NCAA Tournament 2012: Top Seeds Struggle, Survive And Advance To Elite Eight

Mar 23, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Harrison Barnes (40) loses control of the ball as he shoots while defended by Ohio Bobcats guard Walter Offutt (3) during the second half of the semifinals in the midwest region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

A field of 12 became a field of eight on Friday evening. SB Nation college basketball editor Mike Rutherford breaks down how it all came to be.

It wasn't easy for any of them, but when the dust settled on Friday night three of college basketball's premier programs -- plus Baylor -- had advanced to the Elite Eight.

Just how loaded is this field of regional finalists? It includes a group of programs with a combined 21 national championships, five coaches who have won a national title and seven who have paced the sidelines in a national championship game (sorry, Scott Drew).

We should be in for two tremendous days of regional final action, but before we move on to that we have to first look at how the field was solidified on Friday night.

Yes, we have to. You can have a Twix when we're done. Two Twixes? You cheeky little bastard.

BEST GAME: 1. North Carolina 73, 13. Ohio 65 (OT)


Nick Fasulo analyzes UNC's win

Ohio was probably one made free-throw or one decent performance from becoming the first 13 seed to ever advance past the Sweet 16.

Bobcat guard Walter Offutt picked up the slack for D.J. Cooper's poor play all night, but he missed a freebie with 25 seconds left in regulation that would have given OU a one-point lead. Ohio kept North Carolina from scoring on the other end, but was outscored 10-2 in the five-minute overtime period.

"One free throw away,'' Offutt said. ``As a leader on this team, I take responsibility that I've got to hit that free throw. ... It just feels terrible to kind of let my team down in that sort of way.''

It's a free-throw that might not have been necessary had Cooper, who came into the game averaging 20 points in the tournament, not gone a horrific 3-of-20 from the field.

Tyler Zeller finished with 20 points and a career-high 22 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who looked nothing like their usual selves without injured point guard Kendall Marshall. UNC had two other players who notched double-doubles for the first time in an NCAA tournament game: Reggie Bullock had 17 points and 10 boards and John Henson had 14 points and 10 rebounds. UNC also got a solid effort from backup floor general Stilman White, who had six assists and zero turnovers in 32 minutes.

Still, it was a nearly disastrous end of the season for Carolina, which moves on to face Kansas in Sunday's Midwest region final.

"We feel like we got away with one,'' Zeller said. "Ohio played the better game, they hit a lot of shots. I think we just were able to make a lot of plays at the end that made us capable of pulling it out.''

The victory was North Carolina's 11th straight in the Sweet 16.

TEAM THAT WON IT THE BEST: Kentucky

Kentucky/Indiana was easily Friday's most entertaining game, even if the Wildcats ultimately finished the evening's highest margin of victory. In a tournament that has been defined by 60-something slugfests, seeing nearly 200 combined points was almost like watching a different sport.

For weeks now, it's been said (rumored?) that the key to beating Kentucky is a hot-shooting night and getting Anthony Davis into foul trouble. The freshman All-American sat for the bulk of the first half and the Hoosiers shot 52.2 percent for the game...and they lost by 12.

The Wildcats took shot after shot from IU and responded with a basket of their own that appeared to almost dishearteningly easy. Most impressive of all, however, might have been that Kentucky was a near-perfect 35-of-37 (94.6 percent) from the free-throw line.

It appears that it's going to take a similarly near-perfect performance for UK to fall at some point over the next nine days.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Kansas

Yes, they won, but that was an effort that wouldn't have beaten any of the seven other remaining teams. Thomas Robinson was his standard 18 and 15 self and Jeff Withey had 10 blocks, but Tyshawn Taylor was atrocious and the Jayhawks shot just 7.1 percent from three and 55 percent from the free-throw line. And yet, they had the game won with an eight-point lead and just under two minutes to play before allowing N.C. State to go on a 7-0 run and nearly steal the win.

Taylor and Robinson, the team's two leaders and best players, both missed front ends of one-and-ones in the final minute that would have ended things. Not a great sign heading into Sunday's showdown with North Carolina.

ALL SWEET 16 FRIDAY TEAM

Tyler Zeller, North Carolina

Made up for the absence of Kendall Marshall and the disappearance of Harrison Barnes by scoring 20 points to go with a remarkable 22 rebounds. Zeller's 20-20 performance was the NCAA Tournament's first since Tim Duncan achieved the feat in 1997.

Quincy Acy, Baylor

Dominated Xavier on the inside to the tune of 20 points, 15 rebounds and 34 dunks. Don't fact check that last number, just go with it.

Christian Watford, Indiana

Scored a night-high 27 points against the top overall seed in the tournament.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Stepped up huge for Kentucky with potential national player of the year Anthony Davis in foul trouble, scoring a team-high 24 points to go with ten rebounds. He also buried all ten of his free-throws.

Walter Offutt, Ohio

Hit six threes and scored a game-high 26 points in Ohio's near upset of No. 1 seed North Carolina.

5 JEERS

1. Creepy John Calipari

It was a banner night for crazy Calipari reaction shots, but this screen grab and GIF take the (terrifying) cake.

Tongue_1_medium

Blah_medium

Try going back to bed now.

2. D.J. Cooper

Ohio's leading scorer averaged 20 points in the first weekend of the tournament, but scored just 10 while shooting 3-for-20 against North Carolina. He also complained about a foul call in the final minute of regulation instead of hustling back on defense, which allowed the Tar Heels to hit a go-ahead three-pointer. An average night from Cooper and the Bobcats are probably a game away from the Final Four.

3. Indiana's Defense

I get that Kentucky is on a different level than the rest of the tournament right now, but you don't need next-level talent to convert uncontested lay-up after uncontested lay-up.

Teague

That's how you drop 102 on someone in a regional semifinal.

You can shoot 70% and you're still not going to beat this crop of Wildcats playing that way.

4. The CBS Sky Camera

Because everyone loves when you experiment with wacky camera angles during the second-to-last weekend of the season, especially when the result is the viewer trying to watch something extremely important while feeling like they're dangling from the world's slowest and shittiest zip-line.

5. Kansas' Offense

The Jayhawks hit just 1-of-14 three-point attempts and became the first team since Pittsburgh in 2004 to win back-to-back NCAA Tournament games with an effective field goal percentage below 40 percent in each game. It's hard to imagine that trend continuing against North Carolina on Sunday.

5 CHEERS

1. Quncy Acy's Dunk

He had 34, but you already knew which one I was talking about.

Animation3

Mother of God.

2. Tyler Zeller's Historic Performance

Harrison Barnes was expected to be the one stepping up with point guard Kendall Marshall on the sidelines, but instead the preseason All-American scored just seven points in regulation and finished with just 12. Thankfully, Tyler Zeller was there to don the cape and finish with a remarkable 20-point, 22-rebound game to help the Heels avoid the massive upset. The 20-20 performance was the tournament's first since Tim Duncan achieved the feat at Wake Forest in 1997. Decent company.

3. Trollin' Young Xavier Fans

There should absolutely be a trollin' kids edition of "One Shining Moment" at the end of this tournament.

Kids

She told you, bro.

4. Frantic Roy Williams

It might be the least cool or composed thing I've ever seen, but it gets a "cheer" because it makes me laugh. Take notes, ladies.

Roy

5. Terrence Jones' Soccer Skill

It's almost hypnotic.

Boing

He could totally cram on Messi. More than once even.

SATURDAY SCHEDULE

West Region Final
Phoenix, AZ: #7 Florida vs. #4 Louisville 4:30 ET (CBS -- Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, and Reggie Miller, SR: Marty Snider)

East Region Final
Boston, MA: #2 Ohio State vs. #1 Syracuse 7:05 ET (CBS -- Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery, SR: Lesley Visser)

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.