Big East, Big 12 lead way with 2 schools each in Elite Eight
The Elite Eight is set, and zero No. 1 seeds are in the regional finals for the first time since seeding began in the NCAA Tournament.
Two conferences send a pair of schools to the second-last weekend, with four other individual schools representing their leagues in deciding Final Four berths.
The Big East, Big 12, ACC, and WCC have previously seen a national champion from their conference, but both Conference USA and the Mountain West are looking for their first national title.
Here's the conference breakdown for the Elite Eight.
Big East (2)
The Big East was arguably one of the top conferences in college basketball this season, and the strong showing in March Madness sees No. 4 UConn and No. 6 Creighton in the Elite Eight. The Huskies are the only team in the Elite Eight to have previously won a national championship, with the 2014 title representing the fourth in school history. Danny Hurley's outfit squares off with a high-scoring Gonzaga team Saturday in Las Vegas.
Creighton punched its ticket to the school's first Elite Eight in modern NCAA Tournament history with a comfortable win over No. 15 Princeton on Friday. The talented Bluejays are finally realizing the potential that saw them sit No. 9 in the preseason AP Poll. However, Creighton will be in tough against a defensively-sound San Diego State program Sunday.
Big 12 (2)
The Big 12 was as strong top-to-bottom as any conference in college basketball this season. That depth benefitted the two battle-tested programs remaining in the NCAA Tournament. Rodney Terry took over for Chris Beard during the season and ripped off a 22-7 record en route to Texas' first Elite Eight since 2008. The Longhorns are the top-seeded team remaining in the tournament after every other No. 1 and No. 2 seed fell by the wayside.
Kansas State and star guard Markquis Nowell have captured America's hearts during the NCAA Tournament, with the diminutive star setting a new record with 19 assists in the Sweet 16 win over Michigan State. The Wildcats face the worst seed remaining in March Madness with No. 9 Florida Atlantic next on the slate.
A very down year for the usually powerful ACC sees only Miami left standing in the Elite Eight. It's the second straight year that Jim Larranaga has the Hurricanes in the regional final, which is also the only two times the school has advanced that far. Miami squares off with No. 2 Texas on Sunday in a game that should feature two of the most talented backcourts in the tournament.
Once again, Gonzaga finds itself in the Elite Eight. It's the Bulldogs' fifth trip to the regional finals in the last eight tournaments, a truly remarkable run under Mark Few. Drew Timme is again the star for Gonzaga, fresh off an absurd 36-point, 13-rebound performance in an epic Sweet 16 win over UCLA. Timme also now holds the record for most games of 20-plus points in NCAA Tournament history with 10. Gonzaga faces UConn in a blockbuster showdown Saturday.
Conference USA (1)
Florida Atlantic's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance seems like a continuous dream, as the Owls ripped off three straight wins to shockingly reach the Elite Eight. FAU certainly benefitted from facing No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson in the Round of 32 after the Knights stunned No. 1 Purdue in the opening round. Still, it proved it was no fluke with a solid win over Tennessee last round. Shutting down Nowell and Kansas State is next on the Owls' hit list this weekend.
Mountain West Conference (1)
San Diego State isn't just in the first Elite Eight in the program's history, but the Aztecs are also the first Mountain West Conference team ever to make the regional finals. The Aztecs showed they're arguably the finest defensive squad in the country in shocking Alabama on Friday night, holding star Brandon Miller to just 3-of-19 shooting in the win. That defense will have to be clicking Sunday with hot-shooting Creighton next up.
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