Teams love to play the disrespect card. Teams have so frequently played the disrespect card in the last decade that it's almost as frequent to complain about teams playing the disrespect card. We're not sure what card that is. Maybe the "disrespecting the disrespect card card." Catchy, right?
Anyway, after a solid-but-unspectacular season, Illinois received a No. 5 seed, meaning they play No. 12 Western Kentucky. No. 5 seeds are statistically the most vulnerable in the NCAA tourney. So plenty of people are picking against the Illini. The Illini don't like that so much:
"I don't know if there are maybe two or three people in all the national media markets that even picked us," Weber said. "I think [ ESPN's] Erin Andrews did because we're nice to her."
"It's a big motivator," forward Mike Davis said. "I think I saw that 24 experts picked us to lose, and eight picked us to win."
"We all realize what people are thinking," center Mike Tisdale said. "We pay attention to ESPN."
There's one immutable truth about the NCAA tournament, which the Illini should take solace in: No one knows anything. It's true. Our brackets are all meaningless. Our picks don't mean a thing. We've spent the past year watching college basketball and writing about it, and we fully admit that by this time tomorrow, everything we thought was going to happen won't.
That's OK. It's why the NCAA tournament is awesome. And it's why the Illini don't have to worry about underdog status, or who picks whom -- all that matters is what happens on the court.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger who can, at this point, smell the tournament. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.