March Madness 2023: All No. 1 seeds eliminated before Elite Eight for first time in NCAA Tournament history

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With No. 1 seeds Alabama and Houston falling in Sweet 16 action on Friday night, all four No. 1 seeds have been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament before the Elite Eight for the first time since the NCAA Tournament began seeding teams in 1979. The Crimson Tide was upset by No. 5 seed San Diego State and the Cougars were shocked by No. 5 seed Miami. The other No. 1 seeds didn’t make it out of the first weekend with No. 1 seed Kansas falling to No. 8 seed Arkansas in the second round and Purdue going down to Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round as just the second No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in NCAA Tournament history.

With Alabama going down first on Friday, the tournament was already headed toward rarified air in terms of poor performance by No. 1 seeds. Only four times previously (2000, 2011, 2013 and 2022) had just one No. 1 seed reached the Elite Eight. But then No. 5 seed Miami closed out Houston to officially make history. 

With the wild results from the Sweet 16, next week’s Final Four in Houston is shaping up as a potentially historic gathering. One team from the group of San Diego State, Creighton, Princeton, FAU or Kansas State is guaranteed to play for the national title. Kansas State was the NCAA Tournament runner-up in 1951 but no one else from the group has ever even reached the Final Four. There have been only three Final Fours (1980, 2006 and 2011) without a No. 1 seed 

As for those with a claim to “blue-blood” status, only UConn and Gonzaga remain, and they will play each other in the West Region final on Saturday. Even then, Gonzaga’s claim of being a blue blood is dubious since the Zags have never won a national title. In fact, none of the coaches remaining in the bracket have ever won a national title.

As the Elite Eight field comes into focus, here’s the rundown of how history was made with all No. 1 seeds eliminated before the regional finals.

Fairleigh Dickinson’s stunner

No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson delivered a modern-day David vs. Goliath story in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, becoming the second No. 16 seed in March Madness history to defeat a No. 1 seed in a 63-58 shocker over No. 1 seed Purdue in the East Regional. 

FDU, the smallest team in college basketball, downed the Boilermakers, the largest team in the sport, by raining down 3-pointers, badgering Purdue big man Zach Edey and running the tempo up to pull-off the historic upset. No. 16 seeds were previously 1-147 all-time in first-round matchups. It was a particularly bitter ending for the Boilermakers, who were eliminated by a Cinderella team from New Jersey in 2022 as well when they lost to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s in the Sweet 16.

Kansas crumbles against Arkansas

Kansas became the second No. 1 seed to go down on the first weekend when the reigning national champions joined fellow No. 1 seed Purdue in getting bounced from the second round Big Dance with a stunning 72-71 loss to No. 8 seed Arkansas.

Arkansas trailed for the vast majority of the game but kept things tight to the end and pounced at an opportune time, seizing the lead at the 50-second mark of the second half for the first time since the 8:54 mark of the second half. KU knotted things back up at 67 after Jalen Wilson drained a pair of free throws before Arkansas rallied to make five free throws — all from Ricky Council IV, who finished with 21 points and made 10 of his 11 free throw attempts in the game — in the final 30 seconds.

Alabama falls to San Diego State

In a Sweet 16 stunner, No. 5 seed San Diego State sent top-seeded Alabama packing, upsetting the Crimson Tide 71-64 on Friday night. The Crimson Tide became the ninth No. 1 overall seed to fail to win the title in the last nine tournaments, extending the title-less streak that began in 2014.

San Diego State stood tall and took mighty Alabama’s punches throughout the game and delivered haymakers when necessary to pull off the upset. After trailing by as many as nine points midway through the second half, SDSU strung together a 12-0 run to take the lead for good as it made big shots on offense and iced Alabama on the other end. SDSU became the first Mountain West team to ever reach the Elite Eight.

Alabama was scarcely tested in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament with 21 and 22 point wins over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Maryland, respectively. Facing a top-five defensive unit in San Diego State, the Crimson Tide struggled to make shots from distance and were out-physicaled by the MWC juggernaut down the stretch.

Houston has problem vs. Miami

Houston made 7 of 17 attempts from 3-point range in the first half but went cold in the second half from beyond the arc while struggling to keep up with the fast-paced Hurricanes. In the end the No. 5 seed ‘Canes advanced with an 89-75 win that was never truly in doubt during the second half.

Houston entered ranked No. 342 of 363 nationally in adjusted tempo, according to kenpom.com, but Miami dictated the pace of the game by playing in transition with its small-ball lineup. While Houston did a good job of limiting its turnovers in the second half, the Hurricanes still dominated in points off turnovers for the game by capitalizing on the Cougars’ rare miscues.

The loss was particularly crushing for Houston because the Cougars had a chance to play in their home city had they reached the Final Four. The outcome sends an already wonky bracket into utter chaos without any No. 1 seeds remaining.





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