The NCAA tournament finished filling out its Sweet 16 bracket on March 23. Although the actual teams mean more than their conferences at this point of the NCAA tournament, this is still a good time to take stock and see how the big leagues are doing so far. As it turns out, more than half of the Sweet 16 field only comes from three conferences.
The SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 have each faced different perceptions this season. The Big Ten has been recognized as the toughest conference in college basketball this year, while the Pac-12 may be the most overlooked and the SEC is the most disrespected. However, at this point in the NCAA tournament, they are all equal with three teams each in the Sweet 16.
Some of those teams were expected to get there from the start, like the Florida Gators, Kentucky Wildcats, Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans -- although they took very different routes. Some are surging at the right time, like the upset minded Stanford Cardinal and Tennessee Volunteers.
Other squads and conferences aren't so lucky, however. In fact, the Big East is completely out of the tournament, after upset losses by the Villanova Wildcats and Creighton Bluejays. The ACC only has the Virginia Cavaliers left to carry its banner, while the Atlantic 10's six teams are all gone save for the Cinderella Dayton Flyers.
The Big 12 took a hit when the Kansas Jayhawks were upset by the Cardinal, yet the Iowa State Cyclones and Baylor Bears are still kicking. The new American Athletic Conference was disrespected with some low seeds, but the Louisville Cardinals and Connecticut Huskies are making up for it now.
However, the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 have set the standard thus far in the NCAA tournament. Yet only the SEC remains completely undefeated, since it only got in three teams and none of them have lost. In addition, the SEC still has the No. 1 overall seed and national title favorite in the Gators, so it was expected to get some March redemption anyway -- just not this much.
Now there could be an all SEC Midwest regional final if things break right, along with an all Pac-12 South final, and an all Big Ten national semifinal and final with more luck. The accompanying slideshow breaks down the three teams each that these three leagues have left.
Gators lead SEC
Florida Gators: The first team to ever finish with a perfect SEC record still looks perfect against non conference opponents as well -- and could easily make the national title game without facing anyone higher than a No. 4 seed.
Kentucky Wildcats: Aaron Harrison and the Wildcats are seemingly peaking at the right time, which seemingly started with their run to the SEC title game. Could a fourth showdown with the Gators be on the horizon for the national title game?
Volunteers to go from First Four to Final Four?
Tennessee Volunteers: The Volunteers are tied for being the lowest seed left in the NCAA tournament, although fellow 11'th seed Dayton didn't start out in the First Four. Now Tennessee could soon face SEC rival Kentucky for a berth in the Final Four.
Spartans live up to hype
Michigan State Spartans: Despite an injury riddled regular season and a No. 4 seed in the East, the Spartans were a popular pick to win it all after Selection Sunday anyway -- and haven't let anyone down thus far.
Wolverines back on the hunt
Michigan Wolverines: The Wolverines were almost the first Big Ten national champion since the 2000 Spartans last year -- and now Glenn Robinson III and company are three wins away from another shot. They might even get revenge on the Louisville Cardinals in the Elite Eight while they're at it.
Badgers threaten out West
Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers won a shootout with the Oregon Ducks and got to avoid a shootout with Doug McDermott in the Sweet 16. Could this Midwest power win the West and reach their first Final Four under Bo Ryan?
Arizona still rules out West
Arizona Wildcats: The Wildcats still remain the frontrunner in the West, just as they were the frontrunner in the Pac-12 for much of the year.
Bruins coming on strong
UCLA Bruins: The Bruins took the Pac-12 tournament title away from the Wildcats, and now look for a bigger upset against their NCAA tournament arch-rivals in the Gators.
Cardinal stun the world
Stanford Cardinal: Dwight Powell and the Cardinal had one of the more unlikely runs out of nowhere to the Sweet 16. As a reward, there's a chance the Cardinal could face the Bruins in a Pac-12 battle for the Final Four.