"Mail it in: Illini will emerge champs" / Daily Trojan

Illinois is going to win the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

There's just no other way around it.

Not after that remarkable comeback against Arizona. Not after winning 35 of 36 games this season. Not after blasting through a clearly tougher than-advertised Big Ten Conference. Not after the death of Illini coach Bruce Weber's mother just before the conference tournament.

It's cliché, but the Illinois Fighting Illini are a team of destiny.

And that destiny is even clear in their path to the Final Four, as demonstrated by the long road to the national championship game drawn up so long ago.

For the overall No. 1 team in the tournament, their first- and second round games were in Indianapolis.

Next two were just down the road in Rosemont, Ill., the same place the orange-clad Illini faithful gathered for the Big Ten tourney less than a month ago. The same fans powered their team during those remarkable final four minutes and into overtime against the Wildcats.

Last stop for the Illinois bus tour is this weekend in St Louis.

It almost adds up like one of those MasterCard ads....

Champaign to Indianapolis: 120 miles.

Champaign to Rosemont: 150 miles.

Champaign to St. Louis: 180 miles.

Home court advantage: priceless.