INDIANAPOLIS (CBS/AP) — As expected, Illinois (23-6) secured a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
They will face 16th seeded Drexel (12-7) in a first round game in the Midwest Region Friday.
Loyola-Chicago (24-4) gets a #8 seed in the same bracket as the Illini. The Ramblers will take on 9th seeded Georgia Tech (17-8), the ACC Tournament Champions, also on Friday.
If the Ramblers and Illini win their first-round games, they will meet in the second round on Sunday.
Illinois found out their NCAA Tournament fate just after finishing off a 91-88 win in overtime over Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament championship game. It’s the Illini’s first Big Ten tourney title since 2005. They made it all the way to the national championship game that year.
They saw the reveal on CBS as they were cutting down the nets. It is also their first time as a top seed since 2005, and that team led by Deron Williams and Luther Head made it all the way to the championship game – though they lost to North Carolina.
For now, the current Illini are celebrating this Big Ten championship.
“We know that we have bigger goals and aspirations, but in order to get to those bigger goals and aspirations, we have to accomplish this one first,” said Illini guard and Big Ten Tournament MVP Ayo Dosunmu.
“Enjoy it and at the same time, see all these people who I’ve been with such a long time – it was amazing, it was so amazing. It was amazing,” said Illini center Giorgi Bezhanishvili.
Sitting next to Bezhanishvili, Illini center Kofi Cockburn agreed with the “amazing” assessment.
As for Loyola, they watched their name revealed live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Missouri Valley player of the year Cameron Krutwig helped lead them to a regular season and conference tourney title.
Coach Porter Moser says they’re focused on Georgia Tech and not worried about Illinois lurking in round 2 – something that wouldn’t happen if they got a higher seeding they probably deserved.
“You’ve just got to control what you can control. You know, we control our act, play it was – and our net was 10. So what does the net stand for? It’s the NCAA Evaluation – that’s a tool they use. And if we’re a 10, I don’t know. If you’re an eighth seed, that looks like it’s in the 32 range,” said Ramblers Head Coach Porter Moser. “All we can control is what we’ve got, and now all we can control is preparing for Georgia Tech.”
MVC defensive player of the year Lucas Williamson was part of Loyola’s 2018 Final Four run as a freshman. He’s a senior now, and he’s feeling very confident about this current version of the Ramblers.
“I’m just going to go ahead and say that I think this year’s team would beat that year’s team – because I’m a senior on this team,” Williamson said with a laugh. “That’s the reason.”
CBS 2’s Matt Zahn asked Williamson what he learned about what it takes to make the NCAA Tournament in playing on that 2018 Ramblers team.
“You know, coach talks a lot about blinders. He says, you know, like you put up blinders on a horse to focus in – to focus on what’s right in front of you. So that’s the philosophy that worked, and if it’s not broke, then I’m not going to fix it,” Williamson said. “You know that our defense is always going to be there. We’re not always going to make shots, but the defense is something that you’re always going to be able to rely on, and you can win games not making shots, but you can’t win games not playing defense.”
With the GRAMMYS going on Sunday night, Zahn asked Williamson if there is an artist he listens to so he can get hyped up.
“I’d say my favorite artist right now is Polo G. If I’m really hyped for a game, then maybe I need to listen to something to calm me down, but you know, there are some times when I do need to get hyped up – so I’ll listen to a little harder music,” Williamson said.
And Williamson’s teammate, and roommate, Cameron Krutwig, sometimes provides music with his harmonica.
Seventh-ranked Houston earned the No. 2 seed after romping past Cincinnati on Sunday to earn its first American Athletic Conference Tournament title. West Virginia was seeded third and Big 12 rival Oklahoma State fourth after making a run to the Big 12 Tournament title game, where Cade Cunningham and the Cowboys lost to Texas.
Tip -Off Times:
Friday at 12:15 p.m. on TBS – (1) Illinois vs (16) Drexel at Farmers Coliseum
Friday at 3 p.m. on TBS – (8) Loyola vs (9) Georgia Tech at Hinkle Fieldhouse
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)