Here we are, 80 hours and some 48 games after the start of the annual reality television series they call March Madness, and only traditional national power Kansas is still standing among the five Big 12 schools that were part of the dance card when all the chaos got under way at eight regional sites around the country Thursday morning.
The first three days of second and third-round action saw a No, 1 seed (Gonzaga) go down as well as a No, 2 seed (Georgetown) and a No. 4 seed (Kansas State). Plus a No. 12, 13, 14 and 15 seed defied the odds and lived to see another day. The No, 12 seed in the Midwest Region, the Oregon Ducks, knocked off Oklahoma State, a five seed out of the Big 12, on the opening afternoon, and the next day, Oklahoma, a 10 seed, and Kansas State, suffered the same fate. Iowa State, however, made easy work of the Big East’s Notre Dame, a seven seed, to join Kansas as the only schools from the Big 12 to make it to the round of 32.
That number was reduced to just Kansas early Sunday afternoon, as the Cyclones of Iowa State battled No. 2-seed Ohio State right down to the wire before losing 78-75 on a last-second three-point shot that dropped through the net as the horn sounded in a West Regional game in Dayton, Ohio.
Kansas and North Carolina meet at the Sprint Center in Kansas City in one of the late games on Sunday to decide which of these two basketball blue bloods will be playing on next weekend in the Sweet 16. This contest is much more than just the Big 12 vs. the ACC, or Tar Heel blue of North Carolina vx. Jayhawk blue, or former Kansas coach Roy Williams vs. Bill Self (none of the kids on either side was around when any of that much mattered, anyway). This is a game about now and who is the better team this day. It makes for a very interesting story line, however.
These two legendary programs have won seven national championships between them (four ror North Carolina and three by Kansas). The are the second (Kansas) and third (North Carolina) winningest programs in college basketball hsitory. The Tar Heels are hoping to make their 37th appearance in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament in 44 total tournament appearances. The Jayhawks are making their 42nd NCAA Tournament appearance this year.
Kansas and North Carolina met in one of the all-time great NCAA Tournament finals in 1957 in Kansas City. The game, played at Municpal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City, Mo., went into triple overtimc before the Tar Heels prevailed 54-53 over a Kansas team led by Wilt Chamberlain.
The 2012-13 Jayhawks and Tar Heels play contrasting styles on offense. Kansas likes to pound the ball inside with seven-foot center Jeff Withey manning the middle, while North Carolina plays four guards and likes to spread you out and beat you with the open three-ball.
Kansas is the more talented and complete team and should win this game over its eight-seed opponent, but in a game this rich with tradition, how things appear on paper is not how they work out on the court. Roy William has never beaten his old team. The Jayhawks won the last two NCAA Tournament games between the two schools, most recently in the 2008 Final Four, the year the Jayhawks went on to beat Memphis for the national championship.
Game prediction: Kansas 74, North Carolina 66
Follow all of the NCAA Basketball Tournament action on the College website at FanSided.com.