Now it’s time for the big dogs to take over the tournament
Fourteen of the 16 teams remaining in the bracket are from major conferences, leaving scrappy Ohio and Xavier as the only mid-majors with a shot at following up on what Butler and Virginia Commonwealth did a year ago.
Good news, even for you underdog fans, is that the resumes of the 14 big-school programs include 93 Final Four appearances and 33 national titles. Get teams like that together, and there's sure to be some great matchups and games.
Needless to say, it should be sweet.
If we're going to tout how great the matchups are, we might as well start off by pointing out a few.
• Syracuse vs. Wisconsin
The Orange live for creating turnovers; the Badgers hold onto the ball as if it were a pot of gold coins. Should be fun to see how this battle of styles and wills plays out.
• Michigan State vs. Louisville
A battle of minds between Cardinals coach Rick Pitino and the Spartans' Tom Izzo. A couple of pretty good teams with some good players, too.
• Kentucky vs. Indiana
Don't think the Wildcats have forgotten about that Assembly Hall court storming after Indiana's win in December. Two traditional powers, too; a combined for 12 national titles between them.
• Marquette vs. Florida
The Gators can shoot, particularly from the 3-point arc. The Golden Eagles are tough and like to play defense. Another will-inflicting game.
We know the stars, the big names who get all the attention. But just below the marquee are a handful of under-the-radar players who are there to support the headliner, sometimes even steal the show.
Here's a few who have grabbed the spotlight so far:
• Brady Heslip, Baylor
He's open soon as he crosses midcourt and has killed teams that collapse on Baylor's big front line in the NCAA tournament. In case you didn't see it, he hit a 10th 3-pointer on the way to the locker room after demolishing Colorado on Saturday.
• Marquis Teague, Kentucky
Once considered Kentucky's lone weak spot, the freshman had 24 points, seven assists and four rebounds against Colorado.
• Jeff Withey, Kansas
Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor make the Jayhawks go. Withey becoming more assertive helped take them to the regional semis.
• Aaron Craft, Ohio State
The Buckeyes' point guard can score and has great court vision. His biggest contribution could be defense; he can take an opposing guard completely out of a game.
• Russ Smith, Louisville
The Cardinals guard can be a difference-maker and was against New Mexico, scoring 17 points. He disappeared a few times this season, which Louisville can't afford at this point.
Losses by Baylor (29-7) outside the Big 12.
Team left from last year's Final Four: Kentucky.
Conference tournament champions in the round of 16: Michigan State, Florida, State, Louisville and Ohio.
Teams from the Big Ten and Big East left in the tournament.
Times Michigan State has reached the regional semifinals in the last 15 years.
Years since Ohio last reached the round of 16.
Years since Cincinnati beat Ohio State in the national title game for the second year in a row. The Bearcats and Orange play Thursday in Boston.
Miles between Cincinnati and Ohio State, who play each other in Boston in the East Regional.
Twitter followers for Kentucky super fan, actress and avid tweeter Ashley Judd, who attended the Wildcats' win against Iowa State on Saturday.
The initial 68-team bracket had teams from all over the west, from California and UNLV to Gonzaga and St. Mary's.
Now, they're all gone.
Not a single team from the western half of the United States reached the regionals this year, leaving Baylor, in heart-of-Texas Waco, as the last stop in the bracket.
That's 11 states, no teams. Yet Ohio put a record four teams through to the round of 16: Ohio State, Xavier, Cincinnati and Ohio.
Students of the Game
Four of the teams in the round of 16 have coaches who never played college hoops and came through the ranks as student managers.
• Tom Crean, Indiana
Didn't play at Central Michigan and got his start as a graduate manager at Michigan State before going on to head coaching jobs at Marquette and with the Hoosiers.
• Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
After coaching a local high school while completing his undergraduate degree, he got his first college coaching job as a video coordinator for the Bearcats in 1996-97.
• Buzz Williams, Marquette
Before he became Marquette's head coach, the Buzzsaw served as a student assistant at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, under Juco Hall of Famer Lewis Orr. He also was a student assistant at Oklahoma City University.
• Scott Drew, Baylor
Started his career as a student assistant at Butler and later moved on to Valparaiso, where he earned his master's degree while working for his father, Homer, the Crusaders' head coach at the time.
The remaining teams have accounted for some of the greatest moments in NCAA tournament history. Here's a few:
• North Carolina State, 1983
Coach Jim Valvano running around looking for someone to hug after Lorenzo Charles' putback is an all-timer.
• Kansas, 2008
"Mario's Miracle" -- Mario Chalmers' tying 3-pointer -- still draws cheers like Kansas won the title all over again during the pregame video at Allen Fieldhouse.
• Michigan State, 1979
Magic vs. Bird. 'Nuff said.
• North Carolina, 1982
Freshman Michael Jordan hits the winning jumper against Georgetown, becomes one of basketball's -- or any sport's -- greatest icons.
• Indiana, 1987
Keith Smart pulls a Jordan to beat Syracuse.
Now, the question is will there be any moments as memorable as those when the tournament resumes Thursday?