Big conferences in position to dominate Elite Eight
By Jacob Luft, CNNSI.com
This year's NCAA tournament has gone from Cinderella's playground to the land of the giants.
The giants, in this case, are the major conferences, who are in position to dominate the Elite Eight field like never before.
Two conferences already have teams in the Elite Eight so far -- the Pac-10 (Stanford, USC) and ACC (Maryland, Duke).
If the Big Ten's three remaining teams -- Michigan State, Penn State and Illinois -- and the Pac-10's Arizona Wildcats win their Sweet 16 games Friday, only three conferences will be represented in the Elite Eight field. That would be the lowest since seeding began in 1979, breaking the record of four, which happened twice (1989, '85).
The usual number of conferences with teams in the regional finals is six (10 times).
On a related note, if UCLA had defeated Duke on Thursday, it would have given the Pac-10 a chance to have four Elite Eight teams in the same year. The most teams a conference has had in the regional finals is three, which has been done 10 times since 1979 (see chart, below).
If the Pac-10 and Big Ten each get three teams in this year, it will mark the second time two conferences have accomplished the feat in the same season (1985).
UCLA's loss also prevented an Elite Eight matchup of teams from the same conference, which has happened seven times since 1979: Wisconsin-Purdue (2000), Ohio State-Michigan ('92), Arkansas-Texas ('90), Georgetown-Providence ('87), Kansas-Kansas State ('88), Kentucky-LSU ('86) and Virginia-N.C. State ('83). It could still happen this year if Michigan State and Penn State each win Friday.