Illinois Loss No Upset

Because Western Kentucky was no underdog

There's something of a parity myth in college basketball, a notion that little mid-majors are now the equal of BCS schools despite all the institutional advantages BCS schools have. Usually, that's not true. Mid-majors are mid-majors for a reason, and no matter what sort of fluky years they have -- 2006's George Mason run, for example -- that's usually going to be the case. It's just hard to compete with all that money.

But there are exceptions. Gonzaga is one. Akron, if it keeps receiving the support of LeBron James, is another. And Western Kentucky, whose basketball program is typically full of Kentucky's second-tier talent, is another. The Hilltoppers don't have the same money as Big Ten schools, but they do have similar access to talent. Some years, it just clicks.

That's why Illinois shouldn't feel even worse than they likely already do about their loss to WKU in the first round of the NCAA tournament. A loss is disappointing regardless of whether you're the No. 16 seed or the No. 1. But still, teams beat themselves up when they've been upset. They kill themselves over their sudden failure. They assume that if they played again, and they stepped up, they'd win the game, beat the underdog, and go home with the slightly more attractive female. Cue credits.

The Illini's loss last night wasn't like that. Many people favored WKU coming into the game. The No. 5-No. 12 seed games are always challenging for the five seeds. Illinois was without its best defender, a guard, and they were playing against a very guard-heavy, sharpshooting team. This wasn't an upset. This was a good team beating a slightly above average one. And that's that.

So yes, the loss is disappointing, and yes, Illinois won't be happy. No one's happy after a loss. But if Bruce Weber and company are beating themselves up afterward, they shouldn't. They didn't lose the game. Western Kentucky won it.

Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger who thought Big Red's game was on point, too. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, Follow him on Twitter.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us