The NCAA tournament rounded out the Elite Eight on March 28. When all was said and done, the Michigan Wolverines, Kentucky Wildcats, Connecticut Huskies and Michigan State Spartans escaped to further another deep NCAA tournament run. While the big names and the cream of the crop are still standing in the Elite Eight, their routes are far more unconventional than usual.
The makeup of the Elite Eight consists of three Big Ten teams, two SEC programs, one from the new American Athletic Conference, a Pac-12 power and an Atlantic 10 bubble team. There are also No. 4, No. 7, No. 8 and No. 11 seeds among them, although the 11'th seeded Dayton Flyers are the only true Cinderella left.
The No. 4 Spartans and No. 7 Huskies technically pulled off upsets in the East regional on March 28, despite how they were each favored. Connecticut continued its latest surprise NCAA tournament surge -- one even more unlikely than that of the 2011 national champions -- in holding off the short handed Iowa State Cyclones by 81-76. Afterwards, the Spartans 'upset' the No. 1 seeded Virginia Cavaliers in a 61-59 grinder, making them the highest seeded team left in the East.
The Midwest now has a favorite that is a No. 8 seed, as the Wildcats stunned the Louisville Cardinals in the final minutes to prevail by 74-69, after trailing most of the night. The SEC rival Tennessee Volunteers almost pulled off a stunning comeback of their own over the Michigan Wolverines, yet a controversial offensive foul on the Volunteers in the final seconds helped the Wolverines survive by 73-71.
While there are just two No. 1 and two No. 2 seeds left, the Florida Gators have risen above the parity to defend their No. 1 overall seed -- and have the most seemingly easy Elite Eight game against Dayton on March 30. The No. 1 Arizona Wildcats also remain on track for the Final Four, yet the No. 2 seeded Wisconsin Badgers have been more impressive thus far.
The NCAA tournament has been predictable in some aspects, thanks to a few top seeds and big names, and completely unpredictable in others, thanks to the unconventional routes of these power programs. The accompanying list details the strongest teams left in the Elite Eight, although a national champion could still come from anyone -- maybe even Dayton at this rate.