Pac-12 Continues Pulling the Improbable in March Madness After UCLA Win

For most of the college basketball season, the Pac-12 Conference was seldom viewed as an elite league. Now, the often-overlooked conference will have three teams in the Elite 8, and two of them were incredible longshots.

Oregon State and UCLA have already punched their tickets to the national quarterfinals, and the winner of Sunday night's final Sweet 16 game between Oregon and USC will become the third Pac-12 team to make the Elite 8, giving the league nearly half of the Elite 8 field.

Should the trio of teams all win in the next round, the Pac-12 would become just the second conference to ever put three teams in the Final Four in one season.

Neither the Beavers nor Bruins had an easy path to get here, though. For Oregon State, the Beavers had to run the table for a conference tournament title just to get the automatic bid. They entered the tournament as a No. 12 seed and a long road to get to this point.

For UCLA, it was one of the final teams to get selected at-large into the NCAA tournament, and they had to play the proverbial play-in game that's otherwise known as the First Four. Once UCLA beat Michigan State in that game, they became an 11 seed and faced a similarly-tough road as Oregon State.

Oregon State defeated No. 5 seed Tennessee in the first round and then took down No. 4 Oklahoma State in the second round. The Beavers then beat No. 8 Loyola Chicago in the Sweet 16 to get to this point. The Beavers will face No. 2 Houston in the Midwest regional final on Monday evening. The game will tip at 7:15 p.m. on CBS.

UCLA became the No. 11 seed in the East Region by beating Michigan State in the First Four, and then the Bruins beat No. 6 BYU in the first round and No. 14 Abilene Christian in the second round.

The Bruins cruised to an 11-point lead at halftime over No. 2 Alabama on Sunday night, but the Tide rolled back and tied the game with less than three minutes remaining. UCLA took advantage of Bama's missed free throws, and then took a three-point lead with less than five seconds to go. Alabama drove the ball down court and drained a three-pointer to tie it up and send it to overtime.

UCLA then outscored Alabama, 23-13, in overtime. As time expired in their 88-78 win over Alabama, the Bruins danced all over the court. UCLA will also keep dancing through the bracket, where they will face No. 1 Michigan on Tuesday in the East regional final.

UCLA Men's Basketball
The UCLA Bruins celebrate after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sweet Sixteen round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 28, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The winner of the game between No. 6 USC and No. 7 Oregon will advance to the Elite 8, where they will face No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Tuesday night.

Colorado is the fifth Pac-12 team that made the tournament, and the Buffaloes made it as a No. 5 seed in the East region. Colorado beat No. 12 Georgetown in the first round and lost to No. 4 Florida State in the second round.

Should Oregon State, UCLA and the USC/Oregon winner all get past the next round, then that would make three schools from the same conference in the Final Four—a feat that's extremely rare in this tournament. In fact, it's only happened once when the Big East sent Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova to the 1985 Final Four. The other team that made it that year was Memphis, which later had its appearance vacated. Memphis won the NIT national championship earlier today.