It’s probably safe to say that nobody had Illinois being sent home this early on their March Madness vision boards. Ohio State probably came as a surprise to a few folks, but if you watched the Buckeyes this season, then you know that while they were extremely talented offensively, from a defensive standpoint, they struggled at times (they were ranked 78th in the nation). Ohio State had been up and down since the middle of February but delivered a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament, only losing to Illinois. OSU was projected to go further, but you could also see how they would struggle against an excellent offensive team like Oral Roberts.
Illinois, however, had National championship talks surrounding them prior to the tournament. So it was definitely a shock to see them suffer an early second-round exit.
As we have said before, the regular season (or even the conference tourneys) means absolutely nothing once the tournament starts. Not even the last tournament game matters. You are only as good as the game you are currently playing, and teams that ‘have nothing to lose’ are by far the scariest that you can encounter. Oftentimes they come out looser, playing with a level of fearlessness because they aren’t expected to win. Sometimes (not all the time), higher-seeded teams with equally high expectations end up feeling the pressure, and that too can be affected by their level of play.
We could go on and on about the various reasons as to why an upset can happen, but the bottom line is that nobody is safe from an upset.