The NCAA men’s basketball tournament settled the Elite Eight field with another four games Friday, including matchups featuring the highest seeds still alive in No. 1 Alabama and No. 1 Houston.
Fitting this wild and unpredictable tournament, both top seeds failed to advance to the regional semifinals.
Alabama fell 71-64 to No. 5 San Diego State, victimized by what is annually one of the top defenses in college basketball.
The Cougars lost 89-75 to No. 5 Miami as the Hurricanes booked an Elite Eight berth for the second year in a row.
Later Friday evening, No. 2 Texas blitzed No. 3 Xavier 83-71 and No. 6 Creighton ran away from No. 15 Princeton in the second half to win 86-75.
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San Diego State, Creighton and Alabama top the winners and losers from Friday’s action:
San Diego State
As a program, SDSU has been knocking on the door of the Elite Eight and Final Four since the late 2000s, when the Aztecs began to flourish under former coach Steve Fisher. Now coached by longtime Fisher deputy Brian Dutcher, this year’s team is the first in program history to reach the regional semifinals thanks to a suffocating defense that put the clamps on Alabama forward Brandon Miller. With Miller missing everything in sight, the Aztecs held Alabama to 32.4% from the field and the Tide’s third-lowest scoring total on the season.
Miami and Jim Larrañaga
Reaching another Elite Eight lifts Miami into a new stratosphere of Division I programs. If once is a fluke, twice represents a trend that could continue under coach Jim Larrañaga, especially given the Hurricanes’ recruiting success during the new era of name, image and likeness. Transfers outplayed the Cougars’ talented backcourt and lifted Miami past Houston: Isaiah Wong scored 20 points, Nijel Pack had a game-high 26 and Jordan Miller added 13 points as all five Miami starters scored in double figures.
Terry continues to operate as the interim coach at Texas despite the work he’s done piloting the Longhorns through the dismissal of former coach Chris Beard in January and into the Elite Eight for the first time since 2008. At some point, you have to ask: Just what, exactly, is the school waiting for? The former Fresno State and UTEP coach is now 22-7 since replacing Beard and has the Longhorns rolling into the Midwest final after the 12-point win against Xavier. While Texas may feel the need to roll out a national search for the full-time coach, Terry has earned the opportunity.
The Big East and Big 12
The Elite Eight is composed of teams representing six conferences. Two will have multiple representatives: the Big East, with No. 4 Connecticut and Creighton, and the Big 12, with Texas and No. 3 Kansas State. Looking ahead to the Final Four, the national semifinals have featured two teams from the same conference five times since 2010, most recently last season, when the ACC sent North Carolina and Duke. It also happened every year from 2013-16, by the Big East (2013), SEC (2014), Big Ten (2015) and ACC (2016).
Elite Eight (and maybe Final Four) new blood
Three members of the Elite Eight lineup are in new territory: San Diego State and Florida Atlantic had never advanced past the Sweet 16 — the Owls had never even won a tournament game before this month, in fact — and Creighton hasn’t advanced to this point since 1941, when the tournament had just eight teams (making it a little easier to reach the round of eight). A fourth member, Miami, has never made the Final Four. Kansas State hasn’t reached the Final Four in 60 years and Texas has been there just once since the tournament expanded in 1951. That leaves Connecticut and Gonzaga as the Elite Eight’s established heavyweights; the Huskies have won four national championships since 1999 and the Bulldogs have played for it all twice since 2017.
The possible future first-round draft pick had a miserable tournament after putting together one of the top rookie seasons by a player in SEC history. He battled foul trouble and was held scoreless in the first round against No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He scored 19 points on 5-of-17 shooting in the second round against No. 8 Maryland. Miller then had nine points on 3 of 19 shooting against SDSU, including just one make in 10 attempts from deep.
Everything was lining up perfectly: Houston had a dominant regular season, spending seven weeks at No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll; had one of the best rosters in the country, led by All-America guard Marcus Sasser; was ready to break through after reaching the Elite Eight last season and the Final Four in 2021; and, perhaps most of all, was set to play the Final Four at home at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
It’s worth asking if this is the best shot the Cougars and coach Kelvin Sampson will have at capturing the first national championship in program history. This was a season when everything seemed to come together — if not this year, then when for Houston?
No. 1 seeds
For the first time in tournament history, the Elite Eight will feature zero No. 1 seeds. Houston and Alabama lost Friday. Purdue lost in the opening round to Fairleigh Dickinson to become the second No. 1 to lose to a No. 16 seed. Playing without coach Bill Self, Kansas won in the first round but lost 72-71 to No. 8 Arkansas in the second.
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg