Longshots Still Firing Away In NCAA Men's Basketball Play One underdog advances in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, as Tennessee knocks off Ohio State, but the bubble bursts for Saint Mary's (blown out by Baylor) and Northern Iowa (a loser to Michigan State). Meanwhile, Duke overcomes a game but injury-hampered Purdue squad.
NPR logo Tennessee, Duke, Michigan State, Baylor Play On

Tennessee, Duke, Michigan State, Baylor Play On

Scotty Hopson of Tennessee drives on William Buford of Ohio State. Getty Images hide caption

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The Elite Eight is set in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, and while a couple of underdogs are still beating the odds, two feel-good stories came to an end Friday night.

Tennessee, Baylor, Michigan State and Duke all prevailed Friday to join Kentucky, West Virginia, Butler and Kansas State in the next round.

No. 6 seed Tennessee was the only underdog victor on Friday, using its inside power to knock off No. 2 seed Ohio State in 76-73 thriller.

Meanwhile, the longest shot left in the field when play started Friday — No. 10 Saint Mary's — was simply no match for No. 3 seed Baylor, which posted a 72-49 blowout win.

And despite holding a halftime lead, No. 9 seed Northern Iowa could not hang on, losing to No. 5 seed Michigan State, 59-52.

And in the last game of the night, No. 1 seed Duke wore down No. 4 seed Purdue, 70-57.

Saturday and Sunday will bring two more pairs of games to determine the makeup of the Final Four.

On Saturday, No. 2 seed Kansas State will test its luck against No. 5 seed Butler, which is in the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. And No. 1 seed Kentucky will take on No. 2 seed West Virginia in a game pitting the SEC champion against the Big East champion.

Sunday, Baylor will face off against Duke and Michigan State — which reached the championship game a year ago — will take on Tennessee.

Buckeyes Run Out Of Luck

Ohio State got 31 points from star swingman Evan Turner, but it wasn't quite enough to offset uneven shooting from the outside and a lack of presence inside.

Tennessee dominated underneath the basket, led by Wayne Chism, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds. The victorious Volunteers outrebounded the Buckeyes 35-23.

Ohio State had won nine straight games, capturing the Big 10 tournament title along the way, while Tennessee's late surge makes up for an up-and-down season in the SEC.

Baylor States Its Case

St. Mary's, which had not won a tournament game since 1959, had become a fan favorite behind the staunch play and playful demeanor of 6-10 center Omar Samhan. The Gaels — of the same West Coast Conference that produced ambitious underdog Gonzaga — can also fire away from beyond the 3-point line.

But Baylor's zone defense kept Samhan out of the action — although he did manage 15 points and 9 rebounds — and the Gaels' shooters failed to step up.

The Bears got 23 points from leading scorer LaceDarius Dunn and 14 from running mate Tweedy Carter.

Baylor, which, quietly put together an excellent season in the highly competitive Big 12, advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.

Michigan State Returns

Northern Iowa, representing the Missouri Valley Conference, played solid team basketball in wins over UNLV and Kansas and got timely 3-point shooting from Ali Farokhmanesh. They appeared to be on their way to another upset in the first half Friday. But Michigan State, which lost several key players from last year's Final Four team, plugged away and pulled it out. Durrell Summers led the Spartans with 19 points.

The Spartans are now the lone representative of the Big 10, which put three teams into the Sweet Sixteen.

Duke's Big Three

ACC champ Duke, a perpetual winner which nonetheless hasn't been in the Final Four since 2004, broke away from Purdue midway through the second half with a brief burst of scoring from guards John Scheyer and Nolan Smith. Scheyer and Smith are two of Duke's so-called "Big Three" stars. Their running mate Kyle Singler had 24 points for the game.

Purdue, ranked in the top 5 in the nation before losing top scorer Hummell, must be content with a share of the regular season Big 10 title and a better showing in the NCAA tournament than many expected.

Thursday's Results: The Upsets Continue

The tournament has been strewn with upsets, including another big one Thursday night as play in the Sweet Sixteen began.

No. 5 seed Butler excused No. 1 seed Syracuse from further competition, controlling the pace to knock off the typically high-scoring Orange 63-59. That means two of the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament are already gone. The last time two No. 1 seeds were ousted this early was in 2005.

In other action Thursday, No. 6 seed Xavier pushed No. 2 seed Kansas State to the edge through two overtimes before falling short, 101-96; No. 1 seed Kentucky hung on for a 62-45 victory over tenacious No. 12 seed Cornell; and No. 2 seed West Virginia scratched and clawed to a sloppy 69-56 win over No. 11 seed Washington.

Kansas State and Butler will play Saturday for a Final Four berth, as will West Virginia and Kentucky.

Butler, playing out of the Horizon League, had made the Round of 16 three times in eight years, but this is the school's first appearance in the Elite Eight. If they can beat Kansas State Saturday, the Bulldogs will go home to Indianapolis for the Final Four.

Kansas State is trying to make the most of the national attention after playing in the shadow of rival Kansas all year long. The Wildcats feature an older, experienced lineup and great guard play from Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen.

West Virginia advanced despite the loss of a key player, point guard Daryl Grant, who broke his foot in practice earlier in the week. But the Mountaineers play scrappy defense and pound the backboards for rebounds and second shots.

Kentucky rolled through its first two tournament games and physically overmatched No. 12 seed Cornell. But the young Wildcats showed some vulnerability in the second half against Cornell, letting the Big Red creep back into the game after taking a 32-16 halftime lead.