Watching Cuonzo Martin’s pre-Braggin’ Zoom, I felt a familiar bonhomie. Here I go again, I thought to myself. I can’t help myself, I thought.
I like Cuonzo Martin.
That’s great! Right? I like Brad Underwood too. Isn’t it great to like things?
Listening to the pre-game hoopla surrounding Braggin’ Rights 2020, I was struck by the prompting: How much do you hate Cuonzo? Or Mark, Jeremiah, Javon?
How much does Xavier Pinson hate Illinois?
I think I wrote about tribal hate during my Smile Politely tenure. It still bothers me. Yes, there are people in college basketball who hate other people in college basketball. But it’s way less common than the hatred among tribal fans.
Mark Smith committed to Missouri before he committed to Illinois. Jeremiah Tilmon’s dad wanted Jeremiah to go with Cuonzo. Cuonzo knew Javon Pickett’s family since forever.
It’s great that all three of those guys found a home in Columbia. Mark had already been beaten out of the starting spot he’d been given on the basis of reputation. Jeremiah & Javon might compete for minutes on this year’s Illini team, but only because the rotation is so limited. Last year, you’d be hard pressed to play either one over Kofi and Alan Griffin.
It makes sense that those guys played with a chip on their shoulder. The self-doubt was enough. Sports fans should approve that that chip propelled Mizzou to victory last year (along with Mitchell & Dru Smith playing out of their minds).
Mark’s dad Anthony had seen enough after that Maryland game where Da’Monte supplanted Mark, then threw the ball away. Both Smiths are now happier.
Da’Monte seemed to relish the renewed opportunity to compete with post-transfer Mark. From an individual standpoint, you could say Da’Monte won.
But because Monte is way more more old school than the dazzling hoopster who sired him, Monte doesn’t care about individual battles. He wants the W.
Last year, Mizzou wanted the W. Does that mean the team with the most floor burns will win 2020’s Braggin’ Rights game? Well, it is 2020. That means people must suffer.
It’s conceivable that Mizzou will out-dog the Illini again tonight. Andres Feliz is not walking through that door. But it also seems likely that Ayo & Co. will bring their A-game.
The bright side is that Missouri can claim victory even if they score fewer points. It’s all the rage these days, especially in SEC country.