And then there were 16.
After six days of March Madness, the original 68-team field for the 2012 NCAA tournament has been whittled down to a Sweet remainder, setting up an exciting slate of games for Week 2.
Sunday granted college basketball fans everywhere a decidedly mixed bag of games to serve as a backdrop for a recovery from the festive activities of St. Patrick's Day. Five of the eight contests came down to the wire, while the other three saw the squashing of two Cinderellas (Norfolk State and Lehigh) and the national title hopes of North Carolina (see: Kendall Marshall's wrist).
Not a bad way to head into three whole days without the Big Dance.
Let's have a look, then, at some of the best and the worst that Day 6 of the tourney had to offer.
Kansas came out way ahead on Sunday, and not simply because of a 63-60 win over 10th-seed Purdue. Though, of course, that's certainly the biggest feather in KU's cap on the day.
The Jayhawks came out on the right end of what at one point was a 10-point deficit in the second half, countering a 26-point night by Robbie Hummel with an 18-point outburst by Elijah Johnson, yet another double-double from Thomas Robinson and a not-entirely-Tyshawn-Taylor-like day for Tyshawn Taylor (i.e. 10 points, four assists and only two turnovers).
For their efforts, the Jayhawks will advance to the Sweet 16 in St. Louis, where they'll have the opportunity to play in front of hordes of their own fans against 11th-seed NC State before (potentially) taking on top-seed North Carolina, for a trip to the Final Four in New Orleans.
North Carolina State's 66-63 upset over third-seed Georgetown aside, Sunday was yet another bad day for the ACC in an NCAA tournament that saw Duke become just the fifth two-seed to lose in the first round.
Third-seed Florida State losing to sixth-seed Cincinnati in the nightcap was the most obvious setback for the conference on the day. The Seminoles squandered a series of golden opportunities to stay ahead of the Bearcats down the stretch, only to see Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick put Leonard Hamilton's squad out of its misery.
The biggest loser, though, may well have been top-seed North Carolina. The Tar Heels handled eighth-seed Creighton, 87-73, with John Henson back in the fold, but lost Kendall Marshall for what could be the rest of the tourney after the star guard fractured his wrist in the second half.
Now, the Heels will head to St. Louis as the most vulnerable one-seed in the Sweet 16, with a date against the Ohio Bobcats, the lone true Cinderella left in the field, looking much more dangerous than anyone would've otherwise thought possible.
The Sweet 16 is shaping up to be a basketball bash for the Buckeye State. Three teams from Ohio—Xavier, Cincinnati and (of course) Ohio—advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament with victories on Sunday.
They'll join second-seed Ohio State, which edged Gonzaga on Saturday, in the upcoming regionals.
The 10th-seed Musketeers will play in their fourth Sweet 16 in the last five years after scoring a 70-58 victory over 15th-seed Lehigh, in which they became the first team to defeat the Mountain Hawks by double digits this season.
The 13th-seed Bobcats made things very interesting against 12th-seed South Florida, though the backcourt combo of Walter Offutt and DJ Cooper (40 total points) proved potent enough to see John Groce's squad through to its first Sweet 16 since 1964.
No team from Ohio, though, had quite the evening that the sixth-seed Bearcats did, as they uprooted third-seed Florida State in the late game, 62-56, for the right to play Ohio State in Boston this coming week.
So much for Cinderella.
No. 15 seeds Norfolk State and Lehigh followed up freaky Friday triumphs over Missouri and Duke, respectively, with double-digit defeats on Sunday.
The Spartans got chomped and stomped by seventh-seed Florida in an 84-50 loss, as they saw their hot shooting stroke cool off considerably—to 27.3 percent from the field.
The Mountain Hawks, on the other hand, mounted a valiant effort against 10th-seed Xavier, though they ultimately suffered their first loss by 10-plus points this season, due in large part to big nights by Musketeers stars Tu Holloway (21 points) and Kenny Frease (25 points, 12 rebounds).
In both cases, it was fun while it lasted, though, unfortunately for fans of the Madness, the pumpkin carriage had to come home to roost at some point.
Even though the damage to brackets everywhere has already been done.
John Henson shook off the rust of inactivity and the pain in his left wrist to lead top-seed North Carolina to an 87-73 victory over eighth-seed Creighton in Greensboro on Sunday.
The ACC Defensive Player of the Year parlayed a return to the starting lineup into 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks while wielding the long arm of the law in the paint for the Tar Heels.
UNC will need Henson to continue that stellar pace against 13th-seed Ohio, particularly now that point guard Kendall Marshall will likely be out for the remainder of the tournament with a fractured wrist of his own.
Third-seed Georgetown could've used just a bit more production from Henry Sims in its 66-63 loss to 11th-seed North Carolina State.
The senior center wound up with more fouls (five) than points (four), as he managed to get up all of three shots in 21 minutes to go along with three rebounds and two assists.
It's a good thing the Hoyas got 23 points out of Hollis Thompson. Otherwise, things could've gotten quite ugly against the feisty Wolfpack.
Still, Sims can't be all too happy with this being his final performance in a Georgetown uniform, even though his March mustache was in fine form.
Robbie Hummel moved heaven and earth to push 10th-seed Purdue past second-seed Kansas in Omaha, though the Boilermakers came up just short in the end, 63-60.
Not that Hummel deserves any of the blame. The senior forward finished with a game-high 26 points—22 of which came in the first half for Matt Painter's squad—to go along with nine rebounds and three assists.
It's a shame, too, considering how much Hummel has given to the program—two torn knee ligaments, three All-Big Ten selections, four trips to the NCAA tournament.
If only his teammates could've done more in the closing minutes to preserve what was a 10-point lead in the second half...
It was a game of "Good News, Bad News" for Florida State's trio of talented guards.
Good news: Michael Snaer, Luke Loucks and Deivydas Dulkys combined for 33 points and eight assists.
Bad news: they also contributed six turnovers to the Seminoles' cause and failed to make plays when their team most needed them to down the stretch.
As a result, FSU will head back to Tallahassee with but one win to show for a 25-win season and an ACC tournament title, for which many had the 'Noles pegged as legitimate Final Four contenders.