March Madness is all about expecting the unexpected.
One outcome that undoubtedly falls in that category: Southern California and UCLA in this year's Elite Eight together for the first time – ever. The California schools have never synchronized with men's NCAA Tournament success before, as a storied Bruins program is back in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2008 and the Trojans are back for the first time since 2001.
UCLA, a blue-blood of the sport that's fallen off in the last decade, has 11 NCAA championship banners — 10 under late coach John Wooden — with the last one in 1995. USC has two Final Fours to its name – back in 1940 and 1954. They hadn't been to a Sweet 16 since 2007.
Of all years for the two Pac-12 rivals to reach the Elite Eight, this hardly seemed like it would materialize given UCLA barely squeezing into the field as a No. 11 seed bubble team and USC over-seeded as a No. 6 seed. But this has been an unprecedented year for the Pac-12, which also sent Oregon State, a No. 12 seed, to the Elite Eight.
USC forward Isaiah Mobley (3) celebrates during the Trojans' Sweet 16 game against the Oregon Ducks. (Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski, USA TODAY Sports)
If all three win, it would be the first time since 1985 that three teams from the same conference reach a Final Four. This comes in a tournament when the Big Ten sent nine teams, including four with top-two seeds. Yet only No. 1 Michigan is still standing.
No. 11 UCLA and No. 12 Oregon State's success also stands out. It's only the third time that two double-digit seeds have advanced this far, joining 1990 and 2002. The record for the most overall total seeding in the Elite Eight is 40. This year came close with 37 but three No. 1 seeds getting this far offset any records.
Another piece of history: This is the fourth time that an ACC school has not reached at least the Elite Eight round since the men's NCAA Tournament were expanded in 1980 to a 48-team format (2003, 2014 and 2016 were the other years). Virginia won the national title in 2019.
Florida State was the league's best shot and it bowed out in a loss to Michigan in the Sweet 16 on Sunday. Syracuse lost Saturday to Houston in the Sweet 16.
"I think every conference goes through those periods,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said Sunday on the ACC's bad season. Usual kingpin Duke missed the field for the first time sine 1995. "You can't stay on top forever."
Among the eight schools left dancing, Oregon State waited the longest for this Elite Eight berth. The Beavers got that far in 1982 but had that Elite Eight vacated. They had previously gotten there in 1966.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
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