D) Destinies Collide

"Final destination: Illini have fans behind them on date with destiny" / SI.com

... Smith's teammate Warren Carter is slightly more steadfast in his belief in the team's predetermined status - "some call it pressure [to capture the title], but we feel like it's our destiny," he said - but the fact is, there are three equally if not more capable teams here who all have their own reasons to believe fate is on their side. Their opponent Saturday, Louisville, has defied the odds just to get here, is oozing with sentimental storylines (Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean's family tragedies, Ellis Myles' return from a season-long injury) and will have its own drove of supporters whose campus is only 80 miles farther away than Illinois'. And if the Illini do get past the Cardinals, they may face a title-game matchup against a North Carolina team that's been on a three-year rebuilding mission from the depths of an 8-20 nightmare, and whose coach, Roy Williams, many feel is meant to finally capture his first national title now that he's returned to his alma mater.

"I definitely feel it's our destiny," said Tar Heels senior Melvin Scott. "A lot of people doubted us, but we're a whole different team from last year to this year. I feel it's our time now."

All of the Final Four teams feel that way - why shouldn't they? - and there were countless others who probably felt that way back in October. Illinois, however, has been plotting this moment for even longer.