The Mizzou Tigers have not had very impressive non-conference schedule this year. But just like in Division I-A football, it's all about getting the required win quota to extend your season. Mike Anderson realizes that the main objective as a head coach is to get your team to the NCAA Tournament. That's how you're measured, and that's how you insure you'll still be employed.
Mizzou still has one final non-conference date with Coppin State before they dive into
Big-12 action. But counting CSU's current 2-11 record, their non-league opponents' combined record is 97-108. And 6 of those 15 teams have a losing record.
So, with 16 Big 12 dates in the second half of their schedule, the Tigers only have to go .500 in league play to finish with 20-wins (the golden number to send you to the Big Dance.) In fact, throw in the win they'll get against Coppin plus going .500 in conference would give them 21 wins. Even better.
In Mizzou's defense, they have had some quality non-conference wins so far. They beat USC (10-4), Cal (12-2) and Georgia (9-5). All these will look good on a NCAA Tournament resume.
In contrast, Illinois has had a very solid non-conference docket so far. Only 3 of their 13 opponents had a losing record. And their opponents' combined record was 99-80. Not counting the thrashing they gave Mizzou, Illinois lost only by one to Clemson (14-0), and beat Vandy (11-3), Georgia (9-5) Tulsa (9-5) and Hawaii (8-5). The point is, Bruce Weber took a harder road to get his team's 12 non-league victories.
I'm going to say it's pretty much a lock that both schools will be in the Big Dance come March, but Illinois looks like the team that is built for a longer run amongst the Madness.