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No. 1 Illinois eviscerated by No. 8 Loyola in second round of NCAA Tournament

Illinois was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but turned out to not even be close to the best team in their state.

Loyola Ramblers guard Braden Norris dribbles as Illinois Fighting Illini guard Andre Curbelo pursues during the second half in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 8 Loyola Chicago Ramblers were questioned for their soft schedule entering the 2021 NCAA Tournament, but they showed they are one of the teams to beat with an impressive 71-58 win over the No. 1 Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the Midwest Regional.

There was little doubt who the better team was on the court, as the Ramblers shot 51% from the field, outrebounded the bigger team that included All-Big Ten center Kofi Cockburn 30-27, and forced 17 turnovers via the nation’s third-best defense by adjusted metrics. At no point did the outcome seem in doubt, as Illinois failed to cut the deficit to less than six at any point in the second half.

Cameron Krutwig shined for Loyola, with 19 points on 9-18 from the floor, with 12 rebounds and five assists. Krutwig shined for the 2018 Ramblers that went to the Final Four, and showed alongside fellow senior Lucas Williamson (14 points, zero turnovers) that experience and cohesion still matter in college basketball.

It might be time to think of Loyola as more than just a quality mid-major with an adorable nun: They are the best team in the state of Illinois yet again, and with the amount of talent in the Chicagoland area, that means you are a nationally-competitive college basketball team.

Illinois closed as a seven-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook, but will head home with only a Big Ten championship to honor their terrific 2021 season.