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 squeezed into the field as a No. 11 seed bubble team and USC was 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 where the Big Ten sent nine teams, including four with top-two seeds. Yet only No. 1 Michigan is still standing.
Other notable numbers:
►The success of No. 11 UCLA and No. 12 Oregon State also stands out. It's only the third time that two double-digit seeds have advanced this far. The others were 1990 (Texas and Loyola Marymount) and 2002 (Kent State and Missouri).
This is the third time in tournament history that two double-digit seeds advanced to the Elite Eight. 1990 (Texas and Loyola Marymount) and 2002 (Kent St. and Missouri) were the other years.
►The record for the highest overall total seeding in the Elite Eight is 40. This year came close with 37, but fell short thanks in large part to three No. 1 seeds getting this far.
►This is the fourth time that an ACC school has not reached at least the Elite Eight since the men's NCAA Tournament was 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, 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.
►UCLA is just the second First Four team to advance to the Elite Eight. VCU was the first, in 2011. The Rams made the Final Four that year under coach Shaka Smart.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
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