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.
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…