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It’s been 20 years since the Pac-12 was this successful in March, and other takeaways from Day 4 of the NCAA Tournament

UCLA head coach Mick Cronin watches the action along with players in the final moments of their 67-47 win over Abilene Christian in a college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Monday, March 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
AP

Bill Walton’s impossible prediction of five Pac-12 teams making the Final Four was finally proved wrong on Monday during the second half of the round of 32, but the conference is still having the best NCAA Tournament run it has had in exactly 20 years.

Four teams — USC, Oregon, UCLA and Oregon State — are advancing to the Sweet 16 (Colorado lost Monday to Florida State), marking the first time since 2001 that the conference made up a quarter of the third-round teams, according to Pac-12 insider Jon Wilner.

The run continues to bend the narrative that the conference was weak this season, although at least some of the tournament success can surely be attributed to momentum (nobody saw Oregon State making any noise) and favorable matchups.

Nevertheless, the four teams are in, and Monday’s winners, Oregon and USC, took care of business in convincing fashion. Facing 2-seed Iowa, Oregon ran over star big man Luka Garza and the Hawkeyes 95-80, and then USC steamrolled 3-seed Kansas by a whopping 34 points.

Unfortunately for the conference, one team for sure won’t advance to the Elite Eight, as the two teams that played Monday will square off in the Sweet 16. UCLA, meanwhile, will play 2-seed Alabama and Oregon State will face 8-seed Loyola Chicago, a team that made the Final Four in 2018 and knocked off 1-seed Illinois on Sunday.

In truth, Monday was pretty boring

Whereas the first three days of the tournament were full of excitement and suspense, Monday’s action was very much not that.

The closest final margin in the eight games was 1-seed Michigan’s 12-point win over LSU, and although the contest was close for about 34 minutes, Michigan pulled away comfortably down the stretch. Elsewhere, UCLA beat Abilene Christian by 20, and four more games were decided by at least 15 points (excluding USC’s demolition). Creighton barely missed that cut, beating Ohio by 14.

Not only were games not close, but upsets were lacking on Monday, too. Of the eight contests, six were won by the higher seed, with Oregon and USC being the exceptions. Will that start to be a trend more in the final rounds as things get tighter?

Still, some history has been made

Whether it be the fact that all the teams are together in Indianapolis or some other unexplained reason, this season’s tournament has set a new record for the highest sum of seeds remaining in the Sweet 16.

When the seeds of all 16 teams are added up, it equals 94, besting the previous record of 89 set in 1986.

That’s not the only tournament history that has been made through the first two rounds. According to the NCAA’s David Worlock, 12 times now this year has a team beaten another that is at least five seeds higher than it, besting the previous mark of 10, which has been done eight times.

According to Worlock, the most for an entire tournament is 13, set in 1985 and 2014. There will be three chances in the Sweet 16 alone for that record to be tied or broken.

The Sweet 16 schedule

Saturday

(8) Loyola Chicago vs. (12) Oregon State, 12:40 p.m. MT

(1) Baylor vs. (5) Villanova, 3:15 p.m. MT

(3) Arkansas vs. (15) Oral Roberts, 5:25 p.m. MT

(2) Houston vs. (11) Syracuse, 7:55 p.m. MT

Sunday

(1) Gonzaga vs. (5) Creighton, 12:10 p.m. MT

(1) Michigan vs. (4) Florida State, 3 p.m. MT

(2) Alabama vs. (11) UCLA, 5:15 p.m. MT

(6) USC vs. (7) Oregon, 7:45 p.m. MT