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The term "Elite Eight" refers to the final eight teams in the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship or the NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championship; and, thus, represents the regional finals, or national quarterfinals. In Division I, the Elite Eight consists of the two teams in each of the four regional championship games. The winners advance to the Final Four. Since 1997, when the NCAA trademarked the phrase, in Division II the Elite Eight consists of the eight winners of the eight Division II regions. Like the Division I Final Four, the Division II Elite Eight games are all held in one predetermined location.
In the men's Division I, the lowest-seeded team ever to reach this round in the modern 64 team tournament era was #12 Missouri in 2002, who upset #5-seed Miami (Florida), #4-seed Ohio State, and #8-seed UCLA before losing to #2-seed Oklahoma in the West regional that year. Five #11 seeds have advanced to the Elite Eight: LSU in 1986, Loyola Marymount in 1990, Temple in 2001, George Mason in 2006, and Virginia Commonwealth in 2011.
On average, three of the four #1 seeds make it to the Elite Eight each year. In men's play, the Elite Eight exists intact for less than 24 hours between the second Friday evening and the following Saturday afternoon of the tournament. The Elite Eight also represents the halfway mark of the men's tournament since each qualifying team must win three rounds (games) to reach the national quarterfinals, with three rounds remaining to reach and win the national championship game.
Like "March Madness," the phrase "Elite Eight" originally referred to the Illinois High School Boys Basketball Championship, the single-elimination high school basketball tournament run by the Illinois High School Association. When the IHSA finals were reduced from sixteen to eight teams in 1956, a replacement nickname for Sweet Sixteen was needed, and Elite Eight won popular favor. The IHSA trademarked the term in 1995; the trademark rights are now held by the March Madness Athletic Association, a joint venture between the NCAA and IHSA formed after a 1996 court case allowed both organizations to use "March Madness" for their own tournaments.
Elite Eight can also refer to the eight NCAA Division I baseball teams that reach the College World Series.
Notable Elite Eight teams in the men's Division I NCAA tournament
- During the first 12 years of the tournament (1939-50, inclusive) only eight teams competed, meaning every team that qualified in those years was an automatic "Elite Eight" team.
- Idaho State in 1977, which defeated UCLA in the previous round to end the Bruins' streak of consecutive Final Four appearances at 10 to end the John Wooden-era dynasty
- 11-seed Loyola Marymount in 1990. One of the team's stars, Hank Gathers, collapsed and died on the court near the end of the regular season, and teammates (including Bo Kimble, who shot his first free throw of each tournament game left-handed) honored Gathers during the tournament.
- 12-seed Missouri and 10-seed Kent State in 2002
- 10-seed Providence College in 1997
- 10-seed Gonzaga in 1999
- 11-seed Temple Owls finished the 2001 regular season on a remarkable run, won Atlantic-10 tournament behind play of Lynn Greer before succumbing to Michigan State.
- George Mason in 2006, which became the first 11-seed to advance to the Final Four since 1986, after defeating 1-seed Connecticut in overtime in the Elite Eight
- 10-seed Davidson College in 2008
- 11-seed Virginia Commonwealth in 2011