win since 2010. Mizzou has never won a NCAA Tournament and has never made it passed the Elite Eight round, last reaching that far in 2009.
Illinois (9) vs. Arkansas (8)
- Game time: 3:30 p.m. CT
- TV Network: TBS
- NCAA Region: West
Illinois produced another sturdy season, though perhaps with a few more setbacks than recent years under Brad Underwood. The Fighting Illini climbed to No. 16 in AP’s rankings as late as mid-December, but dropped out of the Top 25 before the start of the new year. Illinois defeated Top-25 ranked opponents four times.
A competitive Big 10 Conference, sporting eight tournament teams, made it difficult for Illinois to rise to the top. Illinois finished 11-9 in conference play, though suffered a first-round loss in the Big 10 Tournament to Penn State. Their success largely depends on its defense, which limited to opponents to 70 points or fewer in all but two of its victories this season and averaged around six blocks per game, second-best among Division I squads.
Terrence Shannon Jr., a guard and first-team All-Big Ten selection, averaged nearly 17 points per game this season. Forward Coleman Hawkins led the team with more than 200 rebounds, nearly 100 assists and 32.4 minutes per game. Guard Matthew Mayer can put up points in a hurry, scoring double-figures in all but three games of the 2023 calendar year.
MARCH MADNESS HISTORY
Illinois is 42-33 all-time in March Madness competition. The Fighting Illini return to the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year and 34th time in program history. Illinois has won at least one game in each of its last two seasons, but hasn’t advanced past the second-round since 2005. That year was the Fighting Illini’s closest chance to glory, ending with a championship-game loss to North Carolina in St. Louis.
Projections And More
Draft Kings calls Utah State a 1.5-point favorite over Mizzou and Arkansas a 2.5-point favorite over Arkansas, pitting both of the St. Louis region’s teams as underdogs.
CBS Sports reports that fans are favoring Mizzou 61% to 39% over Utah State in bracket selections, though Illinois is trailing 57% to 43% to Arkansas in that manner. ESPN reports a 58%-42% edge for Mizzou in bracket selections, though a 58%-42% deficit for Illinois.
Also worthy of note, download the “NCAA March Madness” app for Apple or Google Play devices, and you could get access to the first-round games on your phone.