Illini Wonk
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
  Geography is Destiny
Picking up on a theme that Illini Wonk first covered six weeks ago, the front page of the USA TODAY sports section has a story about how close the Illinois campus is to their three NCAA Tournament stops if they earn the #1 seed in Chicago. Thanks to the benefit of time afforded by a full-time reporting job, Jack Carey adds some interesting information:

Although there are no guarantees the tournament selection committee will send the Illini to Indy for the opening weekend, the NCAA's system of keeping top seeds close to home makes it likely.

An Indianapolis-Chicago-St. Louis NCAA itinerary for the Illini would entail about 440 miles of one-way travel. Currently, the champ with the shortest trip was Michigan State in 2000 at about 570 one-way miles: Cleveland; Auburn Hills, Mich.; and Indianapolis.

"A humongous advantage," Spartans coach Tom Izzo says.

And the advantage wasn't only provided by Michigan State fans who had easier access to the games. The shorter the trip, the more focused and less distracted the players.

"You don't have the hassle of airports, and you don't have to worry about weather (delaying a flight)," Izzo says. "Would that give you any kind of an edge if it's a two- or three-point game? It could."

And if the Illini can make travel plans without stepping foot in an airport? "If Illinois gets a No. 1 seed," Izzo says, "who'd argue that they didn't earn that?"
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