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The history of the Sweet 16 and Elite 8: power-conference edition

The Sweet 16 starts Thursday, initiating the second of three NCAA tournament weekends.

Last week, we dug into the history of NCAA tournament bids and wins — that’s the concern of the first weekend. This second weekend reveals the programs that might not stand on the mountaintop, but have certainly been able to climb a lot higher than most of their peers.

Let’s take a look at Sweet 16 and Elite Eight history across the various Power 5 conferences and then the other multi-bid conferences in college basketball:

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POWER 5 CONFERENCES

Only two ACC programs haven’t reached the Sweet 16 this century: Clemson (1997) and Virginia Tech (1967).

Eight ACC programs have not reached the Elite Eight this century: Virginia Tech (1967), Clemson (1980), North Carolina State (1986), Florida State (1993), Boston College (1994), Virginia (1995), Wake Forest (1996), and Miami (never).

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TCU, which just hired Jamie Dixon, is the only Big 12 program not to have made the Sweet 16 this century (1968). Texas Tech (never) is the only school other than TCU to have never made the Elite Eight.

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Five Big Ten programs have not reached the Sweet 16 this century: Iowa (1999), Minnesota (1997), Rutgers (1979), Nebraska (never), and Northwestern (never). A sixth school — Penn State — hasn’t made the Elite Eight since 1954.

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Four Pac-12 programs have not made the Sweet 16 this century: California (1997), Arizona State (1995), Oregon State (1982), and Colorado (1969). Three others — Utah (1998), Washington (1953), and Washington State (1941) — have not made the Elite Eight this century.

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Four SEC schools have not made the Sweet 16 this century. Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi State last made the Sweet 16 in 1996. South Carolina hasn’t made it since 1973. Four other schools have never made the Elite Eight this century: Auburn (1986), Vanderbilt (1965), Ole Miss (never), and Texas A&M (never).

15 Mar 1996:   Head coach Bob Huggins of the Cincinnati Bearcats talks with Damon Flint during Cincinnati's game versus UNC Greensboro in the first round Southeast Regional game at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida.  Cincinnati won the game 66-61.

15 Mar 1996: Head coach Bob Huggins of the Cincinnati Bearcats talks with Damon Flint during Cincinnati’s game versus UNC Greensboro in the first round Southeast Regional game at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida. Cincinnati won the game 66-61.

OTHER MULTIPLE-BID CONFERENCES

In The American, Cincinnati reached Elite Eights three times from 1992-1996, but has made none since.

Temple made five Elite Eights from 1988-2001, but none since.

Houston hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 1984.

Bill Self took Tulsa to the Elite Eight in 2000. The program hasn’t won an NCAA game since 2003.

SMU hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 1967.

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Four Big East programs haven’t made the Sweet 16 this century: St. John’s (1999), Providence (1997), DePaul (1987), and Creighton (1974).

Five Big East programs have not been to the Elite Eight this century: St. John’s, Providence, DePaul (1979), Seton Hall (1991), and Creighton (at-large).

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In the Atlantic 10, Saint Joseph’s (against Oregon) narrowly missed its first Sweet 16 since 2004.

Seven of the Atlantic 10’s 14 programs have not been to the Sweet 16 this century.

George Washington, Richmond, and Fordham have never reached the Elite Eight.

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Four Missouri Valley Conference programs have made the Sweet 16 this century: Wichita State (multiple times, but most recently in 2015), Northern Iowa (2010), Southern Illinois (most recently in 2007), and Bradley (2006).

Wichita State made the Elite Eight in 2013. No other Valley school has reached the Elite Eight since Indiana State in 1979.

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In the Mountain West, only three schools have made the Sweet 16 this century: San Diego State (2014), UNLV (2007), and Nevada (2004). None of those schools made the Elite Eight this century. Moreover, only four schools have EVER made the Elite Eight: UNLV in 1991 (in a previous conference, the Big West), Utah State in 1970, Colorado State in 1969, and Wyoming in 1952.

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In the West Coast Conference, the league’s established trio of programs — Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and BYU — represents the only group of schools to make the Sweet 16 this century. Only Gonzaga has reached the Elite Eight this century, having pulled off the feat last year.

Matt Zemek

About Matt Zemek

Matt Zemek is the managing editor of The Student Section, covering college football and basketball with associate editors Terry Johnson and Bart Doan. Mr. Zemek is the editor of Crossover Chronicles, covering the NBA. He is also Bloguin's lead tennis writer, covering the major tournaments. He contributes to other Bloguin sites, such as The AP Party.

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