Paul M. Banks
In order to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, a team must go 6-0. Out of the 6 rounds within which a team may be eliminated, the University of Illinois has the most issues with the second round. Since 1995, the Illini have qualified for the tournament every year but three.
In those 11 March Madness appearances, they were ousted in exactly the second game on 6 occasions (’06, ’03, ’00, ’98, ’97, ’95) – more than half the time.
If seedings hold this year, it will occur yet again. Illinois is seeded 5th in the South Region and many experts project them to get past 12th seeded Western Kentucky in the first round, but lose to 4th seeded Gonzaga in the second.
You might know the Zags as that team who in recent years have made a lot of noise knocking off high seeds during the first couple rounds, but can’t seem to duplicate that same success once they get seeded near the top of the bracket themselves.
So why has Illinois struggled so mightily in the tourney’s second round? Well, the first (and only) win over a higher seeded team in school history occurred in 2004, when Deron Williams’ 31 points led the 5th seeded Orange and Blue over the 4th seeded Cincinnati Bearcats. This moment was immortalized on an episode of “The Newlyweds,” a low-brow reality series airing on MTV in those days. Viewers witnessed Jessica Simpson’s ex-husband (and die-hard Cincinnati fan) Nick Lachey feel deep depression as the Illini routed the Bearcats.
If the Illini buck this recent trend and survive past the round of 32, they might have to do it without their glue guy and top defender, Dr. Chester Frazier. The senior point guard who broke his hand in practice last Thursday is also the team’s biggest hustle guy on the court as well as and emotional leader. His health status and Illini tourney history are two things to consider when filling out your bracket this week. Of course, this advice is purely for novelty purposes; nothing to do with gambling. If you bought stocks recommended on CNBC’s “Mad Money,” and they later tanked you wouldn’t take it out on Jim Cramer, right?Follow paulmbanks