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Following an agonizing one-year absence, March Madness is truly alive and well as the 2021 NCAA Tournament has been nothing short of phenomenal. While a number of top seeds still remain, we’ve seen a number of big upsets as this tourney has progressed and nobody has benefited more than the Houston Cougars, who find themselves in the Elite Eight for the first time since Hakeem Olajuwon left the program in 1984.

Second-seeded Houston will match up with the surprising 12th-seeded Oregon State Beavers in the finals of the Midwest Region on Monday night with a trip to the Final Four on the line and if Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars can extend their winning streak to 11 games, they’ll make some wild NCAA Tournament history.

How the Houston Cougars reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament

After going 21-3 in the regular season, the Houston Cougars then went on to win the American Athletic Conference tournament by defeating Tulane, Memphis, and Cincinnati, which earned them a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

After easily dispatching 15th-seeded Cleveland State in the opening round, 87-56, Houston then survived a nail-biter in the round of 32 against 10th-seeded Rutgers, coming back from an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes to come away with a 63-60 victory.

In the Sweet 16, the Cougars squared off with Jim Boeheim’s 11th-seeded Syracuse Orange and while they didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, they cruised to a 16-point win, 62-46, to secure their spot in the Elite Eight, where they’ll match up with 12th-seeded Oregon State for the right to go to the Final Four.

Houston could make some NCAA Tournament history with an Elite Eight win over Oregon State

So did you notice all of the numbers ahead of Houston’s opponents in the NCAA Tournament thus far? On their way to the Elite Eight, the Cougars have beaten a No. 15 seed, a No. 10 seed, a No. 11 seed, and will next face a No. 12 seed.

So if the Houston Cougars can knock off Oregon State on Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, they would become the first team in NCAA Tournament history to advance to the Final Four without having played a single-digit seed.

The Cougars would tie the 2001 Michigan State Spartans for the easiest path to the Final Four

The Houston Cougars celebrate their Sweet 16 win over Syracuse in the 2021 NCAA Tournament
The Houston Cougars celebrate their NCAA Tournament win over Syracuse | Andy Lyons/Getty Images

If Houston knocks out Oregon State on Monday night to reach the Final Four, not only would they set the aforementioned NCAA Tournament record but the Cougars would also tie the 2001 Michigan State Spartans for the path of least resistance.

With a win over the Beavers, Houston will have taken a 15-10-11-12 path to the Final Four, which adds up to 48. Back in ’01, Tom Izzo’s top-seeded Spartans defeated 16th-seeded Alabama State, ninth-seeded Fresno State, 12th-seeded Gonzaga, and 11th-seeded Temple in the South to punch their ticket to Minneapolis, where they were soundly defeated in the national semifinal by the Arizona Wildcats, who were the second seed in the Midwest.

The winner of Monday night’s Houston-Oregon State matchup will square off with the winner of the South Regional final between top-seeded Baylor and third-seeded Arkansas.

Scores and schedule courtesy of


March Madness: The Furthest Every Seed Has Advanced in the NCAA Tournament