March has gone from madness to unprecedented.
With Miami’s win over Houston and San Diego State’s takedown of Alabama on Friday night, the men’s NCAA Tournament will not have a No. 1 seed in the Elite Eight for the first time since seeding began in 1979.
“There’s not a lot of difference between the best team in the country and the worst team in the country,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “You’re seeing that on this stage.”
Purdue, Kansas, Houston and Alabama are all gone, ensuring the Final Four will not have a No. 1 team for the first time since 2011 and the third overall. The four teams deemed by the NCAA to be the best in the country combined to win five tournament games this year, the fewest by three among No. 1 seeds since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Texas is the lone No. 2 seed remaining after bouncing Xavier out of the bracket 83-71 Friday night under interim coach Rodney Terry. The fewest combined No. 1-2 seeds in the Elite Eight before this year was two (three times).
How crazy has it been? The national title game is guaranteed to have at least one of these teams: San Diego State, Creighton, Florida Atlantic or Kansas State. The Aztecs, Bluejays and Owls have never been to the Elite Eight. The Wildcats were picked to finish last in the Big 12.
It’s also a lock the winning coach will be a first-time champion.
“It’s a lot of really good programs in the country that have lost — I mean, we could go down the list of them,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “That’s what makes the NCAA Tournament the NCAA Tournament. They’re all good teams.”
The madness started in the opening round of the East Region, when fairytale Fairleigh Dickinson wrecked brackets around the world by becoming the second No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1.
Arkansas was the next giant killer, taking down reigning national champion and West Region No. 1 seed Kansas in the second round.
The Sweet 16 turned sour on Friday for Alabama, the bracket’s No. 1 overall seed. The Crimson Tide were no match for Dutcher’s ball-and-body-hawking San Diego State Aztecs in a 71-64 South Region loss in Louisville, Kentucky. San Diego State is the first Mountain West Conference school to reach the Elite Eight.
Miami capped the No. 1 carnage in the Midwest Region by taking apart one of the nation’s stingiest defenses in a 89-75 win over Houston in Kansas City, Missouri that had Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga dancing in the locker room.
“Unfortunately, one off-night and you go home in this tournament,” Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson said.
On to an Elite Eight unlike any other.
About the Author